A Girl's Guide to Being Friends With Girls











{February 1, 2012}   A Girl’s Guide to Being Friends with Girls: Get in Loser, We’re Going Shopping

(This column originally appeared on Buzznet.com on December 14, 2011.  It has been reposted here with some changes.)

Outwardly, this week’s column is about a sentiment I’ve heard expressed several times, most recently by Kelly Osbourne.

“I still find it tough to be around girls because I always say the wrong thing. If a friend asks me if I look fat in something, I’ll be honest and say “Yeah” when she does.”

So, yes.  On the outside, this column is about shopping.  But it’s also about something much bigger, it’s about communication with our friends and how we use language…and why that’s important to pay attention to in a conversation.

But first, back to Kelly’s quote.  I’ve heard that idea again and again, that girls don’t want to shop with girls who will be honest with them about how they look in things.  I think this is total crap.  I expect my friends to be honest with me about how I look, in my opinion a friend is someone you trust to advise you on things…including whether or not an outfit flatters you.  I would rather a friend tell me “That doesn’t look good on you” than play it safe and tell me I look good in something that’s ill fitting or the wrong cut or style for me.

On the other hand, let’s face it.  There’s being honest with someone and advising them and then there’s “You look really fat in that.”  Nobody wants to be told their fat or that they look fat.  Because our world still conflates beauty with thinness.  And while we might default to “You look fat” as the shopping insult of choice, let’s face it, I don’t think most people want to be told “You look anorexic in that” or “You look really flat-chested in that.”  And I want to make it clear that while I’m using “fat” as the example here, this pertains to any kind of body insecurity.

So here’s my first point: don’t bring up the word “fat.”  On either end.

For the person trying on clothing: Don’t use the words “Do I look fat in this?”  Instead go with “How does this look?”  Or “How does it fit?”  Or even “Does this work for me?”

For the person giving an opinion: Keep your comments to something like “I don’t think it’s flattering.”  Or “I don’t think that cut works for you.”  Or something to that effect.

The reason for this?  Well, like I said, this is also an article about language and how we talk to each other.  Think about it this way: clothing can’t be fat.  Or flat-chested.  Or too skinny.  Or whatever.  But bodies can.  So, when you bring up those words, it can sound more like you’re critiquing your body than the clothing.

Meaning, when you ask your friend for their opinion, it can sound like THEY are critiquing your body rather than the clothing.  Which can be upsetting.  Or it can possibly influence your friend to lie to you, which is a really bad thing.

And when you give your opinion, keep the same thing in mind.  Even if you don’t mean  “You look fat in that” as body commentary rather than clothing commentary?  It can still be received that way.  Stick to commenting on the clothing.

OF COURSE there are some friendships where you can tell each other, bluntly, “You look fat in that.”  In that case, do as you will.  But don’t just assume you can do that with anyone.

Which brings us to another point: truth is important, so is how you tell it.

There is the truth and then there is brutal honesty.  We all need brutal honesty at one point or another in our lives.  But in an already-potentially-stressful fitting room situation?  We need truth the way a friend tells it.

This is an across the board thing.  It’s great to share your opinions, but consider how you sound when you share them.  Consider how you word things.   It’s not something that’s always easy to do, but it’s definitely something to work on.

And on that note, if you say something that unintentionally upsets someone or hurts their feelings?  Look, it happens.  Sometimes we say things and don’t realize how they sound until they’ve left our mouths.

In that case, you still do need to apologize and take responsibility for what you said.  Yeah, you didn’t mean it to hurt, but it did.  There’s nothing wrong with saying, sincerely, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that would upset you.”  Or “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how that sounded until I said it.”  But we’ll touch more on stuff like THAT in a later column.  I promise.

And finally?  Look, there are just some people you can’t shop with.

While you might want to be able to do everything ever with your friends, sometimes there are just things that you can’t do with some of them.  And that’s absolutely fine.  After all, you’re looking for a friend, not a clone, right?

Basically, accept that there are going to be some friends you can’t go clothes shopping with.  Or can’t take to the movies.  Or can’t go to concerts with.  It’s okay, there’s plenty of other things you can do together.  Or else you wouldn’t be friends, right?

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