[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y friend Susan just got married. I haven’t seen her since I was knee-high to a Coke bottle. She’s in her mid-thirties now. I still remember her when she was a gangly girl who complained about her long face and knobby knees. Though I never noticed any of that.
She was my friend.
My mother instructed me not to treat Susan like just any old pal. Susan was a lady. Mother said it was up to gentleman-boys to compliment ladies – it’s a duty.
“Compliment her hair,” Mother suggested. “Or her shoes.”
“But she wears ugly pink shoes.”
“It doesn’t have to be her shoes, pick anything. Girls need compliments.”
The next day, I put Mother’s advice into practice. I told Susan she had lovely eyes. Her face got red. She suggested I substitute poison ivy for toilet paper. Then she horsewhipped me with a tetherball.
I tried to heed Mother’s words. I complimented Susan on everything from the tassels of her bicycle handlebars, to her impressive sticker collection. And for each adulation, Susan would award me with a swift fist to the stomach.
That’s what ladies do.
I remember the day Susan learned her parents were getting divorced. Neither of us knew what that word meant, but we knew it was bad. I put my arm around her and pulled her tight against me. Susan buried her head in my shoulder and moaned.
I couldn’t think of a single comforting thing to say.
So I told her I liked her pink shoes.