[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.”

Fair enough.

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.

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