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HE SAID, SHE SAID / PATRICK MOTT and ANN CONWAY

Does Doing Anything for a Friend Extend to Carrying Excess Baggage?

September 03, 1993|PATRICK MOTT and ANN CONWAY

S o you've snapped into do-gooder mode and decided to comfort the afflicted, in this case one of your best friends. Somewhere on your to-do list, way, way down around "check to see if air sickness bag is made from recycled paper," is "stuff anything handy into overnight bag."

But not if you're Liz Taylor. She recently flew to Singapore to buck up her beleaguered chum Michael Jackson and managed to pack--count 'em--three airport trolleys' worth of clothes. Does Mike bore that easily, or is she planning on staying in Singapore through the millennium?

Would we do this for a pal?

HE: Well, sure, if I had a platoon of valets doing my packing and a pack of piano movers schlepping my stuff through customs. Barring that, I'd yank on a pair of Levi's, a polo shirt and a sport coat, stuff some socks, underwear and a shaving kit into an overnight bag and phone the airport bus. A friend in need, and all that.

And if there was ever someone who qualified as a friend in need, it was Michael Jackson the past couple of weeks. So if Liz wanted one trolley for day wear, one trolley for evening wear and one trolley for jewelry, who cares? She's trying to cheer up a guy who changes clothes almost as often as he draws breath. She has to keep up.

SHE: Last time I went on an exotic trip (Egypt/Israel) I packed one suitcase, one garment bag and a carry-on. And that was for a 2 1/2-week stint!

I confess to sneering a bit when I read about Taylor's excess baggage. It seemed absurd. But immediately I forgave her. After all, she'd gone halfway around the world to offer moral support to a friend. In this what's-in-it-for-me? world we all know how tough they are to find.

HE: Ever notice how a lot of men tend to have a good friend and confidant who's a woman? It's a real luxury. It's easier for many men to speak more personally if the listener is a woman they trust. It's great to have male friends, but they sometimes are considered more companions than confidants. When a guy needs to bounce something off someone with an intuitive mind, he doesn't head down to the corner saloon, buy a round for the boys and ask them for advice about his love life.

This flies in the face of that postulate in the movie "When Harry Met Sally" about a man not being able to have a close female friend without wanting to sleep with her, but I've always thought that theory was flawed. Both men and women need different perspectives from different friends. The opposite sex fills the bill nicely.

SHE: I couldn't agree more. In fact, I have learned that men can often be better friends to me than women can. For starters: They don't compete. They tell it like it is. They don't play games. Most of the women I know do all of the above.

Of course, if I say that, I have to ask myself if I do any of that stuff. Yeah, I compete. I try to tell it like it is (but I worry myself sick that I will hurt someone's feelings). No, I don't play games.

As for the "When Harry Met Sally" thing, I think the male-female equation has just about every man and woman wondering what an encounter might be like. But that doesn't mean we act on it.

HE: When my female friends ask me for advice or for my opinion, I know I don't have to use the same diplomacy and delicacy that I might have to use if I were talking to a woman with whom I was intimate.

"How do you like this outfit?" she says.

Intimate answer: "Gorgeous. Great color on you. Wouldn't change a thing."

Friend answer: "Looks like a meltdown in a Laura Ashley store."

Of course, that second response still might get you slugged, but at least she won't bear the mother of all grudges and dedicate her life to plotting revenge. Heck, what are friends for?

SHE: Gasp! Are you saying you compliment an intimate friend so she'll stay that way? And you tell the truth to a pal because you don't have to put her on?

HE: Of course. You'll note I'm still breathing.

SHE: Barely.

I've noticed that being married sure weeds out who will be your friend and who won't. In general, single women shy away from me. Guess they can't relate. This makes me sad, because, married or not, I am a woman with something to share.

As for men: I have my husband. He is my best friend (even though I could wring his neck once a week). And I have my three brothers. They are learning to be my friends. I have one or two male friends who have hung in there through the years.

Women? One or two close friends.

What do you look for in a friend?

HE: I go by that adage that holds that a friend is someone who knows all about you and likes you anyway. If, one day, I snap and bomb the orphan's home, and the cops have a videotape of me doing it, my friends will be the ones who will still believe me when I tell them I was home watching "Donahue."

Why have you stayed with your oldest friends over the years?

SHE: You said it: They know all about me and like me anyway. And they've laughed with me in the good times, cried with me in the bad. They're always there, even if we can't get together often. They sincerely care about what happens to me.

They say the best way to make a friend is to be one. But not everyone will let you give to them. Friends not only know how to give, they know how to receive.

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