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   Jul 05

Stolen moments

I like being a good friend. It’s the sort of thing that’s important to women, right up there with colour co-ordinating and smelling nice. I’ll celebrate your successes, listen to your heartaches and, if there’s the slightest crisis in your life, I’ll stuff your freezer full of lasagne because baked pasta is the answer to all of life’s woes.
Nanjing Night Net

But how do I remain a good friend when one of my dearest mates, whom I’ve known for 15 years, confesses something to me that is in painfully stark contrast to my own values?

My friend Sue (not her real name, obvs) told me that she likes to … STEAL THINGS! Not big things, like a car. She’s not a criminal (her words). Just small things, like a loofah, a packet of fridge magnets and those round balls that go on the end of curtain rods. Ridiculous things her life would be perfectly fine without.

I’m someone who attracts confessions. I’ve heard dark secrets about affairs, eating disorders, alcoholism. In this instance, I was expecting something vaguely normal, like she picks up couples at nightclubs or she’s into hot wax (Sue is mad for a scented candle – maybe because they fit neatly down her sleeve). So when the truth bomb dropped, I reacted with something close to hysterical shock. If, as a teenager, you snuck out of Granny May’s, heart pounding, with an eraser up your school jumper, you’d probably take Sue’s news in your stride. But I’ve never in my life stolen a thing. Not a lip balm, not a packet of chewy, not even a scrunchy.

My first casual job, at 14, was in retail. I saw the people who got frogmarched out by constables – degraded, humiliated and prosecuted, all for the sake of a three-pack of knickers or a Madonna cassingle. At the time I assumed it was because they were poor. But my friend is a university-educated professional with more cash than me (probably because she never pays for anything). Why would she do such a thing? For THRILLS? What’s wrong with skydiving? Swimming with sharks? Sexual exploration? For god’s sake, have a threesome, while skydiving into a tank full of sharks. At least none of those activities might see you in JAIL!

While I know this isn’t about me, I feel strangely betrayed. This was someone I thought I knew as well as I know myself. Someone I’ve shared holidays and funerals and vomitous hangovers with. But now I feel like maybe I don’t know her at all.

Also, I feel confused. I deeply disagree with Sue’s complete disregard for others, but is it my place, as a friend, to make that judgment of her? Or is it my role to separate the behaviour from the person, and love unconditionally? Why do I need her actions to reconcile with my values at all? She has no children and no partner, so she’s entitled to live her life as she chooses, isn’t she?

While I enjoyed typing those questions like I was Carrie Bradshaw, there are no definitive answers. I just know that mostly what I feel is an overwhelming concern for my friend. This is a mental-health issue, not a moral one. Sue needs a friend who is non-judgemental and empathic because, while on the surface she seems to show no remorse or shame – indeed, I fear she was casing my house while we were talking – it would have taken a great deal of courage to reach out to me with the truth.

All I could do in exchange is treat her secret as I have always treated her, with love and acceptance. I hope she feels supported enough to one day address the cause of her behaviour, and instigate change. Partly because I do not want to have to smuggle lasagne past the prison security check. •

I’m reading

My Story by Julia Gillard. I’ve had this book on my bedside table for a year now. As I’m not a lover of politics, it’s one of those books I read in fits and bursts. But, as a feminist, I find Gillard’s story fascinating, infuriating and inspiring all at once. While I acknowledge this book is only her side of the story, I am a huge supporter, regardless of what may or may not have happened during that dark time for the ALP. Her experiences are for me lessons in resilience, determination, self-belief and dignity.

I’m watching

I’m time-poor, so I’m addicted to short online entertainment.

I’m loving Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It’s exactly what the title says, and with some of my favourite stars, such as Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jim Carrey. Episodes are only about 20 minutes each, so they’re perfect for killing time while I’m waiting at jazz ballet/keyboard/swimming/tennis lessons.

I’m planning

I’ve always been averse to exercising outside, because I hate weather. Wind, cold, hot, rain – it all convinces me to stay on the couch. But I’m starting to get bored and unmotivated in a gym – it’s been 25 years of the same sort of exercise. So I’ve entered the extreme obstacle-course event, Mudderella. It’s like Tough Mudder, but for ladies. While there’s plenty of mud and will be super challenging, I’m sure, it’s shorter and has no electric shocks. Plus it’s at a winery, so my cool-down is going to be well worth the effort.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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