Of all the films my at least once per week cinematic habit has had me sit through in the past 19 years (for serious, I've already logged three this month and have plans to see my fourth tomorrow evening), very few have resonated as deeply with me as the 2004 indie hit, Sideways.
Now before you open your mouths to accuse me of being that girl who claims to have been uninfluenced by the darling status bestowed by highbrow critics upon The English Patient, Howard's End, Gosford Park and yes, Sideways, be sure to know that I couldn't stand The Queen, shrugged my shoulders and said "eh" after Little Miss Sunshine and pretty much only liked Atonement for the way Keira Knightley looked in her stunning green Jacqueline Durran designed dress.
But anyway, Sideways. Or, as I like to think of it, the film that helped me recognize, understand and accept what I call the '80-20' friendship (i.e., a friendship that "just works" even though friend 'A' gives 80% to friend 'B's' 20%).
Yours may be the exception, but I can't think of a single girlfriend with whom I've had or currently have a close friendship where there exists an unwavering, across the board, perfect equality.
In my many years of building girl-to-girl relationships, there has admittedly -and I think, naturally- been some jealousy on my part. There is the one who attended a better college, persevered past the M.A. to get her J.D. and Ph.D. and whose four bedroom home puts my rental room to shame; there is the one who never fails to have fewer than three men in her pocket, who looks model-pretty without makeup and who never seems to gain an ounce even when she "forgets" to exercise for months at a time; there is the one born into a trust so colossally large the notion of checking the price of something -anything!- before deciding to buy it for herself or for you wouldn't even occur to her; there is the one whose wit is so razor sharp and whose relationship is so exactly what I hope for one day I often find myself throwing my hands into the air in a "why bother?" fashion.
Actually, now that I sit here and really think about it, I'm sure I could come up with similar testimonies for all my girlfriends.
Fortunately, just as immediately and acutely as female jealousies arise, they also tend to fade with each discovery and subsequent reminder of how fiercely loyal and considerate that successful, self-assured, natural size-4 sitting across from you during a pleasant Sunday brunch truly is. The best way to deal with jealousies, I've found, is to raise them (when appropriate) in a playful manner that to everyone else will seem exactly that -playful- but deep down, to the two of you, establishes an I-really-admire-and-yes,-sometimes-get-jealous-over-your-_____ understanding. It lets the other person know that even though you're completely confident in X, Y and Z, ______ is a soft spot.
Being aware of your girls' sensitivities and caring enough to tread lightly -or not at all- in both public and private situations is, for me, the mark of a true friendship.
But what happens when someone you deeply love and whose friendship you hope to always have in your life can't seem to reconcile her jealousy? Or maybe not jealousy, per se, but the difference, the disparity. What to do when that person's success, be it in the area of looks, wealth, charm, talent, or any other envy-inducing trait, always brings with it for them, the pangs of inadequacy and for you, a sense of helplessness?
And herein lies the meaning of the "delicate dance" to which I refer in the post title.
As you know, I've always been a proponent of occasionally setting aside the 'real you' if a less pronounced version thereof is more appropriate. Point in case, a dinner party at your parents' friends very formal home. Save the black polish and severe five-inch Jil Sander platform pumps for another time; wear something you like, obviously, but not something you suspect will raise eyebrows and put your parents in an awkward position.
But what about an occasion less obvious, one in which the awkwardness doesn't have to do with appropriateness but rather the effect your better figure, your more obvious beauty and/or your more stylish wardrobe has on your friend's insecurity?
We regularly put this let-them-shine practice into play when a woman gets married, but what about her birthday party? What about a day when the two of you are shopping for an important outfit for her upcoming interview? A double-date?
The idea of subtly dialing down one's look -or aspects thereof- so as not to exacerbate a good friend's insecurity is, in my opinion, another gauge of true friendship.
I've certainly done it, and I'm confident others have done it for me.