I'm Sure You'll Handle It
©2022, George J. Irwin. All rights reserved.

I had a friend once who often gave advice to people, whether they were close to her or not, and sometimes whether it was wanted or not. She would then relate this to me as if it were some kind of inside information... that so-and-so has this issue, or A is not getting along with B, or some other matter.

I never really understood why she did this, because it seemed to me that when I was a third party to a conversation like this, which wasn't often, there didn't seem to be any pleasure for her in providing this counsel, or if there was, it was deeply hidden below the surface.

She confided in me. For some reason, many women at the time did. I guess I was "safe," but that also meant that I wasn't considered dating material. Most of the time this didn't bother me. When I was attracted to someone, and things quickly fell into the friendship mode, it was frustrating—so much so that a friend and I wrote and amateurishly recorded a short song titled "You're A Nice Guy, But I Want A Stud," performed in an Elmer Fudd voice—which is another story entirely. (The apparent female "answer song" to this, which was actually released, was called "I Like Them Big And Stupid." But I digress.)

Part of this confiding in me was her general discouragement with men of many descriptions, and once the specific detail was parsed out, there was a common link, which I think I'll leave out of this discourse.

And, eventually, there would be a response from my friend to those who sought out her advice:

"I'm sure you'll handle it."

Which was delivered as a final statement. It could have been made more clear with "Don't bother me with your problems again" as well, but given the tone of voice in which "I'm sure you'll handle it" was delivered, that would have been pretty much redundant.

This, to me, seemed quite cruel.

Feel free to disagree.

There remains all manner of conventional wisdom about this. You can't help people out of their own situations, that people have to want to change, et cetera, et cetera. I also firmly believe that a kind word at the right time can also work wonders. Maybe I'm being silly, and maybe I'll be taken advantage of, but I still believe it anyway.

To go from the empathy that advice and counsel represents—or appeared to represent in these cases, I suppose—to the brutal coldness of "I'm sure you'll handle it," though? And without warning? I questioned whether it was fair to begin with the advice and counsel at all. If you're not going to follow through, then why start?

On the other hand, there is such a thing as wearing out one's welcome. I had a different friend who, despite vows to do so, never really decoupled from her boyfriend, who, let us say, did not treat her well. She literally cried on my shoulder a couple of times about this. There were instances in which I felt I was using hours I should be spending finding a companion of my own instead of being her sounding board. But this also was not a one-way street; I had my issues and she knew about them; and mine wasn't the only shoulder cried on. People do change, and that often doesn't exclude friendships, and it didn't exclude that one, which faded out over time. I don't know if she ever dumped the boyfriend, which I think she should have done well before meeting me. There was, if the timeline I have in my mind has not been corrupted by the passing decades, an overlap in these two female friendships, and it's possible that I was given advice by the second to actually use on the first the closing remark, "I'm sure you'll handle it."

But there was definitely an overlap with other events in my life that, for privacy's sake, I won't go into here. That led to an intensifying of my friendship with the person who gave advice and then gave the cold shoulder. I had a sinking feeling that at some point I would be in the line of fire myself... and as it turned out, I was right. I was in the middle of a wrenching disclosure about something that had gone really, really wrong, and in return, I received back a line that I had heard said to others multiple times before:

"I'm sure you'll handle it."

Like I said... I had a friend.