2014 – January 12 – You Can’t Choose Your Friends

Image of woman yelling through megaphone

Yelling in CAPS.

The dozenth day brings us “You Can’t Choose Your Friends” by Shane Simmons.


Sandra had some sort of ‘breakdown’ before the festive season. What with Stephen abandoning her just weeks before Christmas in favour of “that slut of a bastarding bitch,” I’ve been lumbered with her for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, oh, and most of the other days in between.

Sandra is not a happy camper. Stephen, the cad (goes with the name, I’m told) has dumped her for her sister, so of course she’s angry with her sister. (It befuddles me how so many women manage that misdirection of anger…). Sandra’s drunk, belligerent, and pretty much in her element as the victim in this dynamic. Fortunately for story purposes,  the first person narrator is pretty much done with it too. Sandra is wearing thin, and something has got to give.

We get an entertaining blow up of the friendship in this scene (you have to love the way Sandra segues into CAPS and finger-pointing at every opportunity), and the two part ways. One senses this will not be the end of the relationship, or of Sandra’s harping, but we’ve gotten things off with a bang. The story grabs us quickly, gives us a good slap in the face, and leaves us bracing for the next bout. There’s also a nice bit of humor here. I don’t know where this one is going, but I’m hungry for the next bite.

This story is a good example of first person that does not immediately identify gender. Some readers seem to want gender spelled out very soon in a story, while others are content to wait. As a discussion starter, what gender did you attribute to the unnamed narrator, and at what point in the story did you do so? I’m curious to see how this breaks out between male and female readers, in particular.

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About Stephen

I live in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania with fellow writer, Susan Urbanek Linville, and a herd of reformed feral cats.

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7 Responses to 2014 – January 12 – You Can’t Choose Your Friends

  1. susan tepper says:

    London at Christmastime, loyalty, and whatnot…
    THEME SONG: With A Little Help From My Friends

  2. Guilie says:

    Haha–yeah, I was just getting to the point of annoyance at Sandra’s sniveling (sorry, SNIVELING) when–well. When stuff began to happen. And then I was like, “Yeah, Narrator! You go!” And yes, I was also confused as to said narrator’s gender, but I’ll admit I didn’t notice it until close to the end. Nope, didn’t bother me 🙂

    • That was my experience as well (didn’t want to pollute the pool by spilling it in the actual review). I didn’t notice that I didn’t know it was a woman until I’d actually finished the piece. I was reading her as a man, and it was fine. Then I went back and read her exchange regarding her sister’s husband more closely, and saw that it’s almost certainly a female perspective. Didn’t damp my appreciation of the piece, which is neat, but I wondered then how I would feel in February when/if gender does become an issue. And having just had to revise a flash to indicate gender in the opening paragraph, I’m sensitive to the issue. I hate forcing something into a piece JUST to provide a convenient gender, but I also wonder whether it’s productive to ask a reader to reinvent character perception halfway through a story. A balancing act, I suppose.

  3. Mandy says:

    I loved the image of a fluffy sky written *****. I’m wondering if narrator is going to parade her dysfunctional friends for us, or whether Sandra’s to reappear with another dose of havoc. Either way I’m on board.

    re gender question. With first person I seem to subconsciously assume the narrator is the same gender as the writer, so I too assumed narrator was male till towards the end. Didn’t matter though, I re-read and found I hadn’t been misdirected.

  4. Yes, exactly–like Mandy, I tend to assume narrator’s male if author’s male (piggishly chauvinistic, I know), and I was also reading her as male. I’m actually still not sure either way. As a writer, having been through editing for gender like you, Stephen, it concerns me. I’ve reread the piece trying to figure out where to add a clarifying detail… Something unobtrusive. Nope. It all seems to unbalance the piece. As a reader, though, it doesn’t bother me. Yes, you’re right that asking a reader to readjust gender perception isn’t really fair, but on the other hand it can–could–work to the piece’s advantage. Gender ambiguity can be a source of tension, admittedly VERY hard to sustain without some sort of artifice, but fireworks when done right. Sadly, I can’t remember any good examples of that right now. Blame early-onset Alzheimer’s 😀

  5. Michael says:

    I didn’t read the narrator as female until the end either. Well done!

  6. Woah, a lotta anger packed into this little story. Curious to see where all the shouting leads…

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