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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Cowboy Code: Chapter Two

So we addressed the "Cowboy Code," the other evening, the unwritten guide by which all men everywhere learn to treat male friends.

But as with most codes and guides, just because it exists doesn't mean everyone who should follows it.

Which brings me to my point. I got another disturbing message from an old friend that another mutual buddy of ours violated the code's no-tattling policy.

The violator was asked by the girlfriend of the other guy where the other guy was one recent evening.

Rather than follow the code and either decline to answer, or answer that he wasn't certain, the violator told the girlfriend something to the effect of "No, he wasn't with me. And I'm pretty sure he wasn't with so-and-so. Nope. We don't know where he was!"

That was a first-class violation. The problem with guys like that is they assume the code requires them to lie. You don't have to lie for anyone. You just don't voluntarily bust them out, that's all.

One of my other friends, who is a pro at carrying out this part of the code, simply tells other guys' girlfriends "I don't know where your boyfriend was" or even less revealing "I'm not sure."

He doesn't sell the other guys out, but he doesn't aid in their downfall either.

I once lost a friend over a violation of this element of the code. I had given a really bogus, really lame excuse to a mutual buddy as to why I hadn't shown up to the mutual buddy's special charity event. I think I said I was sick or hurt. I admit it was a tacky thing to do. I'm not proud of it. What can I tell you? I'm fallible. Anyway, when the mutual buddy asked my guy a few weeks later if I was "feeling better," my guy tells him something to the effect of "James, doing better? For what? There's nothing wrong with him. He's fit and healthy as he's always been!"

I don't need to explain the awkward situation I found myself in - admittedly, by my own doing, at least in the beginning. Still, when I asked my guy about this obvious violation of the "Cowboy Code," his first answer was that he wasn't aware of the lame excuse I had made. His second, more defiant answer was that it wasn't his job to cover for me.

Sorry, but the code says he was wrong on both counts. You don't have to know what your buddy is up to in advance. Even if you're caught off guard, the best way to support the code is to tell the truth with "I don't know" or "I'm not sure."

As for covering for me, it absolutely was his job. It's every guy's job to cover for his buddy. There are exceptions. If you commit murder, don't ask me to drive you or your Bronco to the Mexican border. You're on your own. If you cheat on your significant other and I was friends with her before you, you're on your own.

But if you need basic all-purpose cover, I will do my duty and not rat you out. I won't help you come up with a creative excuse - some guys choose to lie for their buddies; I can't - but I will keep my mouth shut unless it's just to say "Sorry. I'm not sure."

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