Jenice Armstrong | Rosie & Elisabeth

HOW MUCH IS too much to expect from a friend?

I found myself discussing this tricky aspect of friendship with several people after last week's on-air faceoff between Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on "The View."

It all started when O'Donnell's feelings got hurt over Hasselback's failure to defend some inflammatory remarks O'Donnell made likening U.S. servicemen to terrorists. One thing led to another and before long, there were hard feelings on both sides.

Even though the demise of the O'Donnell-Hasselbeck so-called friendship played itself out in front of a national TV audience, this kind of thing happens all the time. One friend has certain expectations that another fails to live up to. Who's right? Who's wrong? And afterwards, is such a relationship salvageable?

In my opinion, O'Donnell's expectations were more than a little off base, especially considering how often the two clashed on air.

"I think there is some truth to the idea that the bully is the most sensitive," said Melissa Kirsch, author of "The Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything" (Workman Publishing, $15.95). "When it comes to our female friends, it's usually the ones who put up the steeliest fronts who are the most sensitive in the long run."

The remark that set things in motion was O'Donnell's earlier assertion that, "655,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Who are the terrorists?" Critics immediately circled, accused O'Donnell of labeling American service people as being terrorists.

And, for some bizarre reason, O'Donnell turned on Hasselbeck, calling her non-action "cowardly." Even though she tried to hold her own, as usual, Hasselbeck was no match for the brash, fast-talking O'Donnell.

By the time the dustup was over, the so-called friendship was, too.

O'Donnell now says she's filmed her last episode of the show and will leave earlier than her planned mid-June departure because she doesn't want to fight with Hasselbeck any more. In a statement, O'Donnell claimed to "love" her along with all the other co-hosts.

Oh, gag me. For starters, who knew these two were even friends? And even if they were friendly socially, the way I see it, O'Donnell violated one of the first rules in the girlfriend handbook: Just because you work with someone and maybe hang out occasionally, that doesn't make her your true, lifelong friend - nor should you expect someone you barely know to stand up for you on national TV.

"I kind of sat there and looked at them and thought, 'What did you expect her to do?' " agreed Denise Clay, a communications professional based in Philly.

"I'm, like, I didn't know you all were friends. You work together. You're probably friendly. But I couldn't see the two of you going clubbing. I couldn't see Elisabeth Hassebeck on one of Rosie's lesbian vacations. It was weird."

Golena Mosovich, who graduated from Temple two years ago, agreed. "Why would [Hasselback] defend her? She's obviously the complete opposite side of the spectrum. Why would she defend her and ruin her credibility as this nice Republican girl?"

The lesson in all of this is: You have to temper your expectations when it comes to friendships.

"Rosie had an expectation that her friend should defend her when controversy arises.

"Elisabeth didn't share that expectation and so she didn't leap to Rosie's defense," B.J. Gallagher, author of "Friends Are Everything" (Conari, $15.95).

"This kind of thing happens all the time between women. One woman has expecations about the role of 'friend' but never checks to see if her friend shares that same idea about what it means to be a friend. So when her friend fails to behave as she thinks she should, feelings are hurt, and the friendship often ends," Gallagher added.

"Rosie was in error in assuming that her friend would defend her, without ever having a conversation about what the two friends expect from each other," she continued.

"Rosie needs to learn to fight her own battles, like a big girl, and not expect Elisabeth, Barbara, or anyone else to go to bat for her. If Rosie can't deal with the consequences of her own statements, she should keep her mouth shut." *

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