Line: I don't take this shit from friends, only from lovers.
Context: It occurs near the end of Act Two. Michael who had (in a low moment that will surely earn him at least a temporary berth in hell) seduced Sandy, then neglected to return her calls, when he remembered their dinner plans was three hours late, and when they attend a party together he hits on another woman. She is furious with him, even after he gives her a box of chocolates Dorothy had received from Les. I know what you’re thinking, “Women!” But she really is implacably (and quotably) furious—quite an evolution from a woman who at the beginning professed “a problem with anger,” and who in fact invited Michael along to her audition in order to enrage her. He got that down, at least.
But when she acts cool (doesn’t it play better that way?) and lulls Michael into confessing that he loves another woman she goes ape. Why? Shouldn’t she be glad to have some clarity? After all, for at least weeks (and likely months) her every encounter with Michael brought her fresh misery, and finally to the point where she had to confront him in the middle of the night. “No matter how bad the truth is, it doesn’t tear you apart like dishonesty,” she tells him. “At least it leaves you with some self-respect and some dignity.” Okay, so she doesn’t behave in a super dignified manner, but in fairness that’s not what she promised. Perhaps because he was surprised by her reaction, he also misinterpreted the cause of her fury.
Michael: We never said "I love you." We went to bed one time.
I think there’s more to it. In theory, nobody likes to lie (see Lessons Four, Ten, and Sixteen) or to be lied to (Lessons Eleven and Fifteen). In Tootsie, however, that’s pretty much all everybody does. Part of that is to be expected considering the make-believe industry most of the characters are in—the recognition of their strange profession is why Rita Marshall fined cast and crew for referring to daytime dramas as soap opera in front of “civilians.” And not so deep down, Sandy’s gotta be aware Michael’s been leading her on. How on earth did he explain his wet hair and jacket at the party after Julie threw a drink in his face? Why was she so willing to believe his lines?
Because it’s gratifying when somebody wants you. Moreover, it’s rare. That’s why the opening montage shows Michael being rejected again and again, and why the most withering, exasperated response to him selling himself is “We’re looking for somebody else, okay?” That’s why when two different characters hear “I want you” they react with puzzlement (Sandy, “You want me?” Dorothy, “I beg your pardon?”) When Michael tells Sandy the truth, he changes her status from lover (wanted) to chump (chump).
Michael: Aren't we still friends?
Though she does pass GO and collects a box of candy, it’s going to be pretty hard to get back to friends from there. And they were friends. They share a social circle, she paid tribute to him at his birthday party and is familiar enough with his building that she can lurk in his stairwell if need’s be. He sacrificed time and effort for her emotional and professional well being. How much of that was lost for good?
Heigh-ho. As Julie says to Dorothy in a similar context, “I’ll live. Maybe not happily, but honestly.” Dorothy/ Michael protests, “Honesty, in many ways, is a relative term.” As it turns out, maybe it’s not.