When I first moved to the United States I was 7. For the first 6 months I barely spoke a word of English, was baffled by how school worked, and had no clue at all about to communicate with the kids in my class, let alone actually make friends with any of them.
Not a problem.
The kids in the class did the math, realized that I was rounding out what had previously been an odd number of girls and promptly assigned me to be Heather’s best friend. At least I think her name was Heather. It could have been Prudence. Or Phoebe. I don’t actually have the faintest recollection of her name.
Heather (let’s just go with that, shall we?) and I had nothing in common. Or maybe we just couldn’t communicate and so were never even able to discern if we had some common ground. Whatever the reason, we really didn’t gel. The girls took terrible offense at this and spent the rest of the year making fun of me for every little thing I did.
So I became friends with Simon, the other class outcast, who spent all his recesses trying to dig a hole under the playground fence. Presumably to escape. I liked him. He had zero expectations of me beyond handing him new sticks when the one he was using to dig broke.
I only stayed at that school one year. Could be because the girls made me cry daily or because my parents didn’t think much of the teacher, it’s unclear. I didn’t care, I was 8 and delighted to get away.
Oddly enough, I took away with me a deep rooted belief that you need to have a best friend to get ahead in life.
Which is especially funny because I’m not a one-friend kind of gal. Never have been. I’m more the kind of person who will have a number of ride-or-die friends to whom I’m wholeheartedly devoted.
I have the girl friends that I go out with at least once a week to bitch and laugh about the minutia of mundane life.
I have the friends I like to connect with to talk about books and our big picture philosophical take on life.
I have the friend who started as a work-buddy and turned into a I’ll-always-have-your-back-no matter-what real life friend who I happen to work with still.
I have the friends I used to work for/with whose friendships transcends distance of every kind.
I have my blog buddies who, over time went from being virtual pals to real flesh and blood I’d fly to the ends of the world to be with you if you needed me friends
It’s not one best friend. It’s a posse of people I would literally drop everything to help should they ever need it. It’s a support network of angels who would totally do, and have done, the same for me.
Those girls at that school had it all wrong and I’m glad that over the years I’ve finally understood that they were utterly wrong about their small minded approach to friendship. You don’t need one friend to get ahead in life. You need to surround yourself by people who truly see you and love you for who you are, even if they only see and love one aspect of the whole you. Recognizing that is how I have woven myself the kind of relationships that complete me in every way.
Only you can define the friends you need. Not family, society, or that brat in 2nd grade.
2nd grade class. Photo blurred to protect the innocent from facial recognition software. Except for mine. Because I was totes cute.
I just spent a pathetic amount of time trying to find a photo I took of Little L on election night in 2008. It’s lost somewhere on a thumb drive or a USB card, or maybe the laptop I was using back then. The fact that it’s not stored in my Facebook memories probably says more about how much my world has changed since then than anything else, but I digress.
In the photo she’s sitting in her highchair wearing not much other than a diaper. The tray in front of her shows the remains of the pitiful dinner I managed to pull together for her while keeping my eyes glued to the election Twitter feed. Olive slices and cupcakes. That’s it. That’s what my delighted toddler ate on election night 2008. There is no record of what her 3 year old sister had for dinner that night.
It was an amazing night. One full of hope and excitement. I couldn’t take my eyes off the giddy frenzy that was Twitter. It was all just such a high.
The last year has felt like the opposite of that high and I’ve often looked back at all the tragic events that have sucked the hope right out of the air and the vitriol that has filled it instead and wondered where it all went wrong.
Where did the love go? The hope? The camaraderie and support?
So much hate. So much anger instead.
It’s enough to make a person want to lock their doors and hide forever.
Even Twitter, so full of bubbling joy that night, has become a cesspool of muck.
Then yesterday I joined a top-secret-not-so-secret Facebook group titled Pantsuit Nation.
I was sick and tired of the increasingly desperate Facebook posts of people pleading 3rd party voters to not throw away their vote. Exhausted by reading the same rhetoric again and again. And lured by the hints of hope I was seeing from people who had joined the secret group.
I waded in with zero expectations and was gobsmacked into feeling hopeful again.
It’s not a group for convincing fence sitters or staunch opponents, it’s just a group of people celebrating Hillary.
No, no, not a “rah rah, ain’t she great!”, kinda place, just story after story about why people are voting for her.
Intensely personal stories about late term abortions, immigration, daughters and sons. About elderly parents who are voting for the first time. About terminally ill people holding on so they can see history made. Stories about triumphant love and healthcare. About beating odds that didn’t even exist 8 years ago.
It is a place of hope and love, of support and encouragement.
It is proof that all the goodwill hasn’t been sucked out of America.
Proof that lies in the fact that, as of this morning, 2.5 million people have joined the group and the comments aren’t angry, aren’t mean or demeaning.
That’s worth repeating. The comments aren’t angry, mean, or demeaning.
This morning in the Pantsuit Nation group I saw a photo of a man standing in line to vote, wearing the most amazing pair of red patent leather high heels. And the thousands of comments were all positive.
For a man who is so hopeful to cast a vote that might mean he can truly be himself, that he wore red high heels to vote.
I don’t know what tonight’s election results will bring. I’m crossing all of my fingers and toes that the nation turns out to vote in favor of love and not hate, but no matter what happens, I’m going to forever hold those red shoes in my heart.
Over the last few years, we’ve been showing our really gruesome underbelly. Hate. Racism. Sexism. Xenophobia. I don’t believe that these are new, I just believe that people have kept them hidden deep in dark closets and basements.
Maybe, just maybe, Pantsuit Nation is proof that what was really happening is the first step to the great clean-up. When it’s time to tackle that closet no one dares open or talk about, you first have to take everything out, lay it out, and start sorting.
We’ve laid it all out. I finally have hope that what comes next will be beautiful.
That baby who is no longer a baby covered in olive juice and frosting deserves to grow up in a world where people are loved for who they are instead of being reviled for being different.
No matter who wins tonight, I take heart in the fact that at least 2.5 million others feel the way I do. Because in the end, it’s proof that humanity hasn’t yet lost.
I have this vision of myself, later at some indistinct time in my future, in a house with a yard. It’s a cozy house with lots of snug areas to sit, with a warm comforting kitchen that is more welcoming than functional.
The me that I imagine I’ll be then isn’t lithe, nor is she overweight, she’s an indistinct somewhere in between. She’s somewhat inspired by the maternal figure in Trixie Belden, or at least as I remember her, portly, busy baking pies and cooking for anyone who might be over, and also by other literary figures who have charmed me over the years.
The thing about this me of the future is that she’s secure in the knowledge that people love her exactly for who she is and how she makes them feel, and not because she’s dressed in a particular style, or looks a particular way. She’s just very comfortable being herself.
She putters. She wears flowy colorful clothing clearly designed for comfort and not for looks. She brews tea at all hours of the day. She hand-writes quotes and hangs them all over the place. She has notebooks stashed everywhere in case inspiration strikes.
She’s always ready to have people drop by for a treat, a cup of something warm to drink, a chat in the yard or in the cozy kitchen.
She’s got advice if it’s wanted and an ear if it’s needed.
I like to think that she’s a safe haven because she’s so secure in her acceptance of herself as she is.
Occasionally I see glimpses of this me I hope to someday become.
The handwritten notes are already populating my office walls. The tea is already a fixture.
It’s the rest that still eludes me. That feeling that I could wear anything that makes my soul feel at peace and not worry about what others might think or say.
Once in a while I spot an item and think, “I need that. I must have that. Because one day that’s who I’ll be.” Usually I demure. And sometimes I don’t.
Which is how I ended up ordering the one piece romper jumper thing that everyone was talking about one day on Facebook. It’s utterly ridiculous, and yet my soul cried out for it and my wallet didn’t balk at the $14 price tag.
The package arrived and sat untouched for over a month. I couldn’t bring myself to face the ridicule, knowing how much I would love having it on.
The other day, I finally found the courage to try it on. I swooshed around the house, loving the feel of the fabric flowing around my legs, relishing the utter freedom of the endless comforting material.
Then I saw my daughter’s face, half smiling/half afraid that her nutty mother might actually wear this thing out in public, and I changed out of my romper and tucked it away.
It’s ok. I get it, I really do. And I’m not entirely ready to be that person anyway.
So, for now, I’m happy to let it sit there, in my closet, waiting for the day that I’ll finally be that person whose self-assurance shines through so brightly that what she drapes over her body isn’t what people will see first.
And maybe on quiet days, it’ll come out to play.
In the meantime, I’ll smile at the knowledge that I’m not the only one who bought the romper while it was on sale. The Facebook frenzy about it is enough to tell me that I’m not the only one who dreams of one day being that self-assured woman.
I look forward to sharing a cup of tea with them in the not so distant future.
Please note, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that the links above include my Amazon affiliate link. Should you click on them and purchase something like maybe a book to treat your inner child or a romper to tempt your future self, I’ll earn a teensy tiny portion of the sale and I will be endlessly grateful.
When I woke up this morning, because of my usual 3-hour West Coast delay, Facebook was already all atwitter about an article that was rapidly making the rounds.
The article, prominent enough that a friend who isn’t even on Facebook had texted it to me, is about the pervasiveness of booze in the world of women, as seen from the point of view of a woman who has been sober for a few months.
Many people who hadn’t read beyond the title were ranting that people could take their booze from their cold dead hands and what did people know anyway. Booze is Good.
Others, like me, took the time to read the rather lengthy and wordy piece and then gave it a bit of thought.
Let’s start with this:
The piece, while I believe is well intentioned, does come off as a tad judgey and a smidge moralistic. I’d like my ethanol chilled, please. It goes better with the guac.
It’s also fraught with some serious hyperbole, which I think is a shame, because it detracts from some interesting observations.
1) Life is HARD, yo.
Here’s the hard truth. Whether you are a woman trying to make it in what will almost surely always be a man’s world or a mom juggling the needs of children and family and home, life is fucking hard. Women aren’t ever treated as equals. We always have to work harder for less. We will never be given our just rewards.
2) Booze is society’s answer to all the hard.
If you spend any time at all online or in the real world, you’ll know this to be a fact.
Booze lubricates conversations and events. It soothes ruffled feathers. It heals all hurts. If you ever complain about anything or mention that anything is hard, people offer you wine. No matter what time it is.
People joke endlessly about booze. People talk about it. A lot.
Our most common options for “time off” is either to work out or drink. And, as the author of this piece points out, even the line between those two options gets at times blurred. (To wit: 10 Races for Wine Lovers.)
And just so we’re clear, working out, for most women, is not about having fun and blowing off steam. It’s about looking good, so we can meet society’s standards for what we “should” look like. (Not you, I know, you totally run because you love it. I know.)
Booze is the great equalizer. For an hour or two, glass in hand, we can relax and be our true selves. If we’re not acting as we “should” we can always blame the contents of the cup. Expectations are lowered. We can finally be real with no real judgement. (Unless we get raped. Because then it’s clearly because we had too much to drink. D’oy. Let’s get real here.)
Fact is, booze is quite handy when it comes to helping us cope with the challenge, ignore the little voices inside that whisper that nothing should be this hard. It also dulls the anger, the emotions. (Please note, my use of the word booze, instead of the more innocuous wine is intentional. The effects are the same. The sugar coating, not.)
Because as we all know, emotions and anger are the most terrifying things a woman can show. An angry woman is a woman who gets shit done. A woman to be reckoned with. No one wants women to get angry. Well, men don’t. Like ever. Bad things will happen. Or good, depending on the point of view. An angry woman is a shrew. An angry man? Well, he’s just got something bothering him, OK? Lay off, he’s had a hard day.
So instead of telling women it’s OK to feel strong emotions, that anger and fear and sorrow are just as valid and honorable as joy and enthusiasm, we all tell her to chill out and have a glass of something relaxing instead.
Fell down and skinned your knee? Here, this glass of wine will help.
Pissed you were ignored at your board meeting again? Have a cocktail, you’ll stop caring.
Husband being a jerk? Come over, we’ll have a drink or five and when you get home it’ll be water under the bridge.
The message is clear:
Don’t get mad. Get drunk.
Don’t get busy. Chill out with a glass or three.
Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and burn our bottle openers in righteous indignation. You will literally have to pry mine from my cold dead hand. I’m not saying that drinking is wrong, that we should all instantly stop and fight the patriarchy. I’m just saying, isn’t it fascinating how we all seem to be living in some Brave New World parallel universe?
Huh. Soma anyone?
Tuck that away somewhere where deep thoughts go to stew.
And, while we’re at it, let’s also remember the part where we’re all genuinely so damn busy. So that we can find it in our hearts to have a little grace for ourselves and our fellow women. We can’t all change the world or even our lives. Sometimes we’re just in a tough place that needs to be endured, not fixed. Sometimes we really do have too much on our plate.
Let’s practice together. Grace. Not judgement.
The woman partying at the end of the pool might be caring with an ailing family member and only get one weekend a year to blow off steam.
The girl wasted at the office party might have just worked 7 straight weeks with no weekends.
The mom sneaking some wine at the back-to-school night assembly might have just folded an Everest sized mountain of laundry for a friend who just had a baby.
Self-righteousness doesn’t fix anything. Instead maybe we could all just bring a little self-awareness to the table. A moment to think “what is the purpose of this drink?” before we pour the glass. Not to shame ourselves, but just to keep tabs on whether we’re doing what we want rather than reacting to what we’re been told we should want. That seems like a good place to start, no?