There is a ’hood where we women all live.
When things are going well, it’s normally an easy destination; a comfortable place to plop down, pour a cup of tea or glass of wine or a couple of fingers of whiskey, and let it all hang out. The perfect place to pitch a tent and stay for a while. (Which is exactly why I — and maybe you, too — will always be a camper =)
Other times it’s a safe space; a haven for us to flee to when times are rough.
And there are also those times when we discover that not everyone is such a good neighbor in the sister ’hood. But I’m not so interested in heading down that dark alley — at least not in today’s post.
Last week I had an amazing experience of joining a brand, spankin’ new BBF (Best Bitch Forever) to celebrate her birthday with a weekend away. Not only did I NOT know her so well, but she also brought along another half dozen women whom I’d never met, either.
The differences in our ages spanned as much as a couple of decades; we hailed from divergent places, had diverse life situations, interests, values, spiritual beliefs and orientations.
And yet, as the weekend unfolded, I was astonished to see that the differences had nothing on the stunning places of genuine commonality.
The willingness to be vulnerable, to share deep thoughts and considerations, to laugh at each other and ourselves — it was all pretty fantastic. And it reminded me of the sacred nature of the top 7 secrets of sisterhood:
1) Sisterhood is like yoga pants; for maximum comfort, you’ve gotta have a little give: So part of the criteria for the actual birthday party part of the weekend on Saturday evening was that we were to all to wear PJ’s or equally comfortable clothes. Inherent in the dress code was a metaphor for sisterhood — the ties that bind are not found in the constriction but instead in the give. As mentioned, we were a bunch of very different ladies, but we jumped in headfirst, giving one and other the benefit of the doubt… which left plenty of room for exploration and questioning that ultimately led to enlightenment and understanding. Watching my extremely hetero BBF, for example, ask the homosexual ladies in da house some burning questions was initially somewhat uncomfortable and comical, but eventually led to conversation that was loose and flowing. In all the right ways.
2) Where there are women, there will be cheese. And chocolate. And laughter. And tears: Amiright? At our gathering, much to my delight, there was a prodigious amount of excellent Brie and cheddar, bowls of dark chocolate sweetness, veggie platters to theoretically offset all the artery-clogging delights, and a lot of deep, delicious belly laughs. And then instead of sorbet, many of us cleared it all out with a sentimental teardrop or two… all the way to at least one full-on torrent, as is to be expected when the booze and the hormones kick in.
3) We use our words. One of the cooler parts of the experience was that one of the bunch — a psychologist — led a council, which is “a structured conversation” that encourages participants to speak reflectively, tell their own stories and listen intently to what others have to say. After a ritualistic lighting of candles, we passed a beanie-baby heart and took turns putting words to the sentiments we each held for the birthday girl. In lightening rounds, it was just a word or two, and there was never a moment that any one of us was at a loss for what to say. In fact, we scrambled over each other to be heard and to weigh in with the most profound, hilarious, personal, articulate ways to describe our emotions around our relationship with and perception of the woman we were celebrating. NOBODY had to tell us to use our words.
4) We crave connection, and so we poke and prod and work to make it, uhh, fit. I call this Jewish geography, although women especially don’t have to subscribe to a particular faith in order to play the game. It’s like six degrees of Kevin Bacon or a live action social media survey, where the friends both new AND old circled each other until we found points of connection, be it friends in common, love of the same movie or TV show, familiar touchpoints and so on. One of my BBFs made a beautiful point about the bittersweet nature of being an ex-pat. That she and the birthday girl came from different continents was beside the point; the fact that they had both landed in the same unexpected place — a suburb of Los Angeles — was the most poignant, meaningful connection. For me, just being able to crack jokes about sex toys and know that my new compadres knew exactly from whence I came (NO PUN INTENDED!) was pretty magical.
5) When in doubt, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll ALWAYS breaks the ice. As mentioned, the sexual orientations and experiences of the group varied, but perhaps thanks to having a sex therapist in the bunch, very quickly we all realized that female sexual response is pretty much the same regardless of partner preferences. And not that anyone was doing any drug stronger than Pinot Grigio, but early on there was a pretty hilarious convo about “dols” — those pills sold over the counter in certain corners of the world and prescribed elsewhere to help you sleep always seem to end in “dol.” As in Valley of the Dolls. The party ended listening to music by two of the ladies in da house, which fed our collective creative spirits and gave us a chance to rock out together — always a good way to feel close.
6) We reveal our deepest wishes and dreams very easily. It started with council, where any shy feelings were offset by a more powerful urge to make meaningful connections (see above), but the party ended with a particularly inspiring ritual — releasing sky lanterns to carry our wishes for the birthday girl and ourselves up into the stratosphere. While billions of people worldwide know about this beautiful practice, I had never seen such a thing. You take a paper lantern, ignite a little candle-like block under it, and once it fills with hot air, it rises gracefully into the sky. I wasn’t the only one in the bunch to have a virgin Chinese lantern experience, but I will say that the feeling of solidarity in wish-making and sharing, already ignited by the earlier events of the evening, was given an enchanted blessing by those angelic, dreamy lanterns that dotted the night sky. <<Sigh>>
7) Love is always the answer, and we never, ever question that: That’s rule #1 of sisterhood. (Not to be confused with the first rule of Fight Club, btw.)
So if you see me looking for traveling pants or other divine ways to get my ya-yas out, just know that it’s just a sign that the search for sisterhood springs eternal. And the secret is that when we make those sacred connections, we understand that we are not alone in our suffering. And our joy. And all of those things where X (chromosomes) mark the spot.