Friday night, I gathered with a dozen other women, shared appetizers and Prosecco, and enjoyed much-needed conversation. Later on, we turned down the blinds, threw off our shirts and pants, and tried on each other’s clothes. Just another Friday night, right?
Not exactly, but it’s one I look forward to every six months or so. Before you go jumping to conclusions, hear me out. The event is a clothing swap. Think about it. How many times have you complimented a girlfriend on her blouse or her dress? And how often do you look at a pair of pants or a skirt in your closet and think, “This is nice, but I’ve grown a little tired of wearing it.”
You get the idea. Everyone brings a few bags of clothes, shoes, accessories, handbags, even products like conditioner or face cream that just didn’t work out. When we arrive, we transform three rooms into a quick retail environment — tops in one area, bottoms in another and accessories in between. And then we get busy trying it all on, asking each other for opinions, finding gems at the bottom of each pile for one another. By the end of the night, we walk away with a bag of new-to-you clothes, and anything left over goes to Goodwill.
Driving home that night, I got to thinking about how much I appreciate those gatherings. We have fellowship over wine and good food that we prepare for one another. We celebrate our frugality; think about what a shopping bag or two of brand new clothes costs these days. Most of us are mothers. Several are entrepreneurs. We appreciate the opportunity to save a buck. When we gather, we look forward to seeing old friends and we often meet new ones. We share our recent successes and hardships, recipes and realizations. We admire all of our different sizes and the way that one’s straight lines or womanly curves can give an old outfit a whole new sense of possibility. We always — always — laugh. And a time or two, there may have been a small prayer circle and some healing tears shed.
On my way home, I counted the number of times JUST THAT WEEK that I had collaborated with my fellow women-folk. A long-distance friend and I had shared writing and new business tips over a conference call. It was an intentional meeting designed to benefit each other with our knowledge and experience. (Come to think of it, I had conferenced with another woman last week for similar reasons.) Another friend and I had coordinated our weekly carpooling of soccer players to and from practice. Yet another offered to take my children for a day while I work; I, in turn, told her she can drive her parents to the doctor next week without her kids in tow. We’ve got each other’s back.
God, I love women.
Maybe you’re asking why I chose to write about this on a blog about writing and teaching. For a couple of reasons, actually. I want to remind you how powerful we are together, we women. How we can inspire each other creatively. What we have to learn from one another. Especially when we strip things down. Get naked, so to speak. Bear our souls a bit.
I’m not saying men can’t and don’t have their own important bonds. But I do think that many men could better tap into a support network like the one I am describing. Swap the wine for beer and the clothes for, I don’t know, tools or home improvement projects, and voila! Chat (in their own code language) about recent parenting fails. Or that really great Dad moment the other day. Bounce some business ideas off of a buddy. See if anyone has a good roofer to recommend. Or whatever it is that guys have on their minds (aside from a house full of women taking off their clothes.)
I have female relationships on the brain for another reason. As I work on my next novel, Cloudspotting, I am delving into a mother-daughter relationship and into the friendship between two very different women, neighbors who are connected not just by their street, but by a school shooting that took one of their children and not the other. As I craft these female characters, I have so much from which to draw.
Besides, I think a post about female friendships fits nicely on a blog called The Constant Reviser, don’t you? I know I am a constant work-in-progress, just like my writing, and that my friends help me evolve into a better and better version of myself all the time.