Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Women.

When I was younger, and really ever since I'm conscious of having been socially participatory in any way, my friends were guys. Guy friends in elementary school, because I liked to play kickball rather than imagination games during recess. Guy friends in high school,--friends who still matter to me, in truth, and with whom I'm still in touch, but in that "we're guys; we don't need to open up on the phone every day" way. Guy friends in college: my playmates for much high-altitude hijinks. And buddies in graduate school, one of whom I recently married.

At some point along the way, someone wise (who, incidentally, reads this blog) said to me, "Wait and see. When you're in your thirties, women will be the people who matter most to you." I scoffed at her. (Internally. I'm not rude.) I couldn't imagine ever developing a deep and trusting friendship with a woman. Women are...you know, so complex, and subtle, and uninterpretable. And catty. And petty. And all the stereotypes that society attaches to the feminine.

Well, bless her, she was right. Beyond my mom and my aunt and my sister, with whom I have been very close (some might say pathologically close) for my whole life, I now find myself happily connected to a whole, well, matrix of women who are brilliant and funny and caring and impressive all around, and who make me feel bloody lucky to have them in my life. Last night, one such impressive woman, who'd read my little self-sorrowing skirl of a last post, came over with her first home-baked loaf of home-ground wheat-flax bread to share, and we sat in my disarticulated kitchen for well over an hour and laughed ourselves silly. Another woman has transcended colleague status to become like a sister. (Me, not long ago, to her: "You're my sister from another mister!" She: "Sounds like we had a loose mother." Me: "Damn. Men get all the good lines.")

Indeed, I can't think of a single male friend who registers in any significant way for me these days. (Neruda no longer counts as a "male friend," much less as "a single male friend.") All my go-to guys are women. I had leisure to reflect on this development in my life this summer, when I and six others had a Chicks' Campout and spent a couple of nights getting muddy and hiking and sweating and singing blues songs about our vaginas. I felt this rush of gratitude for the presence in my life of those women, and for my sense of, yes, sisterhood with them. And most of the readers of this here blog are women whose lives matter to me, whether I've met you in real life or not.

So, thanks to all the women who rock my world. I'm so glad I finally grew up enough to appreciate you.

13 comments:

Moria said...

My experience, through college and even up through my M.A., was much the same. (Though all of my important mentors, save one, have been women - that seems significant. Little intimacy with women my age; much (though of a very particular sort) with women far senior to me. Hmm.)

Imagine my astonishment when I landed in a Ph.D. program dominated by women, in an all-female cohort, while dating a woman, and the people closest to me were nearly all women's-college alumnae. I was terrified; now I love it. I love how smart they are, how beautiful, how well-dressed. Most of all I love how much they know who they are and what they want.

In fact, now I can't stand being around 95% of men my age. (Something... happens to men in their mid-twenties. They just go batshit and become insufferable, indecisive, self-absorbed yet un-self-knowing dicks. What is that? Some insane delayed adolescence? Women seem to get it well out of their systems by age twenty.)

Weird.

unentdeckt said...

I have had an extremely similar experience and would have said until I was about 30 or so that it was just too hard to be friends with most women. The turning point came for me when I started meeting women who were more open about their flaws and failure and more willing to tolerate difference over adiaphora. Presumably the same thing was happening to me in those years. This all leads me to conclude that it is not only you who were doing the growing up; it was the other women you appreciate as well. Just a thought.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I agree with Moria -- something happens to men that seriously make them insufferable. I was friends with almost all men until my PhD program. Then, there weren't many men around, and I started becoming friends with "the girls." I'm only close with one of them still, but we're really good friends. Now that I'm a mom, I have a lot, lot, lot of mom friends, and I'm surprised how much I love them. I thought it would be weird having nothing in common but our kids. Well, it turns out that having our kids in common is great, and it further turns out that we have MUCH more in common than our kids. (THANKFULLY.)

I'm really happy to have good girl friends. They have saved my life more than once.

Renaissance Girl said...

I wonder sometimes if there's something biologically determined about it. Like, once one gets past the age where the body is selecting a breeding partner, other women can be seen beyond the competition they represent.

Moria: nope. All my mentors were big powerful alpha males. Like versions of my dad. Or God.

Renaissance Girl said...

All of whom (the mentors, my dad, God) I happen to adore--I didn't mean to suggest something negative about the alpha males.

Lisa B. said...

Your post, c'est moi. And also that comment above--very smart. I'll keep thinking about that. And in the meanwhile, I'm grateful that you're my friend.

Ink said...

You know, I hadn't even realized that this shift had happened for me, too. Lovely post. And I hope you're feeling better. You sound good and even perky. :)

Leslie said...

To quote an amazing woman I know "word!"

Horace said...

You talk about the effect as biological, RG, but I wonder if the same phenonomenon can't be explained in social terms: that once so many of us have paired off in compulsory, normative ways into neat heterosexual couples, the social controls surrounding (and enforcing) the bounds and bond of marriage make many such cross-gender friendships deeply suspect.

I can think of several women with whom I might have deeply satisfying friendships (more women than men, in fact), but my status as a married man, and frequently their status as married women precludes the deepening of those bonds, especially if our spouses don't get along with one or the other of us.

Homosocial relationships are significantly safer in heteronormative terms, and so nights out with the boys are encouraged in all sorts of ways for me, even though I have never found much appeal in the concept. In fact, I would argue that many men over 25 seem more insufferable to women precisely because we are encouraged to move into more neatly divided spheres, and so less cross gender interaction equals less cross-pollination of gendered cultures. Grown men seem insufferable to grown women (and in many cases, vice-versa) because they encouraged to spend so much less time with them, and reinforce behaviors that are generally discouraged in heterosocial settings. Meanwhile, male-female friendships are fraught with potential jealousies and gossip-fodder.

I think homosocial bonds are deeply important, but I also think they become more important because other sorts of heterosocial friendships NOT based on sexual desire don't map neatly onto accepted social categories, and are frequently disciplined right out of existence.

Renaissance Girl said...

I'm with you on that assessment, Horace: I've made a couple of new male friends since I arrived in my current position, with whom I haven't developed the kind of depth of relationship that I'm sure I would have had one or the other of us not been married. I chalked it up to the anxieties of the local conservative culture, but I think that's being reductive about the phenomenon and unfair in my assessment of the local culture. Neruda, for example, lives (as I may have mentioned) way the hell on the other side of the country, and he resists, for example, being in his office alone with a female colleague if the door is closed. Your more capacious explanation is closer to the truth, I think.

Renaissance Girl said...

And let me just add that I don't find men insufferable. I just find myself confiding in, trusting, relying on, and needing the support of women these days, rather than the guys who used to constellate my social universe, and I couldn't have guessed that shift would occur.

rml said...

Love to you, dear friend.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I would like to add that one of my very best friends for the last eight years is a man, and we're still close. Both of us are married, but thankfully our spouses are perfectly fine with our friendship. He lives far away -- in my home town -- so we mainly get to catch up on the phone. In August, though, I visited home with my son, and I went out with my friend for coffee while my mom babysat my son. Mom later accused me of having an affair with my friend. I laughed myself silly. Maybe if the stars had aligned just right we would have been a couple. But we're both happy with our own families and the possibility of being together is not only laughable, but absurd. (Not to mention the fact that I'm hugely pregnant -- yeah, that's just the time anyone would want to have an affair with me. Sheesh.)