Some Lessons on Female Friendship

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Dear Mimi,

Mimi, it is fascinating to see how young you are and yet how capable you are of having meaningful friendships.   The way you relate to others now will be the building blocks for your future relationships.  Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you grow:

I’m reading a book called the H-Spot by Jill Filipovic about making female happiness a political agenda.  A few Saturdays ago I was on an early morning walk with Joanna, who told me she heard the author speak and that the book was worth picking up.  That very day Ti texted me a photo featuring a glass of wine, her feet crossed in front of her, and in the foreground, the cover of H-Spot.  I downloaded it on my Kindle that night.  Lesson One: when two smart women, who also happen to be two of your favorite people, recommend a book, read that book.  We can learn so much from each other.

Lesson Two:  Make true friends.  I remember your Grammy saying to me over and over:  make sure [name of girl I was friends with] is a “true blue” friend.  My first clear example of a strong female friendship was Anne (of Green Gables) and Diana, “kindred spirits.”  I have always looked for kindred spirits — you’ll know her when you find her.  They are the ones that let you be yourself, open up to you, and want the best for you.

Lesson Three:  Pass notes.  There are things we say, and then there is what we write.  Anyone who has ever written or received a love letter understands the power of the written word in a romantic context.  A thoughtfully written statement of love or admiration or congratulations is powerful also when directed to your friends.  Over the years I have exchanged countless handwritten letters with my second cousin, Emily.  We first met at a family reunion when we were young, and we have letters that date back to when we were in grade school.  By the time we started going to summer camp together after seventh grade, we had written volumes.  We were camp counselors together, lived together in college all four years, and she was the person I went to for advice when I became pregnant with you.

Lesson Four:  Build friendships with people who are different from yourself intellectually, racially, ethnically, spiritually, etc.  These friendships will likely require more of an effort to find, because you will have to travel outside of your normal circles.  But they will challenge you and make you better understand yourself and this very diverse world we live in.  I just heard Janet Mock’s podcast interview with Lena Dunham and thought it underscored how we can find our same values in people seemingly different from us, how imperfect we are, and how our friends can hold a mirror to us at just the right time.

Lesson Five:  Don’t be a mean girl and don’t make space in your life for mean girls.  Feminism requires that we empower ourselves and other women.  Remember that when people are mean, it’s because they are hurting.  Stand tall and make space for others to do the same.

Lesson Six:  Keep your long distance friends.  I’ve moved away from so many dear friends, and they’ve moved away from me.  But using technology to check in with them and airline miles to visit them feels intentional and special.  I’ve known Lindsey since college, and she is hands down the person I know who is best at keeping in touch — and it is a skill.  She visited me when I was living in rural Ukraine, visited another friend while she lived in Kenya, and makes an effort to call and check in regularly.  It takes more effort to see a long distance friend than it would a neighbor, but that effort can feed the friendship and keep it strong, especially with the right people.

Lesson Seven:  Build sisterhoods in the place you live.  Every time I’ve moved somewhere or made a big transition, I’ve met interesting, compassionate, smart women — they are everywhere.  Whether a person stays in your life or only makes a brief appearance, those friendships can add depth to your experiences.  After law school several women, some of whom I knew well and others I didn’t, started an informal lean-in-group-meets-book-club-meets-brunch-club where we discuss careers, family, finances, love, and where we laugh a lot.  We take summer trips together.  We update each other on life events via email announcement.  These women were among my first visitors after you were born.  While each friendship is valuable in its own right, the collective wisdom and support of the group is palpable each time we gather.

Lesson Eight:  Celebrate your female friendships.  In her book, Filipovic characterized friendships in a way I completely related to — but she also writes about the lack of rituals and traditions we have to celebrate female friendships and their milestones.  I started thinking about this.  How do I celebrate my friends?  How do they celebrate me?  However it looks, remind your friends why they matter and why you love them.

Love,

Mom

Photo credit: Tara C. 

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why we marched

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To My Fierce Little Lady,

We marched in the Seattle Womxn’s March today as a family.  We joined over 120,000 people, many carrying creative signs and wearing handmade pink pussy hats.  In Washington, D.C. over 500,000 people marched, and many, many more marched in cities around the country.  (Your aunt said that the march she attended in Detroit was a spiritual experience.)  

These are trying times that challenge even the most hopeful spirit.  On Friday Donald Trump became the president of our country.  He has consistently used his financial and political power to bully people and the press and, I fear, now, other countries, failing to take responsibility for the harm he creates.  He has been publicly racist, sexist, bigoted, and hate-filled.  He plans to fill his administration with self-interested, wealthy business leaders who in some cases do not believe in the protections the agencies they have been nominated to run are meant to enforce.  The spate of Senate confirmation hearings last week heightened my fear that we may be facing attempts to completely dismantle government services we take for granted, like a public school system.

Trump has a Republican House and Senate and a vacancy to fill on the Supreme Court, which would in many cases provide a fifth and deciding conservative vote.  (And let us not forget that this was President Obama’s to fill when Justice Scalia died in February of 2016.)  Because of this consolidation of power, Trump is certain to undo years of progress in civil rights, climate change, education, healthcare, immigration, reproductive justice, campaign finance, and more.  He threatens to undo the fundamental pillars of our democracy.  He has shown consistent disregard for rule of law, and enters his presidency in direct violation of the US Constitution’s prohibition against presidential conflicts of interest due to his massive and intricate business dealings he will not give up in a manner that resolves those conflicts.  He has aligned himself with foreign leaders who employ abusive tactics to maintain power.  And he lies openly, compulsively.  

It was important to me to share today’s historical march with you because I want you to understand that even in the face of all of this, you have a voice and your voice matters.  Your brown skin and female body and multiracial and multiethnic background mean that you will experience sexism and racism and at times you will feel defeated.  In those moments I want to remind you of this one.  Today young people like you, of all colors and creeds, joined their moms and grandmas and great grandmas to send a message to the world and the new administration.  Today we showed with our collective power our resolve to be heard.   We told the new president and his supporters that we will challenge policies and practices that harm those already at society’s margins.  We said that in the face of pervasive incitement of fear, we are not afraid.  

Love,

Mom