I despair often at the privileged lives of men and all that they get away with in the world while women question our every move, feeling, or even our instinct. A common question women are told to ask themselves when they face a particular conundrum about whether to ask for a raise or publish something is, “What would a mediocre white man do?” The answer of course is that he would do the thing that would make a woman fear she is being nervous or callous or thoughtless. I ask myself this often when I move ahead with more audacious things.
But as much as I have longed to move as freely in the world as men, I have never wanted to be one. Because if I was, I would not have the unique and life-giving honor of having the women who surround me when I feel alone and who find me when I am lost. Surely there are deep and profound friendships between men and women that I admire but I have found in my own life a particular strength in women in numbers. The willingness of my women to time and again come to my rescue, knowing the peculiar dissatisfaction of being born into a world not designed for us, a world that is dismissive when it is not downright hostile to our interior lives.
I was very sad this week, hit by an unexpected and disorienting sadness I did not have the language or fortitude to face alone. My friend Charlotte was at the ready in my text messages to affirm that I was not crazy to be disenchanted by a world that looks one way then suddenly acts in another way. On a night of crying, my friends Natasha and Arianna showed up with wine and their own gentle spirits to drown out the nagging noise of despair in my head. Phoebe wrote nothing short of a manifesto on how I deserve happiness and made plans for big wild futures together. Alana reiterated that I am beautiful, which sounds trite but since she knows my greatest fear is physical mediocrity, it meant the world to me. The Rachel from whom I haven’t heard in some time saw that I was having a rough week and reached out from the ether, knowing there is never a wrong time to reemerge if your message is comfort and kindness.
Then there was the internet. Another brilliant Rachel wrote a 10K word story on selfies that has the unique quality of making me envious of for her talent but too hungry for it for me to ever hope that she stops. The following line proved the very point of its many male detractors, “Maybe they are lonesome and hungry for connection, projecting their own lack of community onto this woman’s solo show, believing her to be isolated rather than expansive.” I know it was in reference to selfies but what are my own tearful confessions late in the night to friends but my self, transmitting out into the world to be known?
Then today I published a story about how I lost my faith in God but still have a craving for grace and though men and women alike shared it, their responses differed greatly. I mentioned the fact that I went to Divinity School in the piece and strangers, both men and women, with whom I had little connection reached out to comment kindly on it but only women said things like, “I wish we had been better friends back then.” Simple messagess like that carry the memory of grace that I crave so much. They sustain me.
In the essay, I wrote, “I take heart in the words of the poet and professor Johann Peter Lange, who wrote in 1868 that there is ‘no fall so deep that grace cannot descend to it’ and ‘no height so lofty that grace cannot lift the sinner to it.’ I cannot predict how time will treat either my face or my faith, but I can allow myself to hope that I will know again that splendid fear that God is present, to be descended to once again.” And though I crave the unpredictability of God, I am more truly sustained in these times by the knowable love of my friends. I know how deep they’ll reach to get me and just how high they’ll lift me, gently to a height where I can see just how far I can go but not so high that I’m scared to fall.
I like this post a lot. There is a lot of truth to these words.
“I despair often at the privileged lives of men and all that they get away with in the world while women question our every move, feeling, or even our instinct” – hey, do not despair too much, there are men who also question their every move, feeling and (especially) their instinct. And yes, maybe women are more skilled in finding friends, that’s true. Nice post…