I am blessed with an abundance of women in my life.
Growing up the youngest of three girls, I've never known how to function without the female. From little girls who made Christmas cookies together to teens that terrorized each other by stealing a favorite sweater/pants/Lip Smackers/Love's Baby Soft/shampoo/conditioner/mousse (it was the 80s), my world has always been informed by my sisters, my mother, her sisters, their mother.
When I entered middle school, my two sisters were in the high school up the hill. As I navigated the locker-lined hallways and the secrets that revealed themselves in faded mustard-yellow bathroom stalls, I had three girlfriends in whom I confided. There were school dances where we held each other through the "he won't dance with me" horrors that plague pre-pubescent girls. There were sleepovers where avoiding sleep was the entire point; where calling in to a local radio show and hearing your dedication broadcast through the speakers in front of your friends meant that you loved--like, loved-- that boy in math class.
As we neared the end of middle school and looked toward that high school on the hill, interests waxed and waned and friendships began to follow suit. In their place, new ones sprung up: three more female friends, some who had known each other since pre-school. As my sisters wandered their college campuses and I penned them letters and counted calendar days until their return, my girlfriends and I embarked on a friendship that, 25 years later, is perhaps more meaningful now than it was even then.
As I begin my fourth decade, I think about the women in my life now, and those that I am no longer in touch with. I am profoundly grateful to each of them for their presence, their candor, their wit and their honesty. I am humbled by their capacity to love, to participate in the world in a way that is meaningful to them. I am astounded by their energy and their commitment to those whom they love.
When it comes down to it, I just don't understand women who don't befriend other women. My heart breaks for them. Are they not aware of the sheer power that comes from females befriending each other? Have they never walked into a room full of women, gathered for such purpose as to reach a common goal, and not left in tears of gratitude for witnessing in the flesh the definition of community? Have they never stayed up much too late, talking or texting or writing to a woman who can level them with an insight, buoy them with a word or make them weep with laughter with an acerbic response? Have they never had a woman hold them as sobs wracked their body, breathing steadily in their ear until their lungs found the quiet rhythm and matched it?
I recently witnessed three women on a morning walk in the park; this everyday act took my breath away. Two middle aged women flanked their older counterpart, arms intertwined to steady her, their pace slowing to match hers. As they shuffled along, they talked quietly, smiling alternately, pointing, nodding. As I passed them, I was struck by their colorful outerwear, the distinct shapes of their bodies against each other. Three women walking as one; each vibrant in her own right, yet perhaps stronger--and more striking--linked together.
I am so lucky to be able to say I know exactly how that feels.