Friend Me


    I think Hallmark may have hyped the notion of friendship a bit too much.

    
Inflated the premise and oversold its availability to the masses.

    
Or maybe it was those afterschool specials and sappy sitcoms.




    Or the mean girl movies in which good prevailed and true friends stood solid.

    
Something has given our kids a misguided view of where they’ll find real friends and just what they’ll look like.

    
Perhaps the culprit is Facebook –so much else is blamed on the social networking site.




    Eight hundred and eighty-three friends -Seriously?

    
I used to cringe when my husband came home from a business meeting referring to his friends in attendance.




    Those aren’t friends- they’re business associates,
I would practically shout every time.

    
And I was often surprised at the reaction of those newly moved to town who were disappointed by the no-entry cliques that were too reminiscent of high school for my liking. I was never really sure why the newbies wanted in to the select town circles. Did they really think those people jockeying to get their own kids on the best soccer teams were going to pull another’s kid along?

    
One of my students was recently disappointed by her so-called friends. After what she saw as a betrayal, she said she was now going to trust no one.

    
Ouch.




    In talking her off the ledge, I assured her that this new philosophy was extreme.




    And then I delved a bit into just what her expectations of her friends were. But before I reached that bar, I had to ask –who she considered to be her friends? How many did she have? And the question which spoke more to my own philosophy than hers –how many exactly did she think she deserved?

    
I brokered my own response before she had a chance to answer. If you can count your close friends on a single hand, consider yourself lucky, I told her.

    
She is lucky. And she knows this. And she also acknowledges that she was perhaps misguided to label every acquaintance on even a small college campus as friend. Because not every project partner or kindred classmate is a friend. Tight living quarters don’t make tight friendships. And slurpy sentiments proffered at local bars are often forgotten before the sticky floors have been mopped dry.  

    
My daughter’s been tricked too many times by the illusion of friendship. At 21, I think she’s finally getting a sense of what she needs from the people in her life. And just how much she’s willing to give in return. Her foundation of friendship rests, in part, on membership in a sorority. When she first considered joining, I have to admit I wasn’t entirely on board. It wasn’t just the what-would-I-do voice in my head; it was that other, much louder voice of parental caution. She’d been hurt before –by girls- and the thought of such a large assemblage of them struck me as that many more chances for pain.




    I was wrong.

    
Theta Phi Alpha has given Alex the friends she missed out on in high school. And I think they may be true friends. But it doesn’t really matter what I think. It’s what she believes that counts here. Time will tell. Alex has always been quick to jump into new friendships, but quick also to abandon them when they didn’t measure up. In Theta Phi, loyalty is a requirement of membership. 

    
My student is under no such contractual obligation to give her own friends a second chance.




    But she will.




    Or at least she will to those who now fit her narrower construction of the word.




    She doesn’t know it yet, but that definition is likely to grow narrower still.




    Because I’m that old, I’ve had friendships as old as my student. And I can vouch for the genuineness of them because they’ve stood the test of time. I could teach her much about what constitutes a true friend.

    
But I won’t.




    She’ll figure it out -she’s smart. Although it isn’t often one’s intellect that speaks most loudly where matters of the heart are concerned. And a true friendship is indeed its own sort of love affair. In fact, most friendships last longer than love affairs; many outlast marriages.  

    
So while I’ll pass on giving advice on the girls in my student’s life, I will tell her that when she’s choosing a boy to try seeing first if he measures up as a friend. Because not only is that a great place to start, it’s also not a bad place to end.

The Academics of Life

     Someone recently reminded me that my job title is academic tutor. In that capacity, I’d like to say that I’m at least marginally qualified to impart some sort of knowledge onto my students. On the other hand, I’d also be the first to admit that I may be completely ill qualified in most other areas in which I offer counsel to them.


whiteboard  When we set out in the semester, my fellow learning consultants and I are supposed to outline the student support program, explain the requirements of participation and tell the students what they can expect from us. Each year, I’m quickly able to click through the points and offer my assistance on a host of academic, organizational and campus navigational tasks without hesitation. 

 

     Until the last one.


Be a mentor.


My first year, I balked at what I thought was a pretty presumptuous offering. Of course, I understand that anyone can be a mentor, that it requires no degree or specialized training. I get that even I am vaguely qualified.


Still.


I didn’t even know these kids, yet. And, more importantly, they certainly didn’t know me. Why would they sign on to take counsel from a stranger more closely aligned with their parents and professors than their peers. How could they say yes to a pretty big trust connection with such a blank slate?

 

Luckily, my students aren’t nearly as jaded as I.

    Lucky also, that my boss is a bit of a sorceress. Not only does she perform a pretty neat trick with regard to the space-time continuum –accomplishing way more hours of work than should reasonably fit in a day- but she also seems to possess some intuitive knack for fitting tutee to tutor. At first glance, she’s merely linking business students with business tutors; communications kids with the likes of me. But there’s something more to the doweled fit she seems to construct.


Kelley would likely not allow me to attribute the pairings to the mere technical savvy of my supervisor. Rather, she’d be more apt to point to a grand scheme for the universe in which I am supposed to be doing just this job at this point in my life and with these particular kids. What I try to lay off on coincidence, she sets before a higher power. A concept over which, I have learned not to roll my eyes. Not only because I truly respect from where she comes, but also because she seems to have some sort of belief in me –that perhaps I still can be taught. And in weaker moments, she does have the ability to suck me in. 


And I understand now, that this is a good thing.

     For me.

    But also for my students.

    And for my own children. Because of all the jobs I have held, the one for which I often feel most inadequately prepared is parent. And sometimes also this position as mentor.

    But with voices other than my own in my head, I take a breath and try to listen to the universe. And rather than assume myself ill-fitted to any role, I think to all of the people who would have been considered such a mismatch to my own life. And thank that they were there.

The woman for whom I babysat should have remained only a neighbor and a reliable source of funds. Instead, in the fuzzy friendship we forged as I stepped into adulthood, she helped me become the person I was supposed to be. An unlikely pairing, believe me. Had we been the same age, our paths would not have crossed and we would never have become friends. But we did.

So when my daughter’s high school years were in turmoil and I was one of her closest friends, rather than fret over the time she spent with a woman I barely knew, I stopped and tried to believe. In the goodness of people. In my parents’ creed that what goes around, comes around, and in the idea that a good kid deserved someone good in her life. And it worked.

    I owe an immeasurable thank-you to that woman of long ago and to the woman who helped pull my daughter back to the surface.

    And I owe something to these kids I supposedly tutor. Because I often think that they’ve given me more than I have given them. 


Or maybe not. They thank me often and text me with good grades and give me credit that I don’t deserve. They share their work and their accomplishments and pieces of their lives. And they trust me.


I am an academic tutor, and I’ve tried to set some pretty clear boundaries –the most ironic of which might be exampled in a recent interaction with one of my students. I told her that if she ever felt compelled to text me in the middle of the night because she was under-the-gun with regard to an assignment, that I would indeed be angry. However, I added that I would be angrier still if she neglected to make the call when it had nothing to do with academics at all.

Fade to Grey

    Black and white is easy. 

    
I come from black and white. I don’t live there anymore, but it is where I started.




    Growing up, I had an ironclad vision of the expectations that were placed upon me. Black and white. Wrong and right. Not a whole lot of in-between.




    I’m sure at the time I probably didn’t view it all that favorably.




    Now I do.




    But it isn’t just nostalgia.




    Parenting in today’s 3D Digital world can be deeply disorienting at times.



    It makes me long for an era when the rules were simple and clear. And laid out by somebody else. Sometimes I think that the only thing scarier than the fact that my friends and I are in charge is the thought that someday our children will be.




    Yikes!




    And what tools have we given them to handle that responsibility?




    On off days, I think –not nearly enough.




    But then I look to the black and white world my parents gave me and wonder how grey became my favorite color.




    Like my parents, and theirs before them, I’ve tried to add to what they built.  My own structure may look different and feel unsettlingly unstable at times, but the foundation of it was long ago set. I started from the same premise they did –to give to my kids more than I had. Just a little bit more. And in some ways, I have. I’m just not sure I’ve always chosen the right ways.




    Our literal house is bigger and our town smaller. We have more land and less worries about it. We’ve taken more vacations. I’ve spent more time on fields, in parks and on playgrounds. More time in my kids’ classrooms. I’ve had memberships to the library, the PTO, the museum. My children have had a lot of lessons, and teams and coaches. My daughter orders her clothes online as if it’s a part time job. My son thinks Zildjian cymbals are the only kind worth having and so he has them. My kids have had access to a whole lot of stuff. Material things –lots of them.




    But they often don’t make their beds. And have to be reminded that dishes go in dishwashers. And clothes go on hangers that hang in closets. Their rooms are messy and they don’t share them with anyone else. They’ve never had paper routes or shoveled snow or washed cars to make a buck. My daughter forgets to make those birthday thank-you phone calls. My son goes to bed without saying goodnight.
 



    Something’s off-kilter. How is it that they do less, and get more?  How is it that I –and I don’t think I’m alone- have allowed this to happen?




    It’s different.




    Sounds like a cop out, huh? But isn’t it different? I want to say that times are different; were different. But then, that phrase sounds too reminiscent of my parents: Those were the days. You don’t know how lucky you have it. You have it easy. It sounds too much like my parents sounding like theirs. And I don’t want to lay blame on a past that’s faded by hues of nostalgia.




    Instead, I place the blame on myself. And I don’t think our parents did that. They might have known guilt, but not doubt. At least not when it came to raising their children. Black and white. Simple.




    I often think that my muted tones don’t measure up.




    But then I look to my own beginnings and realize that my parents laid some solid ground work. And I have built upon it. And in spite of the shaky ground on which it sometimes seems to stand, I’ve got to believe that it can withstand even the seismic activities of late.




    Because its pillars are made of some pretty powerful stuff.




    Pillars of strength -and love. Trust and belief. Respect and encouragement. Kindness and warmth. Family. And food. . .




    A few weeks ago, my daughter texted me a rainbow. There’s a story behind it, but that’s not important. What is is that she knew that sending it to me would make my day. I kid often about how we’ve all lowered the bar with regard to the expectations we place on our children. But the rainbow wasn’t low. It was pretty high, actually. She looked up to the sky, appreciating a specter which many do. Then, she snapped a photo from her phone, and forwarded it along. To Me. Because she knows me. In a way that I may not have known my mother.




    So I’ve been thinking. If I had settled upon only the black and white I knew, I probably would have missed a whole lot of rainbows.

Unjustified Paranoia


    I had a friend in high school who warned me of the dangers of committing anything to paper.

    
There were a few things wrong with this right advice.




    First, she was talking to the writer of the group. Really? Don’t put anything down on paper?




    Second, writing notes was our version of texting. We all did it. It was a clandestine escape in boring classes, a lifeline in harried hallways.




    Third, her message that anything I put down on paper had the potential to come back to bite me, smacked of paranoia. As it turned out, although I don’t think she was so afflicted, her father was. Perhaps that was at the root of her cautionary note.




    Lastly, she didn’t take her own advice. Years after we had gone our separate ways, I found notes and letters authored by her. She poured out her heart and soul in every passage.




    Interestingly, I never did. In this regard, I know I was in the minority.




    And I still am.




    Even in emails and text messages, I edit. And reedit.
 



    Not so the legions of girls and young women of today with their up-to-the-second technology and lightning fast fingertips. They text with abandon, and with utter disregard for the backspace which could give their thoughts pause. The speed with which they communicate has rendered the delete key virtually obsolete.




    Thus it is that I hear from my students, while in class with an overseeing professor, immediately of the just-received grade on the test or the essay. Although I admonish them at the inconsistency of texting their tutor while in class, I have to admit I like when they share good news.




    And they do. A grade, a completed assignment, a pushed back deadline.




    But in the immediacy of their media-driven lives and hyperquick blip of their messaging, they share much more. So much more.




    In the jotted lines of their texts, I’ve been granted access to their world. And in the spaces in-between, into their lives. I know I wouldn’t give to them what they give to me. At least not in writing. The content is often akin to the stuff which we might have shared with a trusted friend through the lines of a telephone. It’s immediate and funny and potent and raw, and at times, heart-wrenching. And almost always -urgent.




    I wonder what it is about my young friends and my daughter that their messages seem so fully fraught with this sense of urgency. Even when it’s my daughter’s question about a song’s artist that comes from the midst of a party she’s attending, she needs to know –now.  Never mind that her phone has a direct link to the Google gods who could answer her much more quickly than I and my scattered brain. The question arises. She texts me her query. And I answer.




    In a different scenario, this would be called enabling. Maybe it still is. And maybe I and those of my kind are part of the reason our kids crave immediacy and lay bare so much out in their cyberworld.




    Facebook has hoards of detractors. And anyone advising students stepping into the workforce has warned and doubly warned of the dangers of revealing too much to the world through the site. I’ve done it countless times myself.




    But lately I’ve been rethinking the message. Just because I couldn’t have put myself out there the way my girls do, doesn’t mean they can’t. Or shouldn’t. It is, after all, their world.



No, I’m not advising that FB uploads of them taking ice slide shots through something resembling the male anatomy while wearing their bathing suits is the stuff that impresses future bosses. Instead, I’m saying that perhaps we can find middle ground. There are just too many of these less-than-perfect photos opps out there to expect anyone to come off as perfect. There’s also something a bit inauthentic about a college kid donnig a cap at the end of four years that too closely resembles a halo. I can’t imagine that anyone is served by an all antiseptic version of another’s life. It’s not terribly believable. Or likeable.




    So I liked the story of the young woman running for office in Virginia last fall who went on national television to confront her own FB photos. I actually thought they were pretty tame. (but then, as I’ve mentioned –my kids share A LOT, so maybe my view is skewed) However, she brought up a good point. If the only people who run for office from her age group are those who’ve never been caught in a bad photo, the ranks of the running are going to be pretty slim. And grow slimmer with time.




    I also liked her name: Krystal Ball. Seriously. Maybe she is one and maybe, despite her loss in the election, she’s giving us a bit of foreshadowing. If we continue to try to find perfect people, we’re likely to be perfectly fooled.



A New Year to Believe

    I still believe in love.




    That’s a song. A lyric.




    And a philosophy.




    For love.




    But also for life.




    My daughter’s at the perfect age to be smack on the center car of the roller coaster ride of her own revolving love story. As a spectator, it’s not a whole lot of fun to watch.  I imagine it’s a bit jolting for the rider, as well. I liken it to that rickety wooden coaster at New Hampshire’s Canobie Lake Park –not so much dramatically scary as it is just really bumpy. Okay, at times plummeting. But then, the view from the top of the tracks can be pretty amazing. And as she would to the ride itself, in spite of its careening depths, she keeps climbing on board.




    She came into this world with an indomitable resilience which I could never have taught her. But she’s needed that spirit. Before she was a half-day old, she was desperately ill. It may have been the meds in which she was almost immediately infused, or the expertise of the professionals at one of Boston’s best hospitals. It may just have been the general advances of medical science that saved her life from the same ailment that killed her great grandmother’s son.




    I don’t know about all that.
 



    I think it was her resilience.




    My students are her age. And most of them are girls. Because of my unique relationship with them, they share much that has nothing to do with what we’re studying. That’s okay. I’ve accepted my role in their education. It’s not always about grammar and parenthetical phrases. In fact, it rarely is. Apparently, I may have other stuff to teach them.
 



    But when they talk to me about their love lives, I sometimes feel like that what I have to offer may not be fully relevant to their 21st century interactions. But I could be wrong here.




    One of my students considers herself a cynic when it comes to love. So I agree with her that boys are stupid or shallow or whatever the negativity of the day is. And then I find myself quietly cheering on her would-be suitors. Not because I know them or like them or necessarily believe that they’re a right match for her. More because I want her to believe. In them, in herself with them, in it –in something. I want her to believe in love. Again. Or maybe for the first time. I want her to shed that cloak of cynicism she wears so proudly. I want her to step to the vortex of life and get fully sucked in by the tidal wave of emotions that comes with love.




    I want her to start over –each time, as if for the first time.




    Happy New Year.




    Every culture has its version of what it is to renew. In New York and Boston, we drink too much, make a lot of noise, watch a crystal ball slowly descend. Some of us make resolutions. Most of us lose them before spring pushes off the area snows.  




    I think we’re missing something.




    In Greek Orthodoxy, the New Year coincides with the season of sowing, on September 1st. I don’t know about that. A harvest doesn’t sound like a beginning.




    Countries with large Hindu populations celebrate the New Year with their spring’s planting. That makes a bit more sense. Perennials pushing up to the sun. A silent seed taking root, starting as a tiny kernel of life.




    In preparation of their spring celebration, the Bengalese clean. So do the Chinese, before their winter parades. My mom would like that. Remove the clutter, start clean and fresh. And scores of cultures have symbols of luck closely tied to their New Year’s celebrations. A food or a flower, a color or a coin, a custom. Something to ward off the evil spirits, welcome the good.




    The Jewish New Year has a bit more depth. Yom Kippur doesn’t coincide with our Gregorian calendar. It doesn’t even fall on the first day of their first month. Instead, on the 10th day of the month of Tisrei, Jews the world over seek a spiritual renewal. They look to the past, acknowledge their shortcomings, search for atonement.
 



    I like this idea. It speaks to a bigger picture. It’s about redemption and potential –like that seed. It’s more than a few penciled resolutions on a page. It’s about an acceptance of missteps and a willingness to change. I especially like the notion of not merely looking to a Creator for forgiveness. Even Jews who don’t count themselves as particularly religious can take the Yom Kippur opportunity to seek out people whom they may have wronged in the course of the year and solicit their individual forgiveness. Cool concept.




    I believe in the New Year. I believe in the inherent possibilities of it. 

    I believe that my student will fall in love, that my daughter’s ride will be worth it.




    And I don’t really believe that kids suck. Although I do believe that sometimes our job as parents does. It’s difficult and frustrating and most of us don’t have any of the answers that seem to come so easily when we use an outside-looking-in view of others. Perhaps the job is so particularly daunting to those of us who do believe. Who believe it makes a difference; that we make a difference. Who believe that these kids of ours really are the future.




    So I also believe in my son. I believe in that little boy with the big imagination who didn’t quite buy the notion that teleporting wasn’t an actuality. But did believe me when I told him he could be anything he wanted to be.




    He doesn’t believe much of what I say these days. But I still do. I still believe that the seed of who he is, albeit buried, is in there. It just needs a bit of light to guide it from the darkness.


I believe that the good of him has taken root and that on the other side of the little boy, he will become the man who he is meant to be.




    I more than believe; I know.




    Because I still believe in love.




Runaway

    I didn’t particularly like the book Eat Pray Love.




    I know that in this grasp-for-solution age of semi self-enlightenment, that sort of review may borderline blasphemy. Don’t care.




    I’ll admit that Elizabeth Gilbert writes well. And you’ve got to give the woman her props –she found a pretty cool way to finance a trip halfway around the world. And I love Italy and food, so I was quite sucked into that first layover on her fulfillment-finding journey.




    It’s just that at the root and development of her story, I was nagged by an overwhelming sense of her own self-indulgence. Good for her for picking herself up out of the depths of depression and taking action. Good for her for moving on and out. But the bigger-than-life manner in which she accomplished it smacked of entitlement to me. I know she says in the book and in later interviews that her way isn’t the only way, that she’s not professing a single solution to all that nags at us as our everyday lives come undone. Still, I couldn’t get past the checkbook. She had a pretty sizable one –most of us don’t.
 



    I know that roadblock in my thinking probably says way more about me than her, but I kept wondering as I heard accolade upon adoring accolade bestowed upon Eat Pray Love, was I the only one on the planet who could see a problem with her solution? Her runaway voyage was phenomenally far and for most of us, I’d guess, pretty far-fetched.




    However, I do applaud the concept of running away.




    I just did and but for its brevity, it was way helpful.




    How to explain that a non-stop, packed-full trip to NYC was the most relaxation I’ve had in months. We didn’t have time to change for the theatre, sample the sauna or do the mani-pedi stop, but somehow the frenzy of an all-night city was both breath-taking and breath inducing.




    Remember breathing? In with the good, out with the bad. Not to be confused with sighing. Sighing, I seem to know too well of late. Breathing is another matter.




    But my own runaway to the Big Apple, I know, may seem as out of reach as an Ashram in India to some.




    That’s why I’m offering (and seeking –please join in) another solution.
 



    You’ve heard the mantra –women don’t take care of themselves. And we should. We need to. But often, we don’t.




    Sure, we’ve finally caught on to the notion that eating right and getting to the gym is a good idea. But most of us are still pretty damn neglectful when it comes to that other health. The whole control center of our beings usually gets little concentrated care. Perhaps it’s because we get lost in the clutter of everyone else’s lives that we store in our heads and in our hearts. Or perhaps it’s that parenting well has taught us to place someone else’s needs before our own.




    Who came up with that idea?




    What good are we really to our children if we allow the temples of our own beings to fall apart? If the firing between synapse connections isn’t working on full cylinder power, how clear can our thinking possibly be?




    Wow –what solution was I proposing to offer? It seems I’ve got more an explosion of questions than any real answers.




    Oh, I remember. There was a solution I was going to share.




    Do something for yourself.
 
    Not the pearl of wisdom you were hoping for?




    Sorry –desperate times and all. But that’s the nugget of knowledge I’ve come up with.
 



    Do something for yourself.




    Anything –big or small.




    So in my own pursuit of this epiphany, I decided that in the days leading up to my next birthday, I was going to do something daily for myself (who better, after all?). Not huge, costly treats, mind you. Just something. Everyday.
 



    But I was nearly stymied on day one.




    My sister-in-law told me it was because I wasn’t listening to the universe.




    (I think the drumming in my brain may have drowned out any sounds of the universe. Oh wait, that’s actual drumming. Did you know that you could still drum pretty damn loudly even with a broken hand?)




    Okay, day two. Listen to the universe, I told myself.




    Yeah, I got nothing.




    I went to the grocery store after work. (Weird, but I actually like the grocery store, so that wasn’t the stumbling block) But my Stop & Shop trek wasn’t because of anything I needed –it was for someone else.




    I rebooted. There had to be something in this mega chain store that I could grasp at to call my daily indulgence. So what did I come up with? I bought a couple of birthday cards. Really? How is that not for someone else?




    I am really bad at this. –This whole do-something-for-me idea was turning into a chore. Aargh. This exercise wasn’t supposed to add stress.




    Strike three and I’m outta here, I thought.




    Take a breath. Listen to the universe.




    I bought myself a $9 lipstick and called it a day. (I do like the color –maybe I could get the hang of this.)




    Day three. Barely functioning on way too little sleep (see blog title), doing something for myself didn’t make it to the top of the day’s to-do list. I called packing for New York my “something” for the day. Pretty lame. Who likes packing?




    But then, after turning down an offer of a glass of wine, I listened to the universe.
 



    What I hadn’t already packed, I would do without.




    Sanity came in a Cabernet and the company of family.




    Ahhh –maybe this is a solution.




    Tonight my to-do-for-me is a birthday celebration for a friend. And although it’s what I am giving to her, it’s a treat for me as well. I’m not going to feel bad about checking it out with the hubby and kids. I’m not going to care that I won’t be making them dinner.




    This is for me. I deserve it. Maybe not once a day –but at least once a week and more often than once in awhile.


Shattering Ceilings

    Among the many areas for which I feel somewhat ill-qualified in guiding my students is when I attempt to push them into a business world which I’ve successfully shunned for most of my life. It isn’t that I don’t understand where they’re going. I get corporate America. I understand resumes and interviews. I know the rules of the game.

    It’s just that from my vantage point, the game often is not worth playing.

   broken glass ceiling And young women can be at a particular disadvantage. Even when they’re heading into PR and communications (no shock that my students would be of that ilk), fields well full of the fairer sex, they seem to face some pretty daunting hurdles. The most formidable barriers of which may be the gatekeepers themselves: other women.

    Last semester, when one of my students found herself in a back-and-forth volley of snippy emails with a would-be internship employer, I offered what I considered a commonsense approach. Apologize for missing the meeting and move on. In her defense, the girl was trying to fit an above-and-beyond internship into a full-course curriculum and a 25 mile commute. Car problems and finals week pushed her just over the edge. The woman answering her email mea culpa couldn’t be bothered.

    Was I missing something here? I must have been.

    So I asked a friend who has steadily climbed the business world ladder for the last 20+ years. She got it immediately. She painted a few scenarios. One –the woman had brought the girl onboard and the student’s missed meeting was already reflecting badly upon the woman. Two –she was threatened by a younger, perhaps better polished version of herself. And three, she was just a bitch.

    At the last of her offered explanations, I balked.

    I could hear the shoulder shrug through the telephone line. Regardless of any offense I might take at the stereotypical notion of what defines a successful businesswoman, she seemed to be saying -it was what it was. She implied that Meryl Streep had captured more than good comedy in The Devil Wears Prada; Meryl’s Miranda Priestly was, in fact, pretty representative of women-and-younger-women workforce relationships.

    My apparently naïve vision of an upturned hand offering guidance was slapped away pretty quickly in the world my friend sketched.

    “Girls suck,” she said.

    God, I hate that word. (okay, I get the hypocrisy –let’s not go there)

    And also I don’t believe it.

    Because if I did, I’d have to revisit every lesson I’ve passed along to my kids. I’d have to rethink my personal history. And I’d have to ignore some pretty powerful women in my own life, starting with my mom, my grandmothers and my aunts but enveloping also my cousins, my sister-in-law, my friends and my own supervisor at work.

    It isn’t that I haven’t seen the women to whom my friend refers. I know they’re out there. It’s just that what gets forgotten in all that condemnation and cut-throat imagery are the other women in our lives.

    So because I believe we are bountiful, here’s to the girls who’ve lent a hand, a shoulder, an ear.  The girls who’ve held ponytails after too much partying, wiped tears away after breakups, calmed one trembling hand with another. The girls who’ve offered high fives and fist bumps, but also honest assessments of our outfits, our weight, our boyfriends.

    I believe in all of us because I know that at the close of that horrible news telephone call, the one that usually follows is placed to another woman. And that the in-sickness-and-in-health vow may extend more befittingly to the woman who is bringing food and taxiing children, or sizing her friend for a wig before shuttling her to chemo. I know that at the end of a man’s betrayal, there is a woman pulling her friend from the wreckage of a broken marriage. And that at the depths of her self-esteem, it isn’t a man, but rather a woman telling her that she’s beautiful and worthy and loved. And when the kids are making her crazy, it’s another woman showing up at the doorstep with a bottle of wine and a contributing curse.

    Sure, it’s about venting and raging, but it’s also about crying and consoling. Sometimes its words, like “I’m sorry,” or “I get it,” and sometimes it’s complete silence, a hand on a knee, a hug. It’s reassurance and affirmation and pride. It’s simple understanding, or utter irreverence. It’s being there –good times and bad- in a way that supplants geographic location; it’s the kind of touch that transcends physical contact.

    Perhaps because I’ve been tested with bad times, I doubly believe in the good.  I’ve cried crippling tears of loss, but more often streaming tears of laughter. And sharing them both with me is always a woman.

    So if my young friend will trust it, I’ll continue to pass along my naiveté. Because for every woman shattering glass ceilings with disregard for raining debris and collateral damage, I’d like to believe there are at least as many pulling the littered shards from hair and clothes and leading with helping hands. My vision ignores the nasty emails and focuses instead on the one my student received which sincerely thanked her for joining the team, assured her that she’d always have a home in their workplace and signed it with Xs and Os. The email’s author is the type of woman I wish to be in her life –a woman who isn’t threatened or spiteful, but rather a guide up the ladder of a success that isn’t measured solely by titles and paychecks. And one who willingly passes along the feminist torch with a light that doesn’t burn, but rather bolsters and warms, instead.