A community, in order to thrive, needs to have a common purpose. And it occurs to me that right now, the Monkees’ purpose is trust building. We are learning how to trust each other by making ourselves vulnerable. By tearing down our walls and admitting that we might be a little needier than we suggest at the bus stop. That we might need something more or something different from relationships. That we might be lonely enough to reach out, brave enough to be challenged, loving enough to put down our guns and care for imperfect people. That we might be strong and wise enough to quit taking everything personally and be kind, knowing that everyone is fighting a battle.
I’d like to introduce you to my friend, to your friend, Diane. If you meet Diane in real life, you might think that she already has every single thing she needs, what with her supportive husband, brilliant children, important career, cute hair, fancy pots and ingredients, and doctorate. You might be wrong. Monkees, meet Diane.
“Nah,” think the nice Monkees, “everyone feels like that some days.” I know. But I have a very good reason to think I’m different. Besides the obvious one…that I always think I’m different .
Here’s why. Women–especially groups of women–kind of terrify me.
I have a metaphor to help you understand my bizarre fear of my own gender. It’s just exactly like my bizarre fear of birds.
I went to the San Diego Zoo a decade ago and wandered into a bird habitat. Everyone (else) was delighted in this claustrophobic netted area (I refuse to call it a sanctuary) because several varieties of exotic birds were boldly landing upon them. With false bravado, I poked out my index finger and seconds later, was taken aback by the disturbing pinch of little birdie feet. Watching this fragile scrap of feathers over balsa-bone working to steady itself on my shaking finger, seeing the rise and fall of its little breast, and looking into its tiny eyes, made me want to FLING IT OFF. IMMEDIATELY.
But I clenched my teeth and waited for it to flutter away, because:
1) I knew I couldn’t be gentle enough,
2) I didn’t want to hurt it, and
3) I had to admit, it was kind of beautiful to look at up close.
Developing close friendships with women terrifies me in just that way– I know I can’t be gentle enough, and I don’t want to hurt them. It’s why I rarely venture out on the new friend market (well, I do hate shopping.) Even with the friends I’ve had for a long time, I have to watch myself. I unwittingly play the role of insensitive guy in the relationship, neglecting to respond to my best friend’s emails or forgetting the exact date of her birthday or forgetting which topics are OK to tease her about and which ones just aren’t. I never cry at the expected times and I don’t text or call every day “just to say hi” and I refuse to keep her company in public restrooms. That’s just silly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always dreadfully sorry if I’ve made a false move. It’s just that sometimes I feel like the world of women is a minefield. And when I’m with my closest friends, I don’t feel like I should have to work so hard.
On the rare occasion that I find another woman whose gravitational force is impossible to ignore, I start by telling her that my brand of New-York-direct dialect often clashes with the Passive Aggressive dialect, resulting in the occasional girl faux pas. Then I speed right past gossipy girl talk and dive into deep conversations; for example, how stupid I was to ignore how passionately I hated school when I decided to be a teacher, or how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop (it’s 726, by the way).
I just have to make wandering into that minefield worth it, as soon as possible.
Girls like me need friends too.
I can’t resist seeking intimate friendships, because up close, women–like birds–are so breathtakingly and beautifully complex. I started reading this blog and knew I would not be able to resist Glennon’s pull…I’m a sucker for complexity. And wooden signs. That doesn’t mean I’m not still terrified I might accidentally hurt her one day. Like today. Which is why I plan to obsessively check the comments you post after this. (Yeah, yeah, THAT’S the reason.) I feel assured that, in this place, a blatant detour from tact ought to be called out by someone. But you have no idea how freaked out I am to put myself out there, having no idea which of my offhand comments will be my downfall for the day.
On the other hand, I fear flocks of birds for precisely the opposite reason I feared that bird on my finger. Let’s just say…I’m not at all worried that I’ll hurt them…
Just the other day I was teaching a lesson when a first-grader, briefly glancing from my (apparently not so riveting) lesson to peer out the window, called us all over. There were literally THOUSANDS of birds quietly, eerily blanketing in black the front lawn of the school, the benches, and the playground equipment. As birds do, they rustled in waves, swooping up in mini-groups and settling back down in new formations, a few yards away from where they started. The classroom teacher and I watched in awe and fear, contemplating indoor recess, when those THOUSANDS of birds just up and left at precisely the same moment in time. Just like that.
I find flocks of women just as threatening. Actually, it’s not because I think they will intentionally hurt me (like Hitchcockian dive-bombing buzzards), but because they just shove their sense of belonging right in my face.
I treasure my solitude, my unique perspective, the way I question everything and my habit of coloring outside the lines. Most of the time.
But sometimes the world feels exactly like my high school cafeteria, and I can’t find a seat at a table. Which makes me want to skip out on lunch altogether. And eat vast quantities of chocolate.
Sometimes, when I’m confronted with a happy, humming group of women who simply look like they belong to each other, to something more than just the sum of their separate selves, I have to come to grips with the fact that belonging to a flock might not be as lame as I think. They always seem to be laughing. And I love laughing.
Please understand that I have no self-preserving choice to call it anything but shallow, this sisterhood among women. (Yes, I know it is just as shallow of me to think that, but I haven’t watched “The Breakfast Club” for a long time.) All my life, I have gotten itchy in close quarters with women…in Girl Scouts or sororities or malls or spas or book clubs or PTA meetings or at-home parties or mom networks. (Imagine my dismay to discover that deep and interesting people like Glennon and Adrianne actually met through a mom network. My world tilted a little at that one.)
I have never experienced depth in any female relationship that wasn’t one-on-one. (Except maybe my huge family, on our good days.)
Until now. Until here. Every single day.
And that terrifies me most of all. You’re making me think I might be wrong. About what happens when women flock together. And I hate being wrong.
It seems to me that all flocks have a secret language, a shared understanding that allows them to move together as one. But all my life, just when a flock of women has settled near me and I thought I’d be able to anticipate its waves, it flew off together. Just like that. Leaving me a little relieved, honestly (it is less work), but a little lonely, too.
In the Momastery, for the first time in my life, I’m being let in on the secret language of the flock. I know, you have every right to be wary of me. Heck, I’ve told you to be wary of me.
But I’m still drawn to your beautiful colors. I’m mesmerized by your complexity, your fragility, your strength. And I’m singing the best way I know how. Please don’t fly off without me.
P.S. To all Male Monkees, this not-so-comfy-with-sisterhood-talk girl hereby requests to hear more from you. But a friendly word of caution: tread carefully today with the hearty “Women terrify me, too!” response. On second thought, don’t worry. You’re all probably more sensitive than I am.
And now, my birdsong.