When I was seven years old I had a best friend. I knew she was my best friend because she wrote me a note that said “Do you want to be best friends?” and I wrote her back to say, “yes.” Against probability, we remained, essentially, best friends for the next six years. Fast forward to high school and I had few girlfriends at all. Instead I had a boyfriend and his friends. I spent almost all my social energy talking to him, being with him, etc. Then I went to college and, predictably, we broke up. I definitely felt more connected to the female species in college than I did in high school. In the halls of an all-female dorm I forged friendships that I cherish to this day. But the road was still bumpy. I joined a sorority type organization, which went really badly for me. I often felt disconnected from the girls around me (in hindsight, I’m sure almost everyone else felt the same way too).
Ultimately, though, the disconnect wasn’t them, it was me. I spent more time in college thinking about what it means to be a guy and how to get said guy to like you than I did learning what it means to be a woman and how to cultivate deep friendships with other women. I spent lots of time analyzing my relationships with boys and navigating dating drama, etc. But flash forward six years after my first semester of college and here I am, married. Dating drama is behind me. And for the first time in life, I’m trying to figure out what it means to be a woman, what it means to be friends with other women.
Society tells me that because I’m a woman I have to work harder to make less money, all while looking really pretty. In my opinion, the Bible glorifies womanhood (Proverbs 31, Ruth, Deborah, Mary, etc.) yet in that time it women were often treated like second class citizens. Movies tell me that all women have a built in group of best friends who they talk with incessantly about sex and clothes. And none of those ideas answer my basic social dilemmas, like “So can I ask this cool lady to coffee or am I infringing on her time with her family?” or “If I invite this girl to do two different things and she says no to both should I try again or is that her ‘I’m good on friends, thanks’ signal?”
I often worry what other women think about me… do they think I’m weird because I don’t wear makeup or do my hair? Do they think I’m lazy when they stop over and there are dishes everywhere? I think it’s easy to believe that part of womanhood is keeping up this perfect facade, even though deep down we all wake up make-up-less each morning, often with last nights dishes in the sink.
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of going with my favorite females (my mom and sister) to the Hope Spoken conference in Dallas. I had never been to a women’s conference before and I was excited , but also a little bit nervous. Like I said, sometimes other women intimidate me. And really, if I am ever intimated by women, it should have been the women I met at this conference, women who I was in small group with, women who I heard speak. They were beautiful and stylish, gracious and kind. They were creative and brilliant. I met writers and artists, bloggers and photographers, small business owners, homeschool moms, furniture refinishers.
But interestingly enough, these women didn’t intimidate me. Because so many of them were not only beautiful and smart and creative, but vulnerable, too. Speakers shared stories of great hurt, whether through infertility or an affair. People talked about their messy houses and trying to keep families of hungry boys fed. So many times I heard women say “You’re a mom/a wife/a business owner/a pilates instructor, tell me, how do you __________? I don’t know.” And chances are, when you’re somewhere where people can humbly say “I don’t know” and not feel ashamed, you’re in a good place.
The weekend was such a good reminder that when we try to be perfect, everyone loses. When we open ourselves up to love through vulnerability, when we believe that God uses our dirty dishes as much as our good hair days, everyone wins.
I don’t have a chatty lets-hang-out-every-Friday-night group of girlfriends like you see on the movies. I’m still learning how to be brave like Deborah, faithful like Ruth. I’m not a rabid feminist, but I also believe that Jesus had a revolutionary, counter-cultural view of women’s place in the world. And I’m still scared to ask women I don’t know to grab coffee. I didn’t leave Hope Spoken with any magic answers on the nature of femininity or social etiquette, but instead thankful to be a part of this tribe and inspired to be vulnerable with other women as I figure out what that means. And for right now, that’s more than enough. After all, if I don’t figure out the whole coffee thing anytime soon, I can always go back to the “will you be my friend?” notes.