I had an experience today that I haven’t had in a long time. I met someone I want to induct into my tribe.
My tribe of women is not formal – most of the time the members have no idea that they belong. There’s a longtime playwright friend and mentor – generous, encouraging and talented. There’s a woman I’ve worked for over the last decade – thoughtful, grounded, physically fit and funny. There’s a “mom” friend, starting her own cottage industry, with common sense and a great sense of humor. There is my personal trainer and friend, who is smart and well-read and passionate about issues. There’s my mother-in-law, who has such a lovely temperament despite the fact that hearing loss means she misses out on most conversations (we could probably learn something from that). There’s a dear friend with whom I spend inordinate amounts of time Skyping, because she “gets” me.
Today I met another one of those women – interesting, passionate, intelligent, animated and willing to take responsibility for her worth in the world. I love those amazing moments when you meet someone and things click. Admittedly, I tend to be in awe of powerful women. I love women who know themselves so completely and express a full range of human emotion. They can be emotional and be powerful. They can have flaws, but not bend over backwards apologizing to anyone who crosses their paths. They can take a compliment and not be an arrogant jerk. They can be loud and brassy, and still be sensitive and kind. They can demand their value in the world and still be humble.
I grew up around women where passive-aggression was an art form. You could control people by pursing your lips or giving a backhanded compliment or sighing dramatically and making a “poor me” statement. You couldn’t just come right out and say what you wanted or felt. That would be selfish. I was raised to be a consummate wallflower, to write bad melodramatic poetry and to stuff every emotion down until I was a seething ball of rage. Don’t bring attention to myself. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t be loud. Don’t ask for too much.
Having a daughter has changed me and not in the maternal, isn’t-she-adorable kind of way. I have written this before, but mothering a girl has forced me to think about and decide what I want to teach her. Leading by example is simply the best way to teach and influence. It is no longer okay for me to be indirect, subtle, and passive-aggressive. It is no longer okay for me to be falsely humble, to deflect compliments (oh, this old thing?) and to devalue my skill set so I don’t appear to be bragging. You can be self-deprecating without being self-defecating.
One of my favorite things about the women in my tribe is that they laugh. Some of them have wonderful, loud, barking laughs – the public kind that, in the past, would have had me sinking down in my chair and pretending that I didn’t know them. Now I know the secret to their joyfulness – they have carved their place in the world. And most of the time, they’ve got a great tribe of their own. I hope they’ll let me in. No – I DEMAND that they let me in. Please? If you wouldn’t mind. I don’t want to be a bother. I guess I’m just a terrible friend and human being.
I might have to do a little more work, before meeting the membership requirements.