I’m pretty sure it was soon after the 2005 Trivial Pursuit Christmas face-off that my daughter and I further confused the guys in our nuclear family. (Oh! You want to know about the face-off? Well, I hate to tell tales. But she and I soundly beat my husband/her father and son/brother one night during the holiday vacation. The two guys staggered away from the table, muttering excuses and plotting re-matches. Have you ever seen a devastated man — much less two, at the same time? It’s heartbreaking. They really can’t handle defeat very well.)
But, anyway. I’m pretty sure it was right around this time that the four of us were talking about sex roles. The four of us agreed, quite amicably, that being a woman was tougher than being a man. But then my daughter and I absolutely floored them by saying that — in spite of the drawbacks, the difficulties, the gynecologist’s stirrups, the labor pains, the rampant sexism in our imperfect world — we’d still rather be women.
“Why would you rather be a woman,” one of them asked, “if it’s harder?”
Funny they should ask. Funny they don’t understand. Even after we tried to explain it, they still looked puzzled. Why would you prefer something that’s more difficult?
Because, guys, because we both think women have a richer life than men do.
Right now, I’m thinking about my good friend Stephanie — and how our friendship really began. It was about seven or eight years ago, and she and I knew each other through a variety of connections, including our sons’ being on the same soccer team. Knew each other, but not that well.
One afternoon, though, we ran into each other while dropping our sons off for an afternoon practice. It quickly became apparent she and I were both in a foul mood. Why — I can’t remember. Although husbands or teenage daughters would be as good a guess as any.
We drove to a convenience store nearby so we could talk. We bought malt liquor and a pack of cigarettes and planted ourselves on the curb in front of a laundromat. If that doesn’t sound ladylike, if that doesn’t sound refined — take my word for it. It wasn’t.
For the next hour or so, we sat and talked and drank and smoked and swore and complained and laughed. Even though I’ve had years and years of therapy, I can’t remember a more therapeutic hour in my life. After it was over, I felt better, lighter, happier.
There’s nothing better for the soul than spending time with close women friends who understand what your life’s like. I don’t care if it’s at work or a bar or outside a laundromat. You can skip the malt liquor and the cigarettes, if you’d like, as long as you have the honesty and commonality of experience and support and empathy.
Yeah, being a woman is harder, guys. You can bone up for a rematch of Trivial Pursuit (and hope that — this time! this year! — you might win). But this is something you can’t study for or hope to understand. You’ll just have to trust us on this one.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)