Last weekend on Sunday afternoon I threw what my mother calls a "hen party." This is rather pejorative-sounding, "hen party," but somehow it seems the right thing to call it. It refers to a gathering sans roosters, I suppose; a girlfriend party.
We had a blast. We rimmed our glasses with pink (!) sugar and made Bellinis out of fresh peach puree and champagne--strawberry puree for those who prefer (or want both! Why not?). We ate fancy, calorie-laden food that men eschew (pomegranate seed garnish, brie and artisan bread) and we dished about our lives, the lives of others, whatever came to our minds. The party started at 3 p.m. and the last guests left at 9:30 p.m. It was warm, comforting and laden with all the elements of community. I figure they all felt the same, or they would not have stayed so late! I loved it!
Predictably, and as the alcohol loosened everyone who started out wary around women they did not yet know, talk turned to the very important issue of men. As they talked, I did a quick poll. There were about 15 of us, and here is who was present around the room:
- Woman No. 1 was on her second marriage, having come out of a first beaten up physically and beaten down emotionally. She walked out of that abusive marriage into a battle with cancer. She loves her kids unconditonally, and she is happy now--a heroine.
- Woman No. 2 may be my biggest heroine. She was left with three kids and no heat in her home by her no-good husband . One of her children was stricken with cancer, which she had to face with him largely alone.
- 3 was an innocent young 15-year old when she was seduced by a man ten years her senior. Her pregnancy brought about an unhappy marriage and tons of guilt to get over.
- No. 4 just finished with her second divorce from a man who threatened to beat her--just as her first husband did. She had the great good sense to leave. Now alone, she concentrates on saving her two kids from the mess that her first husband is.
- No. 5 is a woman in her mid-fifties, still married but only tentatively happy.
- 6 is my mother. She was abandoned by my father after twenty years of maltreatment because of alcohol and a diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder (his).
I am going to stop the listing here--you've gotten the picture. I did not hand-pick these women for their unhappiness in love life. No, I'm afraid these are representative of a large portion of American womanhood. It struck me--as well as it did V, who was also there--that out of fifteen women, there were only three who were still married to the husbands of their youth. Incredible. This is an amazing illustration to me as to where our society is headed, and I don't think it is good for anything except my business as a divorce attorney.
Another thing this gathering illustrated for me is the steadfastness of motherly love--hardly ever do you see mothers abandon their children; far less so than fathers. Every one of these girls would fight tooth and toenail for any of their kids or their kids' education or their kids' advancement of any kind.
And, maybe most important of all, it illustrated for me how important we women are to each other. We somehow understand each other on a level that cannot be explained. It is, I daresay, the shared wisdom of womanhood gleaned down through the ages. We innately know about each other and what each other is going through and what each other feels.
I'm sure men have their parallel to this comraderie, but I'm thinking it just isn't the same. We women don't seem to be in competition with each other the way I imagine men together are; no tooting of one's own horn. Instead, there is the shared suffering of watching kids screw up; the worry of how to afford the yearbook; and--last, but certainly not the least--the woes of relationships with men.
I recently re-watched the movie Steel Magnolias, which so richly depicts that special relationship among women friends. Warning: I may be about to spoil, here, for those who haven't seen the movie, but I'm on a roll and forging right ahead. At the end of the movie, after the funeral, M'Lynn (the mother) is left standing at graveside, and it's her women friends who remain with her. M'Lynn's husband and two sons love her and are grieving for Shelby, but they have walked off, as if they did not know what else to do and, certainly, they did not know what to say to M'Lynn. It becomes clear that there is a part of M'Lynn's grief that they cannot share and, in fact, a part of Shelby that they never reached. They are, after all, male.
But the women who surrounded M'Lynn and Shelby all their lives understood M'Lynn's grief, and they knew Shelby woman-to-woman, which is a different thing from the man-woman relationship. This is one of those movies that women should have to watch annually or so because it so emphasizes the importance that we women are, one to another.
My little gathering included some of my own "Steel Magnolias," and it lifted me up! Ah, the warm glow of a hen party...it just can't be beat~I must say, I love and cling to my girlfriends. GO, HENS!