One of the awesome things about getting older, is realizing you don’t know everything. I know that to you young’uns who might have stumbled here accidentally via a wayward search for “Kei$ha pics” or “How to make a fortune going to work at 11AM and surfing Facebook all day” that this might sees counter-intuitive.
Isn’t the benefit of getting older, knowing everything?
The benefits do have something to do with drinking better beer and being able to roll your eyes at any American Apparel ad, thinking pfft, neon tanks/legwarmers/MC Hammer pants. I did that the first time around when it was actually cool.
(Then, wondering whether those girls’ mothers know that they’re posing that way on that bed with that guy. But I don’t know if that’s a benefit as much as a burden.)
I have always believed that once you grow a bit and admit that there’s more to be learned, things change in your life. Things change wildly. It’s that old adage about how when the student is ready the teacher will come.
One thing I was really struck by when reading Jenny Lawson’s amazing book, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, is her admission of never having really liked women until she got a little older, and specifically, when she discovered a community of bloggers.
And holy crap, if you don’t love Laura Mayes to pieces after reading Jenny’s account of her, we can’t be friends anymore.
As for me, I always did like women, and I value the female friendships I’ve had for decades. However like Jenny, I certainly spent a lot of years surrounded by back-stabbers and energy-suckers, shallow idiots, fair-weather friends, adult friends who sleep with your boyfriend (that totally happened), and passive-aggressive supervisors. One particular situation always stands out in my mind as a turning point for me; a young grad student from my alma mater decided to write an article on me for the university magazine, about successful alumni. He followed me around the office for a day, and when we joined this supervisor for a meeting she asked who he was. When I explained it, in front of the ten other people in the meeting, she responded snidely, “well why is he interviewing you?”
That’s when I knew I had to make some changes.
Let’s just say I don’t have many of those people in my life any more.
Last week, at the Women in Communication Matrix Awards I sat iPhone-camera distance away from Senator Gilibrand, Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Glen Close, Tyra Banks, Lesley Stahl, Maria Cuomo…check the list. It was inspiring beyond belief. Each award recipient chose their presenter, and what I took away, more than anything, was how kind and authentically supportive the pairs were. To hear Meredith Viera discu Anne Curry’s hard-fought path to the top, or to hear Senator Gilibrand gush about the myriad public service initiatives of Maria Cuomo was nothing short of uplifting.
My favorite pairing, may have been Glen Close and Deputy Chief Theresa J. Shortell, the Commanding Officer of the NYPD Gang Division. Which–whoa. She’s also Glen Close’s mentor and model for her character on The Shield and it’s clear the two have become friends. Two women, worlds apart in a million ways, who found common ground through their professional paths.
Glen quoted Deputy Shortell about succeeding in the police force, or anywhere, really: “The trick is to be a woman. And not let it matter.”
That’s going to stay with me a long time.
These women talked about ups. They talked about downs. They talked about getting up after the downs. They made every woman in that room feel like anything was possible…but that we still have a ways to go.
(Let’s say it’s a little intimidating to hear the anchor of the number one morning news show admit that she’s “tired of living in a man’s world.”)
One thing they were not was self-critical. Not really. They talked about vulnerabilities, they were honest about pitfalls, but at the same time, they were strong and powerful and confident and motivating.
As if this weren’t enough of a high for the entire year (to say nothing of Julie Andrews only a few days earlier), the very next night I had been invited to host a q+a with one of my all time favorite authors and columnists, Anna Quindlen, for the launch of her new book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. I am still not entirely sure I didn’t dream it, except for the evidence on Twitter. And man, I wish I had had the entire thing recorded. Not just because I was sometimes too focused on thinking of the next question to wholly take in her wisdom, but because this beautiful thing happened in a room (okay, in the midtown Talbot’s shop floor), where three generations of mothers and daughters gathered around together, eager to learn from another woman–and, I believe, she from them.
There was so much love in that room. So much respect.
I am now convinced that if you have ever had the impression that Women (as in the entire gender) are catty and back-stabby and otherwise awful, you are spending time with the wrong women.
Or maybe you’re the jealous one. Maybe you’re just not ready to learn. I know I’ve been there in my own life.
But now I am. I’m open. And I’m listening.
I think that’s why I’m in this place right now, surrounded by women like this. I worked really hard to get here. I believe I’ve earned it.
The best part: it’s not over.
I’m so excited to spend the next few days at the Mom 2.0 summit. Because you don’t have to be Katie Couric to have something wise to say. You don’t have to be a Pulitzer-winning columnist to enrich someone else’s life. You can be a blogger with a story. You can be a commenter with a thoughtful paragraph to share–which is what I’ll be presenting about.You can just be a woman sitting by a pool at a conference, wondering if there might be another woman sitting by the pool at that conference who wants someone to talk to, too.
Women are freaking awesome.
You just have to be ready to see it.