It’s a tradition, on my friend’s birthday, to sit around her kitchen table, eat appetizers, and talk. Well, eat appetizers, talk, and get a little drunk, if possible. It helps that her birthday comes in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, a time ripe with post-holiday stories, complaints, and venting. It also helps the seats around that table are filled primarily with women.
There’s something terribly potent about a table full of women. It’s the high-proof hooch of the discussion world.
One of the great casualties of the pandemic is that this kind of gathering just isn’t happening as often, at least not in person. That is to society’s detriment – and certainly to my own. I mean, how the hell are we supposed to figure out what to do with our lives if it is not discussed over twelve cups of coffee and Creamy Dreamy grits with a platonic female soul mate? These days, I am resigned to half hour phone calls or maybe an occasional stolen moment in a driveway. It’s like freeze-dried ice cream: same ingredients, but not nearly as satisfying.
How are we expected to process hurts (perceived and actual) without the support of a trusted and beloved inner circle after a slow-paced dinner? I’ve tried to do it by Zoom, in a humid or freezing backyard, through masks on a playground bench, and even, one time, at a pandemic-safe Indigo Girls concert, but it is a pale version of what I’d like to have. Hugs and bites off each other’s plates and sips of one another’s cocktails are part of the alchemy. The closest I’ve come is getting weepy over a can of sparkling water in an appropriately social-distanced living room hang. My chair and the company were great, but honey, it just ain’t the same.
These exchanges, these communities, these face-to-face conversations between women are not some cutesy romcom thing. They are essential. Not only to me, but to the fabric of humanity. Anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” If you don’t think she means a group of women talking and sharing a cheese plate, then you aren’t paying attention.
Maybe it is this, as much as anything else, that is adding to mental health crisis and general malaise that is the pandemic. The universe and the natural order of things knows many human females need to hang out and talk. Preferably at a table. Preferably with appetizers, and while maybe getting a little drunk. It is how deals get done, communities get formed, and the village survives the long winter. It is certainly how we change the world.
So, my hope for 2021, more than anything else, is the return of a communal table of women. Preferably comfortable, well-fed women with time to talk. Society needs it. And I sure as hell do, too.
Hi. I'm Amanda Dobbs.