This is hardly stop-the-presses news, but it’s interesting how it has become more significant to me. Listen to a man recount an event. Short, to the point, lacking details – as in: barbecue grill turned over, bushes caught fire, spread to the house, house burned down, nobody died. Valuable from an informational point of view, when you just need the headlines, but otherwise pretty unsatisfying in a conversational context.
A woman telling the same story will start with who was at the backyard gathering, why briquettes rather than a gas grill, what the menu was, just how the grill got upended and more. Longer, more nuanced and filled with feelings and references to similar experiences – all in all, a story worth some prolonged telling.
There’s merit in both styles, depending on what you want to know and how much time you’ve got, but generally speaking, I’ve found that women tell better stories. OK, I know this sounds a little sexist, but I believe it has the advantage of being true. But please understand that the more holistic conversational style is not to be confused with the mindless babble that both men and women can fill the air with – words with no purpose other than to just meander all over the place with no obvious destination. That’s a whole other thing.
This leads me, in its own way, to ladies who lunch. For the longest time I was pretty judgmental about women who gather for conversation over a midday meal. I kind of bought into the idea that this was for women with nothing else to do and who sat around gossiping about whoever wasn’t at the table.
Most of the visiting I’ve done with my female friends has been in the context of couples getting together. But, of course, I have friends and acquaintances who are not part of a pair, and I didn’t see them that often. When I worked full time, all visiting had to be carefully managed. When my children were little and I was not working outside the house, I got together with other similarly situated friends, and what visiting we did was tucked in and around juggling our marauding children.
But now that I am again working from home as a freelance writer, I can arrange my day pretty much as I wish. And so I have. I am taking time to get together with my female friends and making better friends of women who have only been acquaintances. And we often get together over lunch.
I am now a lady who lunches. Sometimes weeks go by with nary a lunch scheduled and sometimes I’ll have three lunches in one week. A few friends are still employed, so we’ll grab a quick bite to eat near where they work or sometimes we’ll meet for dinner.
We accomplish a lot when we visit with one another over lunch. We have those conversations that we’re not likely to have when the men are around. Couples’ conversations are just different. I have sat over lunch and heard about and discussed health fears, marital concerns, issues with children or grandchildren that I know would not have taken place – or would have had a whole different presentation – in the presence of a spouse. Not that these talks are secretive, but they are unguarded. It’s a girlfriends’ thing.
What has been so wonderful about this new part of my life is connecting or reconnecting with a bunch of interesting, complicated, funny, sometimes hurting, often happy women with opinions and life experiences that are worth sharing. I almost always learn something thought-provoking, often get challenged and always feel better for the experience.
Republicans and Democrats, Catholics and atheists, PhDs and high school graduates, Spokanites and those from all over the place, older than me and much younger, long married and never married or widowed, grandparents and those with no children – I am happy to say that this group of cherished friends runs quite the gamut of individuals. How lucky am I?
I enjoy the fact that we can converse leisurely on whatever topics we desire the way women do when they are together. Not that any of us who has a partner would want to trade places with those of us who have lost theirs, but there is something to be said for woman-speak. And it’s not about the topic but rather about the manner of conversation, the intimacy of conversational style and the openness and safety I think we feel with one another.
My husband marvels at how lunch can take three hours. Ah, sweet Bruce, I can’t begin to explain it to you.
Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by e-mail at upwindsailor@ comcast.net. Previous columns are available at spokesman.com/ columnists.