Does a woman need to give up friendships with members of the opposite sex when she marries a man? For Rabbi Rachel Miller Solomin, the answer is yes.
In a piece for Tablet, she writes about the decision to write a friend — a Catholic priest with whom she said explicitly she would never have a sexual relationship — an email curtailing their friendship.
Then, it happened: I thought I had some time to meet Nick one evening, and I found myself not wanting Joshua [her husband] to come along. At first, I wasn’t sure where the feeling was coming from. Then I realized that I was longing to pour out my heart to someone, and Nick seemed like both an ideal candidate and — because my husband should have been my primary confidant — the wrong choice. I decided not to see him, and that’s when I wrote him the email.
She notes that though she is now also more “discreet” in her friendships with women than she had been in the past, she feels a “special danger” when the friend is a man, because close friendships can be so emotionally intimate. “Now I want only Joshua to know the secret me,” she writes.
According to Ann Friedman in her post “Shine Theory: Why Powerful Women Make the Best Friends,” over at NYMag.com, we should seek out women who are more together or successful than we are. She writes:
Approaching and befriending women who I identify as smart and powerful (sometimes actively pursuing them, as with any other crush) has been a major revelation of my adult life. First, there’s the associative property of awesomeness: People know you by the company you keep. I like knowing that my friends are so professionally supportive that when they get a promotion, it’s like a boost for my résumé, too, because we share a network and don’t compete for contacts. Also, it’s just plain tough out there — for all the aforementioned reasons about the economy and the dating scene and body-image pressures. I want the strongest, happiest, smartest women in my corner, pushing me to negotiate for more money, telling me to drop men who make me feel bad about myself, and responding to my outfit selfies from a place of love and stylishness, not competition and body-snarking.
The sentiments behind Friedman’s argument are nice ones. Competition is lame. Confidence is contagious. We are stronger together. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little icky by the piece’s end.
I will always remember this one Shabbat dinner in my tiny studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was wintertime and I had been preparing the meal for three days: shopping for groceries after work, hauling heavy bags up to my fifth-floor walk up, and chopping, slicing and simmering into the wee hours of the night with Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan by my side. I was famous for my Shabbat meals back then and, like most weeks, I was expecting a lot of friends. Twenty-five people staggered in on that particularly snowy night. With big coats and heavy boots left at the door, guests squished together around my table chatting, singing and eating the dishes I had carefully prepared the night before. It was perfect. And then it wasn’t. While everyone was laughing and having a ball between chicken and dessert, I looked around at all of these friends I had made and suddenly realized I felt totally empty and alone. It was a painful, frightening moment for me and I knew something had to change.
We often choose friends who act as a mirror for who we are or who we’d like to become. Friends who share our passions and priorities. Friends who need us as much as we need them. We often hold onto these relationships because they carry a piece of our history, and because it is too scary to step into the next phase of growth alone. But what happens when a friendship stops working?
When I was in my twenties, I had a lot of friends. I enjoyed the process of getting to know these men and women, and I took great pride in supporting them — until I realized that I was so focused on their needs that I had forgotten about myself. I had created a world where everyone was happy and my social calendar was full, but I was nowhere to be found.
If the new HBO series “Girls” lives up to its breathless early reviews, Lena Dunham’s Hannah and her tight-knit group of self-reflective friends seem bound to join the television canon alongside Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, and Carrie and Co.
In advance tonight’s “Girls” premiere — see The Sisterhood preview here — I spoke with Lynn Spangler, a SUNY, New Paltz communications professor and the author “Television Women from Lucy to ‘Friends,’” and Elana Levine, who teaches television history at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, about the small screen’s most iconic girlfriends and the generations they defined.
I hadn’t realized how significant Passover has been in forming friendships in my life. Two different friends reminded me this week about how the holiday was significant in the creation of our relationships. They both bave had such big influences on me that I thought it is worth talking about them both.
Dr. Chaya Gorsetman started as a virtual friend. It was March 2003; I was pregnant and living in Melbourne, Australia, and Chaya was living in New York and working on the JOFA Bible curriculum. She contacted me by email to discuss issues of feminism and Jewish education, but before long we were talking about pretty much everything else — motherhood, community, work, family.
At a certain point, we were writing several times a day, sharing struggles and challenges, and looking to one another as kindred spirits, for camaraderie and counsel in the journey. For that first month, as we discovered our bond, our conversations seemed to revolve around Passover, which was imminent. The family Haggadah that I made that year, inspired by her ideas and worldview, has remained one of our greatest Passover projects. We talked about the challenges of making the holiday about education rather than about cleaning, and of not falling into the trap of becoming a woman defined by the efficiency of completing household chores. Our dialogue became a pillar of support for me, and it continues today. Although it was nearly a year before we met in-person, when we did, I felt like we’d known each other forever.
On a recent Friday, Karen Lakin, an English teacher who made aliyah to Israel from Connecticut with her husband and two teenage children in 1984, invited me to a café on the Giv’at Ram campus of the Hebrew University to meet the others in her breakfast club. Eight of its nine members were in attendance, including six Jews and two Christians, one of whom is an Arab, originally from Kfar Qana near Nazareth, who now lives in Beit Safafa, Jerusalem.
For the past quarter century, the women have been meeting every Friday for brunch at a café somewhere in the city, no matter the weather or the security situation. The women also have a book club, share an opera subscription, eat Shabbat and holiday meals at each other’s homes, and celebrate birthdays and American Thanksgiving together every year.
Since most of them don’t have many relatives in Israel, they quickly became each other’s family. “In fact, it’s closer than a family, because we chose each other,” said Arlene Yaakov, who is originally from New Jersey and who, in June 1967 at the outbreak of the Six Day War, took the first Israel-bound plane she could catch out of the U.S. so she could volunteer on a kibbutz. “I drove straight through from Los Angeles to New York to get on that plane,” said Yaakov, a tour group coordinator.
The paperback version of Deborah Tannen’s latest book “You Were Always Mom’s Favorite: Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives”, is just out from Ballantine Books. In this interview, conducted over email, Tannen — a Georgetown linguistics professor, who has studied the quirks and patterns of the “New York Jewish conversational style”— explains why women feel competitive with their female siblings, and what they can do about it.
Hinda Mandell: It seems like Jewish mothers represent such an iconic symbol in both Jewish and broader American culture. Yet when I think of sisters in Jewish culture, the only thing that comes to mind is the biblical story of Rachel and Leah, and Jacob’s love for the younger sister. I know that the Ten Commandments instruct us to “Honor thy mother and thy father,” but why is it sometimes hard for two sisters to treat each other with respect?
Girlchik’s best friend is moving away next week. Her friend, who I’ll call SweetGirl, and her family are moving all the way from Brooklyn to Portland, Ore. – about as far away as someone can move and still be in this country.
And my heart is breaking. Not for me, though our families are good friends. But for my daughter. She and SweetGirl have been best friends nearly all their lives – since her mom and I met in a neighborhood moms’ group when they were both 1, and they’re now 11.
I have never seen another relationship like the one they share. Both girls also have other close friends, but there is something different about theirs. They are close, but also deeply connected and tuned-in to one another. At an age when I hear little snippets of occasional – let’s face it – bitchiness – in the tone of some of Girlchik’s other good friends, it’s not like that with SweetGirl. They are completely kind to each other, totally at ease and without self-consciousness.