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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are?

Still blogging away alongside three other talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, sometimes.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Moma Rock

I chose the topic this week, and I said:  Write about a time (at least one, can be more) someone else described you and you were shocked – either because they were so wrong or because they were spot on.

This topic came to me after a spate of descriptions of me by other people in a short period of time.  Their comments really got me wondering about what other people think about me and whether I agree with their assessments.  Here are three memorable examples:

Small But Mighty

            I’ve had the awesome luck of finding a wonderful legal mentor who has, over the years, also become a great friend.  I met Dick in early 2008 when I began working at a fast-paced, interestingly run law firm in Chicago.  Dick was a partner and I a new, lowly associate.  Dick soon became my go-to for so many things:  how to bill my time, case names I couldn’t remember (but he always could), how to get through a trial.  (His words “progress not perfection” stay with me to this day, and I call upon them often in my everyday life, like recently when I was trying to re-cover some kitchen chairs.)  Dick is honest and creative and hilarious and sometimes intense.  He is good on his feet – something with which I’ve always struggled, and something that makes him an incredible litigator.  And he’s a great listener, which makes him a wonderful friend.

            Dick left that law firm long before I, and when I followed suit years later, it was an inglorious departure (not unusual for this firm, sad to say).  When we parted ways, the powers that be decided to mess with my final paycheck.  I won’t get into the details here, as they are long and boring and infuriating, but I will say what they did was illegal (I won’t even touch the moral piece).  I immediately reached out to Dick for help, and he worked for weeks as a mediator to get the firm to fix my check.  He got nowhere (as I expected), and so I got creative.  I went to the IRS.

            Fast forward about a year and a half, when the IRS contacted the old firm.  Suddenly, the firm powers were very interested in fixing my check – and where should they send it?  Dick jumped back in (at this point, I refused to communicate with anyone involved in the mess on the firm’s side). 

            The firm sent the check.  And they messed with it AGAIN.

            I so I reached out to Dick, again.  He, in turn, sent the office manager an email that I will keep forever, as it contained a sentence that I want to put on a T-shirt or maybe even my headstone:

            He wrote, “To mistreat her is regrettable.  To underestimate her is insane.”

            I read this.  And then I read it again and again and again.  And I smiled as I forwarded that email to about five of my closest friends.  Look what Dick wrote about me!  Look what Dick thinks about me!  I was flattered, to say the least. 

            I’d long known Dick considers me a competent attorney (years earlier, he’d told me I was too good for that firm).  He’d reached out to me here and there to discuss legal concepts, and he regretted we’d never found a way to again work together.  He admires my research and writing skills, always my strong points.  But I had no idea he saw me to be so competent in other, bigger ways.  I know I’ve never seen myself in quite that way.  I just wanted my paycheck – whatever it took.  I’ve never felt as competent as Dick suggested me to be.

            And so his words surprised me – in a good way.  They made me question whether I deserved his praise, whether his assessment is, indeed, correct.  I’d like to think I do and it is.  But until I do, I will take a great deal of pride in the fact that my mentor, someone I hold in high esteem, thinks similarly about me.  So much so, I may just order that T-shirt.

Put Your Hands Up

            Not long after Dick lauded my competence, I sent some writing of another kind to another mentor, author Wade Rouse.  I’ve been working with Wade for many months as I finish up the final draft of a book I’ve been writing.  I love Wade.  He is smart and funny and genuine and honest.  His books are some of my favorites, and I value his advice and feedback.  The fact that he and his partner, Gary, are incredibly wonderful people just makes it all that much easier and more enjoyable.

            At the beginning of this year, I sent Wade my full manuscript for him to critique.  The book is a memoir about a friendship I’ve been lucky enough to have for many years, and so it is quite personal, and sharing it feels akin to handing someone your diary.  But I felt okay sending it to Wade – his books are just as raw and honest.  I looked forward to his feedback, good or bad.

            Because Wade and Gary winter in California (and I wintered in Chicago, blegh), we FaceTimed to discuss Wade’s ideas and impressions.  I won’t even get into the nitty gritty of how Wade helped me (or how much fun it is to FaceTime with Wade and Gary, even when Gary accidentally FaceTimes you eating tortilla chips and not wearing  a shirt).  I want to focus on one comment Wade made.

            As I said, my book is a memoir, so how I come across in the book is key.  Wade addressed this.  He said, “I really see you in this book.  You are how you are in real life.  You’re funny, you’re smart, you’re sarcastic, and you’re – ” and here Wade held up his hands in a pushing-away motion.  Wade kept talking but mentally I paused for a moment.  I thought, Wade thinks I keep people at a distance.  Wow.  And then I thought, I totally do that!

            I’d never before really thought about the walls I put up between myself and others, but I couldn’t deny them once Wade put up his hands.  Wade’s gesture created a visceral reaction in me, the same feeling I get in my chest when I interact with people:  a mix of anxiety and guardedness.  Once I thought about it, what surprised me most wasn’t what Wade identified but the fact he identified it.  I’ve been in the same room with Wade just a handful of times for a total of maybe fifteen hours, and yet he’d been able to sense that about me in a way that no one else ever had (indeed, when I asked a few friends if they thought I do that, they said no). 

            Wade’s perception reinforced my faith in him as a mentor, and a friend.  His intuition is spot on, even if I don’t want to admit it, even when I put it in my own words

Turn Up the Radio

            The last striking observation came not from a mentor, or even a friend, but from a child.  My child.  My youngest child, who, at the whopping age of 9, has figured me out.

            We were driving from Chicago to Tennessee after finally selling our house in Evanston.  Both girls jumped in the van with me (and Uncle Jesse, our youngest cat).  As we drove through Kentucky, a good song came on the radio (I think it was Garth), and I turned it up and started singing.  The 9 sighed and said, “There goes Momma, falling in love with her songs.”

            The 9 is not known for her filter.  She tends to say what she thinks, giving little thought to how that might make the listener feel.  (She doesn’t like your hair?  You’ll know it.)  For that reason, I can sometimes be defensive when she speaks.  I opened my mouth to respond, but then I realized she was right:  Momma does fall in love with her songs.

            And that’s ok.  I’m ok with my kids knowing I love music, even if they don’t like my music.  I want them to grow up surrounded by the sound and the energy – and the passion good music can stir up.  Nothing makes me happier than when someone reaches out to me and says, “Hey, I heard a Bon Jovi song today and thought of you.”  That means they understand my connection, even if they don’t share it.  That means they understand how music means a lot to me.  I hope that, someday, my 9 and her sisters will feel the same way.  If the worst thing someone says about me is, “She loves Bon Jovi,” I can die a happy woman.

            The episode in the van has helped me realize how truly intuitive my youngest child can be.  I’ve learned to listen to her insights, and she’s remarkably on target much of the time – about situations and about people.  She prides herself on being nonjudgmental (except about your outfit).  Instead, she just calls it as she sees it.  Or, here, as she hears it.  And she sure knows her Momma.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Eggs (Check), Peanut Butter (Check), Colonoscopy . . .

Still blogging away alongside three other talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, sometimes.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Moma Rock

This week, Froggie chose, and she asked us to write about to-do items that you keep putting off.

            Ugh, this one hit right in the heart.

            I?  Am a list maker.  I love making lists.  Shopping lists, to-do lists – I’ll write down just about anything.  However, I am not always so keen on actually using those lists.

            Yes, I am the queen of creating a shopping list – and then forgetting to bring it with me to the store.  Or, worse, I bring it and forget to look at it.  Or I look at it but still manage to forget something on said list.  If I rely on memory, I invariably remember two of the three items I needed, almost always forgetting the most urgent one. 

            I also lose lists.  So I then create another list – and, of course, it usually doesn’t exactly match the first.  This doesn’t stop me from making the second list, which I usually also lose (I cannot tell you how many times I’ve found them in my back pocket when I went to do laundry).  I’ve tried all sorts of solutions:  using the Notes app on my phone, using Post-It notes inside an organizer, using a pre-printed form designed solely for groceries and sundries.  The outcome never varies; I am successful for a while, and then it all falls apart.

            Of course, a lost list does not erase the items upon it, meaning that, with or without a paper trail, I always have a “list” of stuff that needs to be done.  Most items, I remember and many I get done.  But lately, the list seems to have grown crazy long and, correspondingly, my ambition to check off items has veered in the wrong direction.  I could blame the crazy instability of the past months; as most of you know, my life has been in a state of flux for the better part of a year:  moving to Tennessee, coming back, working a temp job, selling our house and moving again, buying a house, et cetera.  And all that change has for sure lengthened my list.  Suddenly, there are paint colors to choose and a driver’s license to change and change-of-address forms to fill out.  I’ve been pretty successful getting (most of) those done.  They’re tedious, yes, but they don’t take long, so I do them and check the box and move on.

            Which leaves the items I avoid doing. 

            We all have them, those things we have to do but just don’t want to.  I could list more than a few.  A haircut.  Finding a new doctor and seeing him or her.  Signing the middle child up for occupational therapy.  Some spillover legal work I picked up from a friend.  Writing my blog post (sometimes I feel that way.  Sometimes.).  Cleaning the house (always hate this one).  Taking the cats to the vet (two at a time, as we only have two carriers).  The length of my list got me wondering:  what about these tasks make me put them off?  Do they share anything in common?

            I came up with two theories.  First, almost everything I listed is, at its very root, mind-numbingly boring.  There is absolutely nothing exciting about finding doctors and setting up appointments and driving over to see them.  Taking the cats to the vet?  Besides boring, it is stressful, as they cannot stand being in the car – and I’m not a fan of the caterwauling or the scratching.  Cleaning the house is akin to a punishment:  I do it solely because it needs to be done and get zero pleasure out of the finished task.  I know that 88 percent of life is showing up and no one promised me a rose garden, but as I age and time seems somewhat more finite, I find that I loathe spending that time doing stuff that is anything less than at least mildly interesting.  And so the dusting remains undone. 

            Then, too, all of these tasks require a decent-sized chunk of my time – time I’d rather spend doing something else.  I’ve recently found that I no longer like commitments and simply don’t want to block off a few hours here or there any given day for any reason short of spending time with a good friend or two.  I’ve grown to cherish having a wide-open day, free to spend time however I choose.  It’s the “what if” state of mind:  what if I make plans to do something meh and then something really fun comes along?  Sadly, few of us have the luxury of completely open free time, me included.  And, at the end of the day, I do have to get a comb through my hair, and someone has to get the cats their rabies shots.  That someone is me.

            Given my age and my growing habit of setting myself in my ways, I’m doubtful that I’ll find the system for getting my to do list under control, and I’m more doubtful that I’ll change my mind about those tasks that make me want to scream.  I’ll do them (most of them) grudgingly and probably as last-minute as I can pull off.  In the meantime, I’ll deal with the long, tangly hair that actually gets caught in my coat zipper because I won’t call the stylist to schedule a trim, and I’ll write my blog entry the night before it’s meant to post.  And I’ll hope that, unlike me, you won’t put “read Denise’s blog” on your to-do list and then leave said list in the pocket of your jeans, to be discovered late Sunday night when you – like me – finally force yourself to do a week’s worth of laundry.    

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You Can Pick Your Friends . . .

Still blogging away alongside three other talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, sometimes.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Moma Rock
    This week’s topic was chosen by Merryland Girl, who asked:  Who do you consider family that is not related by blood or marriage?  Here is my take:

            You may not know this, but I have a large family.  Now, my immediate family isn’t too big, just five of us:  my husband, three kids, and me.  And my parental family was the same:  my parents, an older (half) brother, an older sister, and me.  But take another step up the family tree and the size suddenly balloons, as my Mom is one of eleven kids, meaning ten aunts and ten uncles (five of each by blood and five more of each by marriage) and a whopping twenty-six first cousins, just on that one side of the family.  You’d think I wouldn’t really need to add any non-blood/non-marriage family members.  But you’d be wrong.

            I’ve written before about the kids with whom I grew up, many of whom I consider family (or, as I like to say, the brothers I never asked for).  I’m lucky enough to keep in touch with almost all of them.  Of those, a handful I do, truly, consider to be family.  Our roots go back to the very beginning – we have never not known each other.  I think of some of their parents as my aunts and uncles.  I greet them with hugs and kisses, just as I would with my blood relatives.  And I love them with as much depth as if we shared ancestors. 

            Cindy, the daughter in the family who lived next door when I was growing up, will forever be my “sister from another mister” (and I loved her dad, too, very much – I always said that if my Dad hadn’t been around to walk me down the aisle, her dad would have been my back up.  Miss you, Bob.).  Sometimes it confuses my Facebook friends because my blood sister’s name is also Cindy, but she’s not on Facebook.  People are like, “Wait a minute, she doesn’t look like your sister … ”  Next-door Cindy and I send birthday cards and talk as much as we can, often for hours.  I talk to her about things I won’t discuss with my blood sister, probably in the way that some people talk to one sibling about certain things but don’t discuss those with another.  She is and will always be family to me.  Cindy’s older brother, Rick, passed away a few years ago (much, much too young).  Cindy and her two younger brothers (also like family to me) invited me over to help put photos together for the wake, and they welcomed me to join them during the family-only viewing hours at the funeral home.  I felt honored – they, too, see me as family.  At Rick’s wake, I cried as if I’d lost my big brother, because I had.  When Cindy told childhood stories during the eulogy, I laughed because I’d witnessed them all.  I felt her feelings with her.  Our family had taken a big hit.  We still miss him.

            My luck continued as I expanded my world outside of my block.  My friend Michelle and I met in high school, more than three decades ago.  We are each other’s “sisters in Bon Jovi,” but we are more than that.  My kids call her “Auntie Michelle” and her daughter calls me “Auntie Very Neesie.”  So blurred is the familial line that my middle daughter and my youngest daughter got into an argument about whether Michelle is actually a blood relation, because my middle daughter truly believed she was.  I call Michelle’s father “Daddy” and her younger brother remains “Baby Brother” even though he is well into his forties.  Not long ago, during a conversation about who knows what, I said to Michelle, “I know I’m not really family – ,” and she cut me off and in an even tone, said, “Yes, you are.”  I’m still smiling.  And she’s still family.

            I love the boys I grew up with and Cindy and Michelle, but when I think of non-blood family, I can’t help but think about my Uncle Tony.  His story is wonderful, and I think it speaks volumes about what family really, truly means. 

            Although my Mom had ten siblings, my father had only one, my Aunt Sophie.  I never knew my Aunt Sophie, as she died several years before I was born.  She became ill when she was young, in her teens, I believe.  The story I’ve been told is that she had thalysemmia, or what we call the “Mediterranean blood disease.”  It involves hemoglobin and hits those of Mediterranean descent, and it takes life young.  I don’t know much about my aunt’s illness or her death, other than my grandparents knew she wouldn’t live long.  And she didn’t.  She died just shy of thirty.

            Before she died, Aunt Sophie met a man.  His name was Tony.  I don’t know how they met, but they did, and they fell in love.  Eventually, Tony approached my Grandpa to ask for permission to marry my aunt.  My Grandpa told him what my aunt didn’t know – that she wouldn’t live too long, that their marriage would last only a few years at best, and she’d likely be quite ill during that time.  And so Tony went away to think about what to do.  Two or three days later, he went back to my Grandpa and said he didn’t care.  He said he loved my aunt and he wanted to marry her, even if he’d only have her a few years, even if he’d have to take care of her and ultimately lose her. 

            They married.  Here, technically Tony became my Uncle Tony.  Except he really didn’t, because I wasn’t yet born and before I was, my Aunt Sophie passed away.  At that point, Tony wasn’t any relation to my family or me.  Nothing more than my deceased aunt’s former husband.

            Except Tony didn’t go away.  He didn’t want to, and the family didn’t want him to.  My aunt could not have kids, so before she died, she and my Uncle Tony adopted a son, my cousin, whom we called Little Anthony.  After my aunt passed, Uncle Tony and Little Anthony stayed close to our family; after all, my grandparents were Little Anthony’s, too, and my parents were his aunt and uncle.  A few years later, Uncle Tony met a woman (coincidentally, she was the ex-wife of a police co-worker of my Dad).  Her name was Jean.  Tony and Jean married and Tony adopted Jean’s daughter, Tia, and Jean adopted Little Anthony.  And they were all family to me even though there was no blood relation or even marriage relation between us at all.  On my Dad’s side of the family, I had an Uncle Tony and Aunt Jean and two cousins, Tia and Little Anthony.

            Uncle Tony and Aunt Jean (we call her Jeannie) were two of my favorite “relatives.”  I loved going by their home, even though it was a looong car ride away, in the far western suburbs.  They were always warm and welcoming.  Uncle Tony always gave us nickels to play his slot machine, and Auntie Jeannie gave lots of hugs and kisses, and in her throaty voice she called us “sweetie” and “baby” and “beautiful.”  She’d say, “What’s cookin’, good lookin,” with a big, big smile.  They both lit up a room in their own way.  Have you ever watched Real Housewives of New Jersey?  Joe Guidice reminds me of my Uncle Tony – quiet, soft-spoken, built like a fireplug – except my uncle wasn’t an idiot.  In my mind, I always see my barrel-chested uncle wearing a sleeveless T-shirt; I cannot picture him in anything else.  Aunt Jeannie was a hairdresser in the style of Vegas:  big hair, lots of make-up, tons of genuine affection.  I loved my Uncle Tony even more when I was old enough to hear the story about his decision to marry my aunt, despite her short lifespan.  And I loved my Aunt Jeannie for never attempting to pull him away from us but instead jumping into our family with her arms open wide, with kisses for everyone.  Such warm, wonderful people. 

            My Uncle Tony passed away a few years ago, and I went to his wake with my parental immediate family.  I hated saying goodbye to the only uncle I had on that side, to someone so genuine, so loving, so kind.  He’s gone, but he will always be my uncle.  And Aunt Jeannie (who is still alive) will keep her aunt status forever.  (Side story:  At the wake, my Dad loudly asked Aunt Jeannie what they did with the burial plot next to my Aunt Sophie, the plot that was bought for Uncle Tony.  Jeannie said they sold it.  I don’t think my Dad was surprised – it made sense for Uncle Tony to be buried next to Aunt Jeannie, and there wasn’t a space for her at that cemetery – but I think my Dad was disappointed.  I’m pretty sure he wanted Uncle Tony to be near his sister and his parents, near family.) 

            Family is about blood, for sure.  But it’s about so much more.  It’s about commitment.  My aunt and uncle made that commitment, and they saw it through, for decades.  Death didn’t change that – not the death of my blood aunt or her husband.  Family is also about love.  If you love someone like family, and they love you back, then they become family.  It has nothing to with DNA or ancestry and everything to do with shared feelings, beliefs, and memories. 

            In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee wrote, “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family[.]”  I disagree.  You can choose your family.  Being a blood relative is easy.  It takes no work – it’s the product of luck and genetics.  But being chosen as family takes effort.  It must be earned.  For those reasons, it almost seems sweeter, more valuable, something to cherish forever.  I know I will. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

TMI About the BM (Sorry, Grandma)

Still blogging away alongside three other talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, sometimes.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Moma Rock

This week, Moma Rock chose and she said, simply, “Poop.”

            My first reaction to the topic was, “Whaa – ??”  And my next was, “Ugh.”

            I don’t like to talk about poop.  I’m fairly open to talking about almost any subject, including those involving the body, but I’m not and never have been comfortable talking about certain bodily functions of which poop is a part.  Even writing this is making me all itchy.  After Moma Rock suggested the topic, she and Merryland Girl began discussing it (we communicate over Messenger, since we are spread across the country).  I cringed.  I read their comments but I didn’t say much.  I just don’t like talking about poop!
            To the contrary, my husband loves talking about it.  It’s a constant source of irritation to me – I mean, TMI, buddy!  (I once read that couples should never use the bathroom when the other is in the room, and I wholeheartedly agree.)  I don’t want to know what goes on in the bathroom when I’m not there (and I don’t want to be there to find out).  Why would I?  I suppose the only exception is when one of the kids is sick, but even then I don’t really want to get into much detail.  Just the basics, ma’am.

            I think my avoidance of this topic comes from how I was raised.  My Dad is the least stereotypical male I know.  He was raised by a somewhat proper mother – my Grandma – and poop simply was not a topic for polite conversation.  (Once, my Grandma asked me if I’d had a “BM” and I had no idea what she was talking about.  My Mom had to tell me.  Look it up.)  My Grandma’s rules stuck with my Dad, and we didn’t discuss such things in my childhood home.  To this day, my Dad grows uncomfortable if the conversation turns toward the down and dirty side.  And I cringe with him.

            You’d think having three kids would have changed that, but it hasn’t.  I discourage poop (and fart and pee) talk (though my husband encourages it).  I urge the younger girls to say, “I have to use the bathroom,” and not name the exact reason why.  I don’t need to know.  I really don’t. 

            I know I’m not alone in my dislike of poop talk.  Everyone’s tolerance is a little different.  The other day, I stood at the kids’ bus stop talking to another mom, who had her four-old-son with her.  He came up and said, “I have to go pee pee.”  I laughed as she literally squirmed.  “It’s pee,” she said.  “Just say, ‘pee.’  You don’t need to say ‘pee pee.’”  For her own reasons, she was ok with the single-word description, but not the double.  In a slightly different quirk, I used to work with someone who became a friend, and quickly learned that she is not a bathroom stall talker, meaning we could talk as we went into the bathroom, but the second the stall door closed, she wanted no conversation.  Once she came out, conversation was again ok.  I don’t mind talking through the stall, but I always respected her feelings.  Who am I to say her quirk was any quirkier than my own?

            As I write this, I’m silently dreading reading my co-bloggers’ poop posts.  I’m curious why Moma Rock chose this topic, and I’m sure she reveals it in her post, but then again, I kinda don’t want to know.  Some things are better left to the imagination. 

            Or not.  Definitely not. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I Am Woman, Hear Me Make Lunch Plans

Still blogging away alongside three other talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, sometimes.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Moma Rock

This week, I chose the topic, and I said:  You’ve heard of the phrase, “He’s a man’s man,” and so I ask, “Are you a woman’s woman?”
            I’ve alluded to this in the past, and if you know me, this should come as no surprise, but I am not a “girls’ girl.”  I’m not at all a “woman’s woman.”  This has nothing to do with not liking make-up or pretty clothes or nice handbags (because I do like those things); it’s more of a mindset, a way of perceiving my place in the bigger world, at least so far as that world is divided by gender, which it often is. 
Because I am not a “woman’s woman,” my list of close female friends runs on the short side.  I was never really sure why until, not long ago, I reviewed a book for Chicklit Central called:  My Other Ex:  Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends.  Compiled by Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica A. Smock, the book told the stories of the demise of dozens of female friendships.  One of the contributors commented that female friendships take more work and emotional investment than friendships with males.  I had my “a ha” moment.  I readily agreed.  For the most part, in my experience, female relationships are hard work.  They seem to require a greater level of cultivation than those with men.  If I don’t talk to some of my female friends for a while, it’s a problem.  Some of them react badly.  They take it personally – even if I have a good explanation that has nothing to do with them and everything to do with the rest of my life.  But I can easily call or text a male friend I haven’t communicated with in forever and we simply pick up where we left off, regardless whether it’s been a week or a month or a year since our last contact.  There are no recriminations, no, “Are you mad at me’s?”  No hurt feelings.  To me, that is as it should be.  Because those same friends know that all they need to do is pick up the phone and call me if they need or want to, and I will be there.  This seems a harder lesson for some women.
             With women – and I say all of this in general and remind you that I am limited to my own experiences and perceptions, obviously – I also feel I have to watch what I say.  I feel critiqued.  I choose my clothing more carefully, make sure my hair and make-up look ok.  Am I crazy?  Perhaps.  But so many women clique off.  They talk – often about each other.  Not to say men don’t notice what women or even other men wear or how they style their hair, and not that men don’t meet other men and bond into groups, but they’ve always seemed more open to the introduction of someone new, or at least less likely to exclude someone trying to join in the fun.  It’s certainly felt easier for me to break into a male circle than one dominated by females.  Again, it’s most likely my wiring, my perception – but I guess that’s the point.  And it’s why I’m not a girls’ girl.
            If I listed my friends by how long I’ve known them, the longer-standing ones would almost all be men.  Sure, a few women go pretty far back, but the men dominate.  They’ve lasted because they’ve made it easy.  This is also true with friends I’ve made at school, as well.  My two closest college friends?  Both men.  (I cannot say the same about high school since we were a man-free zone.)  But probably nowhere is my general struggle with female relationships more obvious than in the workplace.  With the exception of one or two, I’ve generally not liked any female boss with whom I’ve worked.  When I first started practicing law, I was assigned a female mentor, and let’s just say that didn’t end well.  I couldn’t stand her – and she felt the same way about me.  (How do I know?  She talked about me behind my back.)  Sure, there have been exceptions, and I’ve been lucky to work with many, several of whom I call friends.  But usually, I just hang with the boys.  For me, it’s easier.  Perhaps it’s the fact I grew up with all boys – a dozen on my block in contrast to a single girl:  me.  I really don’t know.  I just know that, overall, I get along better with guys:  as friends, as co-workers, in general. 
I’ve spent the last decade and a half working in a male-dominated industry, which can be a struggle for some women.  I’ve seen female co-workers fall apart under the stress.  I’ve seen others allow themselves to be utilized as pretty distractions, in and out of court.  Others have decided the best defense was a strong offense, and they rushed in like lip-sticked, high-heeled bulls in china shops, often alienating someone along the way (often, me). 
In my opinion, the practice of law is a bit of a boys’ club.  As a female, this can be frustrating, even disheartening.  It can be a challenge.  When I was a newbie, I was told to wear a suit with a skirt to job interviews and to court, no exceptions.  I once stood alongside female opposing counsel in front of an older male judge who looked us both up and down and said, “I guess I’ll have to decide this one on the merits!”  He called us “honey” and “sweetie” and “dear.”  I was in that same courtroom when I was eight months pregnant with my youngest daughter, laughing at the look of sheer terror on the faces of my male counterparts, who couldn’t help but stare at my huge belly as they silently prayed I would not go into labor before their case was called.  I spent years at a firm that never once promoted a woman to the position of partner in the nearly ten years it has been in existence – and it’s most senior associate attorney is, indeed, a woman.  Does any of this bother me?  Of course.  But being part of the boys’ club can be enjoyable, too, assuming you know how to play the game.  And assuming you enjoy playing, that the game is your thing. 
I guess it’s mine.  I recently realized that fact when I made plans to meet a few former co-workers and one of my mentors for lunch.  All of the players but I was male.  Our text convo went something like this:
Male #1:            Are we still doing lunch today?
Male #2:            I’m ready.
Male #1:            Let’s go somewhere nearby.
Me:                    Let me know when and where.
Male #2:            Let’s go to Joe’s House of Toast.  High noon.
Male #1:            I emailed Male #3, too.
Male #2:            OMG

Male #1:            Can we uninvite Male #4?  He weirds me out.  [Male #4 was on this chain, but silent and thus just begging   
                           to be harrassed.]
Me:                    I don’t want to sit next to Male #1.  For obvious reasons.
Male #1:            Because I won’t be wearing pants?
Me:                    Again …
Male #1:            I’ll sit on Male #4’s lap, then.
Me:                    Again …
Male #1:            Ok, you guys heading over soon?
Me:                    Leaving in a few.
Male #1:            I’ll be the guy wearing a dress.
Me:                   Again …
Contrast this to an email conversation I had just a few days later, when one of my co-workers generously started the process of setting up a good-bye lunch for me on my last day of work.  She sent the email to me and three others – all women – and then told me to invite whomever else I wanted.  This put me in an awkward position because I had become somewhat friendly with almost everyone in the office (all but three women – shocking, I know) and would have preferred just inviting anyone who wanted to come along.  However, I knew the person setting it up didn’t feel that way; if she’d had, she would have done just that.  So I added only one name to the list, a woman I knew got along with the other invitees.  Four emails later, we had finally chosen a time – but one of the invitees didn’t like how late it was.  Of course, she wouldn’t actually tell the person who suggested it, speaking about it only to my face (and behind the other’s back).   Eight emails later, we still hadn’t decided on a place.  The invitee who didn’t like the time started emailing separately about the place; for some reason, she would not tell the group her preferences.  By 9:00 am, I was ready to sneak out and call it a day.  It took more than one dozen emails to finally choose a time and a place, and we were still left with one person who wasn’t particularly happy with either and two people who were late leaving the office.*
            Lest you think I overthought the politics of inviting additional people to the lunch, I share this story:  I once worked at a place where two female co-workers who were once quite friendly eventually had a huge falling out (it had to do with one feeling snubbed by the other).  As a result, every group lunch for months after (until the snubee quit) had to exclude one or the other.  And don’t get me started about their fight, which I had to break up in the bathroom during our firm’s holiday party.  The men I know would have had it out and gotten over it – which I would have appreciated.  (That and the twelve-year-old boy sense of humor running so common among men, one I have always found amusing (the pantsless lunch), and probably always will.)
I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across a handful of female friends who are like me, women with juvenile senses of humor, who don’t play the girl games I’ve come to hate, who are straightforward and honest and don’t require too much maintenance – all of the things I generally hate about female relationships.  At the place I last worked, I started to become friendly with a female co-worker toward the end of my tenure.  We had a few fairly long convos during which we realized we had a ridiculous number of things in common.  Big things.  Important things.  By our third conversation, I thought to myself, I could be friends with this person.  I was telling another female friend about her, and I actually said these words:  “She’s really cool.  You’d like her.  She’s like us, more like a guy.”  I paused and said, “That sounds weird, but you know what I mean.”  My friend laughed and said, “I know exactly what you mean.”  Of course she does – because she’s like me, and that’s why we’re friends. 
And so I cling to my guy friends and my “more like a guy” friends, happy to know I am not alone, that I am not the only “man’s woman” in the fold, happy it is possible to arrange a lunch in fewer than six texts, happy to joke about attendees not wearing pants, happy I’m comfortable in my own – even when I go to court and someone calls me “sweetie.”
*Postscript to the lunch story:  Upon our return, one of the female attendees was cornered by a female non-attendee (she wasn’t asked), who essentially asked why only certain people were invited.  I had, up to that moment, spoken to the non-attendee exactly once in my tenure at that job – and only because I walked into a convo she was having with someone else.  She never so much as said hello to me passing in the hallway (at best, I received a tight-lipped smile), and yet she felt snubbed by not being invited to my small going away lunch.  Contrast this to the guy who sat across from me, with whom I spoke several times a day each day, who happily asked upon my return, “How was lunch?”.  Point?  Proven.