by Cecilia Ford

About 10 years ago I was invited to a dinner party that the hostess said would include women only. Inwardly groaning, off I went.

It turned out to be one of the best gatherings I’d been to in years.

The hostess, a photographer, had gathered a group of friends for the evening ranging in age from 28 to 83. After a while, I realized the conversation was more lively and more intellectual than usual, yet also more intimate.

We weren’t talking about real estate or schools (well, briefly schools and kids), as I had noticed was almost always the case at parties in New York. Politics was brought up, but from a less contentious and competitive viewpoint, even though there was plenty of disagreement. Gone was that edge one often hears when men talk that my husband calls the attitude of “I’m going to WIN this conversation.”

It was midnight when he telephoned, asking, “Where are you?” We
realized we were all having a fabulous time and didn’t notice four
hours had gone by.

This was the first time I acknowledged how different things were when men weren’t around. Of course, in high school and college there had been lots of times like these, but those conversations had been, well, immature, and mostly focused on you know who.

Now we were past that, and we could be more open, speaking our minds in a way that men’s presence seemed to inhibit. Was it inhibition, I wondered, or did men dominate the agenda? If so, did we capitulate too easily to their interests? Yes, yes and yes, I thought.

Much as there was room for improvement in our socializing with men, it seemed like there was a real opportunity here.

Around the same time, I noticed that many women were choosing to go on trips and vacations together, without men, the same way men had been doing for generations. Sometimes these involved “female” activities, like going to a spa or a shopping trip (not to sound too sexist, but women are less likely to choose fishing or the Super Bowl), but some trips involved destinations that previously would have been considered “romantic,” such as Paris or the Caribbean.

This trend did not seem to be limited only to women of means, either. Friends were getting all over without their husbands and partners, and having a great time doing it.

Since then, this has become a more popular trend. Meanwhile, I’ve been through menopause, and the pleasures of female solidarity are even more apparent. I find that women at this stage have finally learned not to define themselves by men, even though the culture has made only modest strides in this department.

This is truly liberating, and I think that it has less to do with women no longer feeling sexual as with the gradual increase we feel in our own internal power and independence.

So, if your husband doesn’t like to go to museums (or whatever), go on a trip with your friends and relish the difference. Liberation can be as much about celebrating women’s differences from men as it is about eliminating inequality: we are equal, but not the same. And menopause definitely levels the playing field by making us both more free yet also more committed to living and enjoying our lives.

As my mother once said about a friend, “Cynthia thinks life is a party and she’s giving it!” Don’t wait — a great party awaits you.

And thanks, Mariana, for a great party.

Cecilia Ford, Ph.D., is a clinical psychological is Manhattan who specializes in body image, weight control and eating problems.

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  • Ann B. October 3, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    I love this entry.
    Many of us are less worried about being misunderstood around women and more likely to “dance like no one is watching.”
    Ms. Ford gave a great party when she wrote this article and inspired us to call up some women friends to plan something.