The Other Women…

Schiller-Monument-Konzerthaus-steps-Berlin

I’ve just returned from an eight day trip wherein I was wholly surrounded by women.

Hence the blog silence and the anemia.

Mind you, I did have the briefest of contact with men – there was the barista who sprinkled nutmeg on the foam of my morning chai and the fiancé of one of my new clients who supported the two of us in lifting the heavy boxes and the two “handy” men who unclogged toilets at our venue, but that was it really.

This complete female immersion has found me thinking about women very deeply – my relationship to them, my angst around them, how I show up in the world as a woman and how I see other women show up. I’m pondering vulnerability, strength and transparency. I’m wondering why I’ve been bleeding for 16 days and if it’s because I feel the need to cycle with every. single. woman around me until the end of time.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop as I write this and watching two female friends embrace and say their goodbyes – they’re not back patting, they’re actually breathing, heart to heart, into the hug. Another group of women sit at a table nearby bouncing little man infants on their knees while they frantically attempt to connect – to say just a few words over the baby babble, to feel the feminine. I imagine they don’t see it that way. They may just be talking about sore nipples and the removal of skid marks from their husband’s skivvies, but it’s connecting with the feminine that they’re doing, whether they realize it or not.

Four days of this eight day dive into the feminine were spent at Mayacamas Ranch where we rented a mountain near Calistoga to take 35 women on a Vision Quest.  As the “handy” men steered quite clear, I was forced to sit amongst this sisterhood and deal with my fears, my past hurts where women were concerned, my jealousy and my comparison tendencies. I don’t know about every other woman’s experience, I only know mine, and I won’t share any of the details of this sacred time because I feel called to hold the container tight. But I will share what’s come up for me and tell you that my perception has been forever changed.

I have uttered these words in my life.

“Most of my friends are men.”

“Women are mean and catty.”

“I don’t trust ‘her’ around my boyfriend.”

And… you know what? Some of these things have been true for me at different times in my life. I have had girlfriends try to hook up with my boyfriends. I have been hurt more deeply in relationship to women than I have to men. I have experienced women who are mean, catty, and jealous and who didn’t particularly wish me well. And… admittedly, I’ve been guilty of those things as well.

I have spent many a decade comparing myself to other women, as well. “Oh, look at her, she’s amazing.” “See that girl? What a great ass, I wish mine looked like that.” “Wow, my cheekbones aren’t nearly as defined as hers.” “Look at her… she doesn’t look like a boy when she turns sideways.” “And her… she’s published her novel.” “What about that one, she’s beautiful, inside and out, how can my boyfriend not notice that?” Look at her… she’s (fill in the blank).” No where on earth has this been more egregious than on beaches everywhere during swimsuit season.

None of this is to say that I don’t appreciate women and what they bring to the world. I have actually prided myself on my wont to lift the women around me up. I compliment girls and women, to their faces and to others. I call out their beauty, inside or out. I really do want other women to succeed. I want equal pay. I steer clear of another woman’s man.

However, I think most of my life has been spent in comparison with them – in thinking that I’m somehow lacking because of their brilliance; that my core is diminished when I stand beside them.

Sadly, my story is that most of my relationships with women have consisted of my giving until depleted and not feeling particularly supported and replenished.  I think you know of what I speak – the friends who call to talk about their dysfunctional relationship for three hours. Again. And at the end of the conversation, right before they need to hang up, say, “Oh, and how are you?” And then there are the women in my life who haven’t wished me well, who didn’t want me to get the promotion, who got me fired because I was climbing the corporate ladder too quickly, or who tried to hook up with “my” guy.

We women have every reason to be wary of each other, but, oh, how I long for that not to be the case. I see a world where we lift each other up, where we refuse to engage inappropriately with each other’s partners, where we support, honor and nurture each other and meet up in red tents, and where our allegiance lies with each other – friends, sisters, maidens, mothers and crones.

I had that experience during those four days in Calistoga with forty-one beautiful women from all over the world so I do know it’s possible. The brighter the woman next to me shined, the more I wanted her to shine and was able to access the shine within myself. The more deeply vulnerable the woman sitting in circle was, the more I loved her and the more I allowed myself to be vulnerable. The more authentically a female spoke her truth, the more connected I felt with her and the more courage I received to tell my own.

And when a woman bled, I bled beside her. In more ways than one.

8 replies
  1. Avatar
    Tracie Nichols says:

    As a woman with a soft, round, Buddha-like body, I’ve been a champion at self-deprecating comparison, often missing the real beauty in the woman I was busily shoving onto a pedestal. (While secretly hoping it would fall over and squish her.)

    For a host of reasons I’ve traveled so far away from real, healthy female relationships in the first half of my life that I’ve been spending tons of time re-learning the language of loving women — starting with myself.

    Thanks for sparking another round of internal dialog 🙂
    Tracie

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Melanie Bates says:

      Holy crap, Tracie, you’ve perfectly described how I’m feeling. I’ve been feeling that way for some time and truly do want to spend the rest of my days cultivating real, healthy female relationships and that language you so eloquently speak of.

      Much, much love,
      Melanie

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    lisa carmen says:

    it is possible! i know this cuz it’s my reality! while i too have been wounded by women, i also have built a life, a career that i love and a personal universe surrounded by, supporting and being supported by women. ‘i am who i am because of the women i’ve surrounded myself with.’ salma hayek said in an interview i read, and i thought WOW YES.

    i acknowledge you for the honesty and vulnerability of this blog and i cheer you on as you continue to explore the rich depth of caring and connection that comes woman to woman. 🙂

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Melanie Bates says:

      I agree, Lisa, so much. I think I just keep peeling back another layer, especially around the comparison, which is good. It feels awesome to just be mindful of how I view myself and other women and to remember that we all have these wounds. Super powerful stuff.

      Keep up the amazing work that you do, it’s a great example for all of us.

      xo
      Melanie

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Midge says:

    I appreciate this post, Melanie. Your words honor women, our sisterly bond, our shared love, even your stories of the disconnect so many women experience as a result of, well, fearing our shared strength, accepting the expectations and limitations passed on down the lineage line.

    I am a lucky woman. I stumbled upon my tribe of women early in life, and I’ve shared in this wondrous, wild wisdom ever since. It’s awe-and-then-some, this kindred connection between women, between all of us beings, really.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Melanie Bates says:

      Thank you so much, Midge. I strive to live in that magic of connectedness and to continue to honor our sisterhood. You have me pondering the lineage line as well now, thank you for that and for sharing your wisdom.

      So much love,
      Melanie

      Reply
  4. Avatar
    Dawn says:

    Dear Melanie, thank you for attending this type of womanhood gathering and then writing about it. I have thought of going to something like this and it scares the shit out of me. To be in a room of only women. Wow….good job. I read your blog and the comments fom other women and can relate on so many levels. And, I had no idea looking at your photo, taking to you a few times that you felt this way. I think you are amazing beautiful and so smart…As my life is in transformation right now and having three amazing and beautiful daughters, I have to continue to work on my ” women issues” so I don’t pass it on to them. Like everything in the world, some things are harder than others but what we need are more women to stand up know they are beautiful and be strong. Happy Halloween…xo

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Melanie Bates says:

      Thanks so much, Dawn, for your kind words. I feel the same about you – you’re a powerful and beautiful woman and I’m sure that shines through to your daughters. You absolutely should attend one of these women’s retreats. There’s nothing like it.

      Happy Halloween to you, love.

      xo
      Melanie

      Reply

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