“ If you want to be seen for who you are, you have to be willing to stop pretending to be someone cooler or smarter than you are.… You have to understand and accept yourself enough that you believe you can make somebody else’s life brighter just by being in it.“ Donald Miller, author of “Scary Close: Dropping the act and finding true intimacy.“
I think women are pretty good at being friends, when we give each other the chance. Or the right environment, like women’s gym locker rooms. I have had many intimate, personal, uplifting conversations with women whose last names I’ll never know (but whose true hair color I DO know), women I call my Locker Room Ladies. True supporters who “make somebody else’s life brighter just by” speaking up.
BTW, don’t Google Locker Room Ladies. There is, apparently, a more sinister, manly interpretation of the term I use with great affection.
We didn’t always support each other in the locker room. My memoir includes this mortifying scene from my first year in junior high:
The ten-girl squad was assigned to lockers in the same aisle, four of us on my side of the wooden bench and six on the other. I pulled my out uniform and the combination lock Mom had gotten at Woolworth’s and shoved my book bag into the narrow locker. Eyes down and balancing my back against the grey metal, I stepped into the legs of the gym suit, rocking on one foot as I yanked it up my hips under the roomy skirt. I turned toward the locker as I pressed closed the two bottom snaps. I pulled my skirt down and kicked it into the locker.
The second bell rang, and I knew Miss Benton would be blowing her whistle in moments. I turned toward my locker, crossed my arms over my chest and pulled at the cotton shoulders of my turtleneck. I’d gotten it about halfway off when I realized I’d left my glasses on. As I groped for them in the dark folds, I heard a couple of stragglers laughing. “Hey, nice undershirt.”
They continued to laugh as they ran up the stairs to the gym. My face was on fire as I pulled the shirt off my head and shoved it into the locker. I pulled on the rest of the uniform, snapped it shut over my stupid undershirt, and ran up the stairs.
We are can be awful to each other, girls and women. But here’s a conversation I was in today in the wonderfully intimate environment of the women’s sauna.
When I walked in, there were two women sitting on the far bench. I took the empty bench closer to the door. The younger woman was saying something about a “Promise Ring.” As she spoke, it became clear that she was speaking about a decision she had made three years ago when she turned 18 to “save herself for marriage.” Her mother had given her a ring that signified that committment, and her priest had come to her birthday party.
Talk about heavy pressure. Things could have gone either way, I think.
But, no. This was a good thing. Now 21, she has had a boyfriend for almost three years, and she made it clear going into the relationship that sex was out. She was very relaxed about it.
The woman she is speaking with is older, maybe 40. She says that it is wonderful for young women to know they are valued, that they have value. She says that this is why she is now going to nursing school, to be in a position to help young women.
That’s my cue. I’m all about crediting nurses with having supported me throughout my illness and recovery. I tell the woman that she’ll make a great nurse, and how much I have appreciated nurses over the past 10 months. Here some of the crew in Amsterdam that kept me going.
And one reason that I got to know the Amsterdam staff so well — okay, beside being there sooooo long — was that I extended myself every day, looking for connections with the nursing staff.. Often, it was just getting a first name, admiring it, and then asking if they were named after someone in their family. There was almost always a story: one nurse had a Russian-sounding name because her parents had spotted the name rolling by on movie credits and decided that would be their baby’s name. And another nurse was named Rosanna not because of any Italian reference but because of the Toto song. I knew things about these people that their own friends on staff had never thought to ask.
Believe that you can make somebody else’s life brighter just by being in it. Speak up!