I may have mentioned this in a previous blog, but you might hear film critics talk about whether the latest movie passed the "Bechdel Test." A film passes the test if it 1) includes at least two female characters who have names, and 2) If those women talk about something other than men.
Sometimes I find myself at Starbucks with my girlfriends, looking at our conversation from a third person point of view, like a film camera, and I see myself talking AGAIN about current, past, or future boyfriends. And I become very disappointed in myself.
Ironically, I do not have any trouble at all passing the Bechdel test with perfect strangers. Tonight, for instance, I was sitting at a bar in Hanover, drinking cider and watching the Patriots game, a book in my hand for commercial breaks. I look to my right and notice that the woman next to me is doing the exact same thing (though she was drinking red wine with some delicious smelling pasta). Before I knew it, we were having a conversation about library school--she had been a graduate student in French literature, had left EBD (everything but dissertation), and then pursued a career as a librarian. She had some great advice for me, about considering library school as an alternative to my planned pursuit of a PhD in English. She gave me her card, we shook hands, and parted very pleased--both because the Patriots had beat Denver and because we had transformed an evening of drinking alone into an evening of drinking with a friend.
I find it quite striking, actually, how much easier it is to start a meaningful conversation with a woman who is a stranger. Maybe it's not easier--it's just more frequent. And I really don't know why it is, or seems, so.
And it's not that I can't start conversations about art, films, books, politics, etc. with women I'm close to (I'm thinking of you, Mer and Janet!), but I find it much harder to swim away from the swirling vortex of boys, Boys, BOYS when I'm talking to my college and high school friends. I find myself often making a conscious effort to steer the conversation away from the romantic and toward the intellectual. As I said, I don't know why this is (sed sentio et excrucior).
Why do we talk about men so much? Maybe I shouldn't implicate you, my readers! Why do I, then, talk about men so much? Is it because I watch movies like Pride and Prejudice, where even a strong character like Elizabeth spends most of her time talking with her sisters about boys? Is this a behavior that has been reinforced in me? Or is it because we women naturally group together in opposition to men (since we can't complain to men about other men)? And if so, is talking about men therapeutic, defiant, or a little bit of both?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but they're hanging around me like the smell of cider and wine, as I reflect joyfully, and a little sadly, that fulfilling conversations with women in my life are sometimes still a surprise.