I come from a matriarchal family. Women hold the power in my neck of the woods, and any man who stands in our way gets axed. We allow them to our feast, but they must remain subordinate. This is partly due to the fact that we outnumber them, four to one, but also due to the reality that they capitulated a long time ago, when they realized that happy women made for a serene home life.
The matriarchy accepts family members and girlfriends who aren’t catty, but can take a jab once in a while. Our clan thrives during get-togethers. Over tea time, cooking and cleaning, girlfriends form strong bonds and share secrets, while men sit on the couch and watch sports. In our superior position in the kitchen, we are happy to let them think that they are in charge, as they scream obscenities at the rival teams and do their male thing.
Growing up, as I conformed to these stereotypical roles, I learned about the power of female bonds and the importance of friendships. I discovered secrets about neighbors, relatives and men, as I trotted after apple pie and stared at crumbs stuck to my aunts’ dresses. My young mind was impressed with the special atmosphere that women created by sharing everything from the mundane to the exceptional, from financial troubles to illnesses.
It’s no wonder I wanted my own little girlfriend clan in elementary school — OK, I went to an all girl school — but our group was somewhat selective, only the kids who shared our evil goal were admitted, namely to pull the veil off our head nun’s head, and see what her hair looked like. Two of us succeeded and we were almost executed, were it not for another nun who decided to spare our lives.
Despite these setbacks, my efforts aimed at creating a clan of girlfriends remained strong when I moved to the United States. I dropped my evil goals, but continued to rely on girlfriends for much of my adult life. I even learned crucial things about this country from my female friends, like really bad words I would periodically use and then laugh out loud.
But really, female friends in college, at work, eventually other military wives, writers, mothers all made my life richer and more complete. This has been particularly true as I spent long periods of time with a husband gone. Sometimes I have had to make an effort, especially as I got busy with activities, work or home life, but I’ve always tried to make it a point to stay close to my peeps. Even though women can be catty and emotional, we can also share a laugh from the heart and truly support each other.
I hope my daughters will carry on our own version of the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and find strength in their sisters like I did — both the ones in and outside the family.
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. Contact her at: