Friday, November 5, 2010

Some Links in the Chain

I'm still thinking about the "Sisterhood of the Breathless Pants," but really, just about sisterhood.

So forgive me, but this post isn't going to be about romance novels at all, and not even about a relationship that shows up much in romance novels.  The four women in Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet are effectively sisters, and their conversations are the best bits in those books, but few of us would read them if they were only about the relationships among the women.

And yet, as women, some of our most important relationships are with siblings -- either we have sisters, or we are sisters.  If we don't have siblings, we almost certainly have one or more close friends, even a best friend whose relationship spans decades, geography, and life circumstances.

I have siblings, but I don't.  There are three people out in the world born of the same parents and who shared a home with me for substantial chunks of time, but the bonds of sisterhood that should have arisen from my being their sister never formed.  I recently stopped trying to forge those bonds (by age 50 -- and with my own sister in her 60s -- I finally got it that it wasn't going to happen) and I'm content with my sibling-less state.

But my post about RWA has me attuned to the world of sisters, whether by blood or choice.  Here, then, are three links to show that I understand it's not all or nothing.  Women have a lot to offer, and often do.  Sometimes they don't.

First up, Deborah Tannen.  I really should sit down and read all her books because every time I read something by her, I'm struck with that wonderful sensation of learning something new that I already understood.  In this recent piece in the New York Times, entitled Sisters and Happiness, she writes:
So the key to why having sisters makes people happier — men as well as women — may lie not in the kind of talk they exchange but in the fact of talk. If men, like women, talk more often to their sisters than to their brothers, that could explain why sisters make them happier. The interviews I conducted with women reinforced this insight. Many told me that they don’t talk to their sisters about personal problems, either.

That insight would seem to apply to the RWA-type of sisterhood.

I certainly feel better -- about my writing but other things as well -- after I've talked with my critique partner.  We rarely talk about anything other than our writing, but as that topic encompasses a broad range of relevant issues from contest results to strategies for getting published, the sheer fact that we're talking means we're connected and not alone.  We're sisters, of a sort.

The New York Times' review of Tyler Perry's For Colored Women, out today, suggests the complicated interplay of women's lives.  I read the review aloud to Ross, partly because Perry is a fascinating man and partly because Manohla Dargis made the movie her "critic's pick."  At the end, I said I'd like to see the movie, but he was concerned it might be a downer.  We may both be right.

Finally, this blog post is making the rounds.  My militantly liberal 23-year-old niece and a 50-something Republican law school classmate both linked to it on Facebook -- and if that isn't evidence of the marvel that is Facebook I don't know what is.  It's the story of her 5-year-old son and his "Daphne" (of Scooby-Doo fame) costume.

If I were a mother, I might have read this post very differently, as it's a subtle account of the gender politics and childrearing issues associated with a boy's decision to cross-dress (even if he's a decade away from having any knowledge of cross-dressing as a gender/political/sexual activity).

But I read it as a woman who'd blogged recently about women coming together, or not, as sisters.  In her post, Nerdy Apple Bottom shows that sisterhood (i.e., of women who are all parents of the same aged children) doesn't always cross over gender/political/parenting divides.

Which is sad.  Maybe sad for her kid, but definitely sad for her.

I hope she had a sister to talk to about it.

1 comment:

  1. I found both your posts on sisterhood really interesting. I just finished the last of NR's Bride Quartet and was struck by the fact that the epilogue focused on the 4 "sisters" rather than the romantic couple(s). I liked the sisterhood aspect, but thought increasingly through the series it took over at the expense of the romance elements--for that, the first book was my favorite.

    Sisterhood/female friendships, both positive and negative, has inspired some really good fiction. Margaret Atwood is great on the dark side.

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