The Last Taboo: Lisa

You know that really cool aunt, the one who actually listened to you when you felt you had something important to say and who was the one that convinced everyone that you were too old for the kids’ table?

Or the neighbor who told you to stop wearing so much makeup, not because you were 14, but because you were too pretty for that much eyeliner and then proceeded to give you a mini-makeover?

Or that friend’s mom who let you stay over even on a school night, who listened to your boy problems without judgment and who never once said “I told you that Jimmy was bad news,” when you broke up, even though she totally could have?

That’s Lisa, or LPC.  I discovered her a while back when someone sent me an email linking to her Fierce at 50. When You Are 20. Or 30, which is brilliant.  BRILLIANT, I tell you.  And so is LPC.

And just like those fabulous women in your younger years, it’d do you good to listen to her. (And stand up straight, sweetie.)

In olden days, the days even before I was born, (and there were some days before I was born) women had fires.  Later they had wells.  Later still, quilts.

These were places to talk, sometimes under one’s breath, about the wear and tear of being female.  Or the joys, for that matter.  I imagine there was a fair amount of laughing in those circles, some crying, and an enormous amount of useful information exchanged.  And yes, I imagine the sassy one.

Then we moved onto farms. Into houses and apartments.  Luckily the silent period was brief.  Brief, but painful.  Brief, but well-documented by Austen and Lessing and Atwood. Now we’re back in a time of talk.  Mothers started talking first.  Mothers sit in parks, on living room floors, on mommy blogs, talking.

The last taboo is marriage.  The last thing you are not supposed to talk about is your marriage.  Which starts at the wedding and continues.  The only person you talk to, finally, is your best friend.  And she tells you you are awesome, even if you’re not.  She says it’ll be OK, even when it won’t.  Because that’s her job.

We’ve lost the full cast of characters.  Most of us have only one best friend to whom we tell it all.  A Practical Wedding returns the chorus to its rightful place. Provides comfort, but also chiding when required.  Sobbing on shoulders, but also arms folding in disagreement.

I believe this model leads to better decisions.

So, if I’m no longer making these decisions, if I’m on into the next phase, why do I care?  Why do I care that you all have the place for this conversation?  Because you make me cry.  You make me rage.  You make me sigh and feel that I am in fact old and wise.  You make me hear and feel my own history again in a light I couldn’t see when I lived it.  That is invaluable.

Carry on.  Older women get a little sentimental, from time to time.  But since we’ve been sitting here by the fire all this time, even if invisible, I figure you will scoot over.

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  • LW

    “But since we’ve been sitting here by the fire all this time, even if invisible, I figure you will scoot over.”


    Not at all what I was expecting from APW this morning, but so so welcome.

    Thank you.

    • Mattingly

      Totally!! Now going to go stalk LPC in the archives for a bit…

  • Mayweed

    Wow. This:

    We’ve lost the full cast of characters. Most of us have only one best friend to whom we tell it all. A Practical Wedding returns the chorus to its rightful place. Provides comfort, but also chiding when required. Sobbing on shoulders, but also arms folding in disagreement.

    is exactly why I love APW.

  • Katie

    Yes indeed, scooting over (and adding new blog to my google reader!). Thanks Lisa for this great post!

  • Nicole

    Yes. Thank you!

  • MinnaBrynn

    I had never thought of it like that, but yes, that is exactly why APW is so necessary for me.

  • This. Post. Is. Why. I. Read. This. Blog. I am totally the woman Lisa describes here (married, a little bit physically isolated, and with only the voices of my best friend and husband to compliment that of my own). And until now I’ve felt a longing for that chorus that at the very least will give me feedback on this crazy adventure I’ve undertaken called marriage.

    I think there’s something terrifying to our society about the idea of “the women” getting together and speaking about our collective experiences. It gives us power, the ability to reflect and make intelligent decisions, and encourages the idea that our experiences belong to us, that our lives are not inevitabilities of the system.

    All this is to say, thank you for being here too. We need you, LPC. We need our big sisters to help us along the journey in a way that others can’t, with a caring that comes from a very pure place and speaks to the collective.

    • TNM

      Yes to this: “I think there’s something terrifying to our society about the idea of “the women” getting together and speaking about our collective experiences.”

      I think part of it is society’s sneaking suspicion that the conventional wisdom, WIC standards, certain aspects of gender roles, etc. just don’t hold up when really discussed or examined. E.g., when you really discuss whether a white bridal gown is necessary or whether the wife doing the childrearing is “natural,” it’s pretty hard to defend these practices rationally or with any empirical evidence. Now this is not to say that the conventional wisdom or a white gown is wrong for specific people or specific circumstances – heck, I wore a big white gown – but just that conversation and analysis will reveal that the conventional choice is just a matter of *personal preference*, not universal truth. And I think this is terrifying to those who live their lives rigidly according to conventional norms and traditional expections: the idea that they’re optional, particular with respect to gender roles in family and child-rearing.

      P.S. Loved your post, LPC. Particularly because I can now call the APW “Comment” section, the “Chorus.”

      • Absolutely. I also think it’s terrifying to them that we might realize how we’re being tricked into obsessing over inane details rather than talking about bigger issues, and that if we were to get together and discuss, we would inevitably realize that this ideal we’re being sold is kind of a shitty smoke and mirrors show. i.e. If they’ve got you thinking about that white dress night and day, then you’re NOT thinking about the $.78 on the dollar that we talked about a few days ago.

        • Not to say that details don’t matter. But I do think that we’re tricked into thinking that they are *all* that matters.

    • Yes. Exactly.

      When I moved away from my hometown to follow a job, I moved away from my chorus. I miss them dearly, and Facebook was my first foray into rediscovering my chorus. But I am amazed at the wonderfully witty, smart women of all ages who I have met online since I started blogging.

      I want to bring you all cookies and wine and have a nice long chat.

  • Perfect. This is why what Marchelle wrote yesterday is the case. Now we have the whole story.

    I was so excited when I realised the introduction was leading to Lisa, and I wasn’t disappointed.

  • Liz

    you are in fact wise.

    not sure about the “old” part.

  • Yes. And I am so thrilled that we have this virtual fire. And for Lisa to chime in when most needed.

  • Oh my god, Lisa. Please stop writing like this. You are assuming a place of such epic tenderness in my heart (most likely due to issues regarding my own interrupted and mismatched experience of being mothered, of course), and it has swollen to such big and irrational proportions that my first instinct is to issue a cease and desist order rather than surrender and luxuriate in what you’re saying, and the way you’re saying it and who you are as you say it. But this is true of me, generally. When I say, “Stop,” it means, “You’re perfect.” Also, I did not become tearful at any point in the last 15 minutes.

  • Rizubunny

    Lisa, thank you. I’m crying at work now.

  • This is exactly what I’ve been trying to articulate all week: that APW isn’t about weddings, at least in my life. It’s about the conversation and the women and the affirmation, and sorting it all out through talking and getting feedback rather than sitting on it by ourselves. Reading APW made me so much braver about my wedding, but now that the wedding is over, I feel so much braver about everything else. The wedding gives us a reason to START the conversation, and APW and all of you are the reason to keep coming back.

    • Hmmm. Yes. This:
      “…but now that the wedding is over, I feel so much braver about everything else.”

    • I’m not anywhere near getting married, and this is exactly what APW is for me. I’ve moved quite a bit since my teens and have not managed to maintain a chorus of women around me. It feels isolating. So I seek it online.

    • merryf

      Thank you for EXACTLY verbalizing what I’ve been thinking for the past 5 months since my wedding, and every day I come back here to read more and to get stronger.

    • Tina

      This is why I read too. I wanted to articulate this earlier in the week, but now that a post sums it up, I just need to exactly it. I have a few friends spread out that I can discuss things with, but never to the depth that occurs here. Not to mention the sincerity and thoughtfulness with which it occurs here on APW.

      I too am not getting married any time soon, but I still believe APW has increased my own ability to be “braver everywhere else.” I just feel this need to make change and do something big stirring inside of me as a result of this site. I have also moved around quite a bit since graduating from college. Two countries and back and forth between two states in the last 6 years. I realized, upon stumbling onto APW, that I had been craving a group of women to discuss such important things. I didn’t even realize it until i was knee-deep and absolutely enthralled by it.

      I always tended to have more guy friends in high school and such. It was only recently, while teaching abroad, that I met a very interesting group of women beyond a single best friend. For the first time, I truly understood what it means to sit around this fire. Now that they are all spread out throughout the U.S. and world, I come here to relive that. Thank you, Lisa, for putting into words something that I hadn’t completely processed until now.

      • Me, too!
        And, like you, I didn’t realize it until I was already gone. I’m actually still “gone”, but am moving back to the US next August-ish, although to a new city where I know only 3 people so far (yeah, San Francisco!).

        I still have my best friend back home to talk to (though she’s moved to 2 other states in the time I’ve been gone as well), but it’s not the same as having a whole group–or a community! And that’s part of why APW is so awesome. Well said, Lisa, and well praised, Tina! :)

  • Beautifully written, LPC. I was raised in a vibrant church community, and I have that chorus of women. I love those older women in my life, and having your wise and funny and thoughtful words on APW has always been amazing. The baby brides, the young women, the slightly not-so-young women, the just married women, the ones struggling in their relationships, the ones overjoyed… We are a diverse and beautiful chorus of women, and I can’t imagine APW without you.

    And thank you for sitting by the fire for us. I’m glad to scoot right on over.

    • Mollie

      so, there’s chorus of women, and then there’s HOLY CRAP CAN YOU JUST PLEASE STOP TELLING ME HOW TO LIVE MY LIFE?!

      there’s beauty in the balance, which is APW to me. though it almost feels safer to share online than in person, sometimes, for fear of the “this is how you need to do it” advice from our well-meaning elders…..

  • Cody

    awesome. really good to remember this is not just women around the world connecting, now. but women, joining generations of women around the world who have always found a way to connect, because it’s that important.

  • Chelsea

    This is why I contributed – because I feel like we have (almost inadvertantly?) started this little fire on APW, but the Reclaiming Wife site is going to give it the space to grow and expand and include voices from more people like Lisa, who don’t necessarily see themselves on a wedding planning site but are going to be SO WONDERFUL to hear from. I can’t wait till it’s up!

  • ddayporter

    I have been in awe of LPC ever since Meg quoted her and linked to this post, umm, a LONG time ago: (I still say I’m terrible at bookmarking, but I can do a good website search with a memorable phrase like “but tulle is a lovely narcotic.”)

    Been waiting all week to hear what you would say, I knew it had to be coming. I knew it would be moving and full of imagery, and it is. I can almost smell the smoke from this fire. Of course we scoot over for you.

  • Nina

    So beautifully said. Thank you so much for adding your wisdom to the conversation here, it just wouldn’t be the same without it.

  • Exactly times 100,000. I am definitely missing my chorus of women in real life. But I’ve found it here, virtually, and it is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

    • you can say that again. this post gave me goosebumps– seriously, how did all these amazing people end up here? it’s like a banquet of wisdom and we all get to just feast to our hearts desire! (yes, i may have thanksgiving on the brain…)

      • Tina

        I’ll pop the popcorn, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving style, for the campfire/buffet of wisdom.

      • cupcake8million Posted on congrats- your linvig my dream since you won’t see your family/ friends for a long tie you could go cheesy- wish you were here or on the trail again or Where in the world is (your name)? Best of luck!

  • P.S. All this talk of fires and collectives is making me REALLY yearn for an APW retreat or something.

    All I’m saying is that there is a camp on a lake in Maine at my disposal…

    …and therefore your disposal.

    Just saying.

    • APW RETREAT!!!!!

    • ddayporter

      :-o ! I. am. so. there. I need to visit my dad more often anyway. which lake??

      summer 2011? let’s do this.

      • Little Sebago. Are you a fellow Mainer, DDay?

        • ddayporter

          yes! I was born there and went to high school there (York and Wells mostly (custody battles, yay)), and despite having spent most of the years from age 5 to 14 living elsewhere around the country, and being settled in VA for the indefinite future, I will always be a Mainer. :)

    • omg apw retreat. swoon.

    • this. is. happening.

    • meg

      Well… you ladies can email me. I know events. I’m loath to take a single other thing on right now, and I’m worried about paying the bills, but. You can email me at least.

    • meg

      And if we talk about Summer of 2012, then there is a real possiblity of something awesome and well done :)

      • ddayporter

        I can live with summer 2012. and I am in for planning help if needed.

      • Ditto to DDay. Consider yourself e-mailed (but only in a hopeful, no pressure, please prioritize paying your bills kinda way).

        • meg

          Thanks ladies. It’s a APW is a wonderful community, but it’s also my business and how I pay the bills moment :) I think this is something that could be done and done well, if people are interested. It can’t be this year (my dance card is full), and it couldn’t be free (I don’t think. Well, if it could it would be pretty heavily sponsored and we’d need to be ok with that). But anyway, it’s a wholllllleeeee other ball of (potentally interesting) wax.

          Ok, breathing :)

          • I would just like to say, when you are ready to get going on this, Meg, I would be more than happy to assist in the planning/assembling/whatever you need help with.

      • Sarah

        Everything DDay said (about 2012). ::nods:: No need to repeat. =)

      • Tina

        Oh man, oh man. I made my popping popcorn comment above a little prematurely. I’ll hold off until 2012 for a campfire by the lake! AND contribute help as needed.

  • i feel like this post describes exactly why i come to APW every day

  • Ok, totally crying. I look for LPC’s comments too, and follow your blog, and just generally come away a better person for being able to listen to you.

    And this, this is exactly what I’ve needed. I found APW at a time where I was going through some major changes in my life, and the support here as well as the friendships and blogs that have blossomed from it have kept me sane. This, the topics that don’t get talked about in off-line life until booze or time is a factor, the awesome viewpoints that we provide…THIS.

    Hugs, LPC. And thank you!

    • KA

      “This, the topics that don’t get talked about in off-line life until booze or time is a factor, the awesome viewpoints that we provide…THIS.”

      Soo true. In the few months since I’ve found APW, I keep wondering how I foster this kind of environment among my in-real-life girlfriends. Suddenly the rushed happy hours and dinner dates seem…superficial? It almost makes me feel like I’m cheating on them that I can’t find a way to talk with them like THIS.

      On the other hand, it’s kind of apples and oranges. They can be here for the laughing, drinking, and shopping, and this “virtual chorus” is with me in a whole different way. One that opens my eyes and stretches my mind to see many, many more viewpoints (like the eloquent LPC’s) that I could ever connect with in-real-life.

      • StacyfrPgh

        I love these online communities that have popped up. That said, I urge you young ‘uns to keep trying to nurture those ties that bind you in your real-life communities. Face time, laughing, crying and bonding with the person in the seat next to you has great theraputic benefits. Looking into the eyes of someone while conversing or being silent is a valuable thing. As someone very close to LPC’s age, I urge you to keep up all types of sharing with all types of women. It can only make you stronger, and our collective selves better.

  • LPC

    An actual tear is rolling out of my actual eye and down my actual face. Wait, there goes another one. I cannot thank you all enough. I’ll make soup for the retreat. Even vegan. Oh, and I donated too. I guess that’s not surprising. Although it’s not enough, thank you twice. You astonish me. xoxoxoxox.

  • Class of 1980

    Bravo, LPC.

  • Hi Lisa! I love you! Come sit by my fire. Or the liquor cabinet. One of the two. :)

  • I think I’ve just found my favorite e-aunt.

  • Laura

    I don’t comment on here too often, but I usually read all the comments, and specifically look for those from LPC. Always articulate, and super smart, she gets me thinking more deeply about the day’s post every time!
    I think part of the problem is that it’s so hard to carve out the time to sit down with my ladies and have a good chat. It makes it that much more difficult to maintain close relationships, in which you can express your deepest thoughts, worries, etc., when we are all so busy all the time. I’m lucky if I find one day per month to sit down with my best girlfriends for a couple of hours. And that’s isolating, and it can be hard. So I am grateful for this space, where I can talk if I want to, or just listen to the wisdom of other women.
    LOVE this post!

  • THIS. This perfectly articulates why I am proud to be part of the APW community. And why I need all of you fabulous women. When you live across the country from all your closest girlfriends, you’ll take these fireside chats wherever you can find them…

  • Yes!!!!!!!!

    (Yeah. It’s possible that we discussed this in one of my seminars today. APW. And community. And gender. Win.)

  • I’m crying too. I’ve been really struggling the past couple years to recognize and accept that most things in the world are neither black nor white, but gray. And especially that there is no plateau of perfection that you reach someday when you’re old enough, even if you do everything “right.” Hearing the diverse and the shared experiences of the APW “cast of characters” is helping me believe this. It sounds kind of negative when I put it that way, but it’s actually so redemptive and liberating to know that *nobody* understands everything, *nobody* never messes up, but you’re all figuring out how to live consciously and pursue your own chosen values, and it’s good, and that’s all I can do too. A gigantic thank you to Lisa and the strong, imperfect, questioning, world-changing APW women.

    • Class of 1980

      You said it sister. There will never be a time when I’ll know everything, that’s for sure. ;)

  • Marchelle

    Lisa, you always say it best. And I am so grateful to have your wisdom virtually available to me.

  • JessiLane

    And with this post I will have to stop lurking, because this is exactly why I’ve been reading. My gypsy life makes finding these fires difficult in real life–how lucky to have found one here.

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