Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"These Women"

There's a moment in one of the early seasons of The West Wing where, at the end of the episode, the West Wing staff are chatting over chili that President Bartlet has made after work. And, because of the greatness of the internet, I've been able to find the script of the exact moment. (A West Wing primer: Bartlet is the President. Josh is the Deputy Chief of Staff. Leo is the Chief of Staff. They are looking at a room full of their colleagues, including their rockstar female colleagues: CJ Cregg, Donna Moss, Mrs. Landingham.)

Look at this, will you?

At what sir?

I don’t know why, but nothing makes me feel quite so good as the sight of colleagues,
enjoying each other outside work.

So, what were you guys talking about?

We were talking about these women.


We can’t get over these women.


I have thought about this moment. I've had this moment, this moment of looking at the women around me and being delighted and in awe of their greatness. Their genius, their goodness, their buoyancy, their depth and kindness and nimbility. Maybe it's the product of my last nine years of living exclusively with other girls, but I have a profound testimony of the goodness of so many women.

Last month, or maybe the month before, a friend of mine got up during our fast & testimony Relief Society meeting and bore her testimony. It began as you would expect: "I'm grateful for my Savior and for this church. I know that President Hinckley is a prophet" (this was likely before President Hinckley passed away) "and I love this ward." But then she took a stand: "I love this Relief Society, and I want to say that I want you sisters to be happy. I want you to get the man of your dreams, and I don't care if he's the man that I want and you get him. I want you to be happy, and I will root for your success." (Essentially. This is essentially what she said.)

We were delighted. I was delighted. This is a hard thing to say, I think, because it's such a sensitive subject. How do we say--how do we mean--that we are glad for each other's romantic successes, even when it means that we do not have the success we want in the moment we want it? It seems funny that it's even an issue. I wonder about women's reputation for cattiness, and I've been glad to have so little exposure to it. But still--in our community, small as it is, we may date the same people. We may like the same men. We may hope for successes with the very people that others want to succeed with. And I think the answer--the only comfort I've received--comes from my belief in the goodness of so many women. This is what I figure: If there's a boy so cool that I like him, then I'll probably like the women that he likes (maybe--maybe--even more than I liked him). So, if he chooses another one over me, then I can take comfort in my happiness for her--that she, this good woman that I do or would like, is getting attention from a good man.

So, a story: The first boy I sort of dated at BYU was named Brent. I didn't know we were dating until after we'd broken up. In post-break-up talks he said, "So when we were dating..." I said, "We dated?" And he said, "Yeah, but then when we broke up..." And I said, "We had a break up?" (I was totally excited.) After we broke up, he started dating this other woman named Kirsten. I wondered about her--he and I were still friends--what she was like, how I would feel if/when I met her, what I should think about the whole thing. But then, one night, maybe at a poetry reading at Brent's, I met her. And you know what? She was awesome. Awesome. She was smart and cool and pretty and great, and she helped Brent dress better (which he needed) and got him to watch movies (which I never could)--good movies, ones I like. And they got married and they have three or four kids, and sometimes I get baby announcements from them. And I delight that he ended up with someone as great as she.

That's my story. And I'm sticking to it.


Samantha said...

I really loved this post. It sounded so much like you and made me miss you. I wish women everywhere could read it.

And I saw that episode of West wing and actually remember that part too.

Melissa said...

I can really appreciate the sentiments your friend expressed in your ward.

My roommate likes to say (a la Madeleine Albright) "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

Brent obviously had good taste in women.

Sarah Louise said...

Samantha and Melissa, you both are great women I've never had trouble rooting for.

I've not thought much about Madeleine Albright, but I guess if the men I want to date wanted to date her, I could be cool with that. On some levels. :)

UsedToBeDay said...

Good thoughts. Great thoughts.

Dee said...

I'm Levi Smylie's cousin. You're right about liking the people who are liked by the ones that you like. Sam Rice was LIKED by everybody. I went on a date with him, my best friend dated him and a beautiful faithful childhood friend of mine married him. What can I say? The church in Adelaide is small. That sort of thing happens, a lot! I have just finished watching tonights West Wing episode were Ainsley Harriot says that complements by male friends about her beauty does not diminish feminism. What does are feminist who deride other womens choice to be complemented and who as less passionate about real feminist issues like equal pay, paid maternity and sexual slavery. I liked to be liked and I hope that friends of my friends like me too.

Elizabeth said...

Great thoughts. We do all need to remember this. Well put. You're good Sarah.