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Crying Towels

March 13, 2017

The scene is set for an interesting eavesdropping opportunity. One woman sits alone in a coffee shop, her latte beside her, a book in her lap. Across from her sit two women engaged in a conversation loud enough to force the eavesdropper to, well, eavesdrop.

One of the pair begins a monologue about how last year was a disaster. She catalogs too many travails for the eavesdropper to remember; however, said eavesdropper hears a series of problems ranging from a husband having an affair, the wife having a retaliation affair, a dog dying of old age, paint peeling on a ceiling in an unused bath, forgetting where she put a book she was reading, etc. The eavesdropper notices that all travails, trivial or serious, are delivered with the same amount of drama and angst. The captive listener does little more than nod. When the second woman tries to break into the monologue, the first woman plunges ahead, seemingly oblivious of what her friend wants to say. Half an hour into the coffee “date,” the talkative woman stands and leaves, saying, “That’s enough about me. See you next time.”

The eavesdropper is exhausted. She imagines the friend is too. She looks at the friend, who has a tear in her eye. She smiles and receives a watery smile in return. The eavesdropper feels the need to comment.

“Your friend certainly has her share of difficulties.”

“She does. And she doesn’t mind who knows about them. I invited her to lunch to tell her about my brother, but she had no time to listen.” The woman wiped a tear.

“Would you like to tell me?”

Her brother had been diagnosed with a rare disease and has weeks to live. She hoped her friend would offer support.

“This may not help, but a few years ago I was in a support group where each of us was experiencing life-changing events. The leader handed out a small white towel he said was a crying towel and a marker to each of us. He asked us to write all of the problems facing us. We then read them to the group. Like your friend, some had multiple problems, all given equal importance. Others had a single, or at most two, life-changing challenges. We exchanged towels.”

“How did that help?” the woman asked.

The eavesdropper found a clean napkin and wrote, “My sister had a miscarriage. I’m struggling with grief.” She handed it to the woman sitting opposite.

The woman looked at the napkin. Then, she picked up one of her own and wrote, “My brother has ALS. We’re estranged. I don’t know how to reach out and help him.” She handed the napkin over.

“I accept your problem as my own,” the eavesdropper said. “If I may, let me be your sister and help you through your crisis.”

The woman wiped a last tear. “And I’ll help you with your grief, sister. Are you free for coffee next week, same time, same place?”

“I am,” the eavesdropper said. “I look forward to hearing more about your brother and what else is going on in your life.”

Sometimes, crying towels are full of trivia. Sometimes, they are full of human drama. And always, they need is a friend to share them.

Angela Merkel, Carol Burnett, Eleanor Roosevelt, Featured, Gal Pals, Grace Slick, Hillary Clinton, Janet Evanovich, Joan Didion, Lifestyle, Margaret Thather, Sylvia Plath, Women's Perspective, Writing

National Girlfriends Day

August 1, 2016

That’s right. Today, August 1, is National Girlfriends Day. I might of missed it if my gal pal, Kim Dalferes, fellow writer and all-round crazy Southern Irish gal, hadn’t thrown down a challenge in her blog post, She wrote about which women she’d invite to a cocktail party. She listed Mae West, Cleopatra, Katherine Hepburn, Janet Reno, Jennifer Lawrence, Margaret Thatcher, Cari Cucksey (from HGTV’s “Cash and Cari”), Erma Bombeck, Ann Joyce (Kim’s grandmother) and Tina Fey. You’ll have to read her post for her reasons.

Here are the women I’d like to spend time with:

Sylvia Plath, one of the best poets and least understood women of letters. I’d love to listen to her talk about writing and depression.

Margaret Thatcher, because she stood up to the old boy’s club and won. I may not have agreed with her politics, but her intellect was outstanding. I could learn so much sitting and asking questions.

Angela Merkel, again because of her intellect. She’s the most powerful person in Europe, something that probably drives Vladimir Putin crazy. She’s balanced, driven, and focused on a better future for all.

Grace Slick, lead singer of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. I want to know what it was like to be on the inside of a great musical and social revolution. I sat in concerts in San Francisco when JA was coming into its own. “White Rabbit” still influences my writing today.

Eleanor Roosevelt, without whom no list would be complete. She ran the country when Franklin was too ill to do so. She’s the one who is purported to have responded to his comment about fear when he was deciding whether or not to run for president, “I’m afraid to try. I might fail.” Eleanor: “Then don’t.” Franklin: “Don’t try?” Eleanor: “Don’t fail.” Thank you for supporting your man and the nation during some of our darkest hours.

Harriett Miller and Jeanne Naylor, mother and mother-in-law, respectively. You taught my husband Terry and me so much, but there’s so much I still don’t know. Motherly wisdom is the best, and I miss it.

Joan Didion who laid open raw grief and taught us to survive it with grace and dignity.

Carol Burnett, one of the funniest women ever. Just thinking about her Gone with the Wind skit sends me into riotous laughter. I want to probe that comedic mind to understand why she is so funny and so approachable.

Janet Evanovichwho’s Stephanie Plum is one of the most outrageous characters every created. I wish I could create and sustain funny characters.

Hillary Clinton, not for political reasons, but to sit and enjoy a mind capable of dissecting a problem and worry it down to the smallest details.

So, these are the women I’d invite to my cocktail party. Of course, I’d also invite a kitty or two.

Who would you invite?

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