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Our Binders Full of Women

By Jennie LaFortune

diana barrysI hovered over my desk and turned on my computer. Too busy to sit, I became a frantic bird and flitted about from one thing to another, never finishing the item at hand. I walked back and noticed the homepage had skipped to a different site. Thin legs sucked into dark denim glared at me.

The caption ‘how to wear boyfriend jeans 18 different ways’ taunted viewers in bold block letters.  Do I really need an article to tell this to me? And 18? Come on. I thought. But I clicked anyway.

I looked away, and thought back to the weekend.  My college roommates had planned a short get-a-way to California.  This was no small feat: jobs, babies, and husbands were left in order for 5 girls to travel from 4 different states for 3 days. We run 13 years deep, and have known each other through boyfriends, break-ups, unfortunate fashion fads, heartbreaks, marriages, moves, wishes, and defeats.  We are women now, but laugh and relax as the clear-eyed, open-hearted 18 year olds we were when we walked through the doors of college life.

The rarity and blessing in the lack of competition, drama and the ease of support, transparency and laughter is not lost on me.  In moments when I forget there is divine construction of people and events in my life (which happens mostly in dramatic dating woes and familial angst), I remember these women and how I’m wrapped in their stories, and they in mine, and am brought back to a warm knowledge in the strength and holiness of my associations in all realms. I’ll just say they are my Diana Barrys and leave it at that.

Years ago when teaching 9th grade, I met a teenage girl through a bathroom mirror. Not having time to go across the school to the faculty lounge between classes, I darted in the student restroom.  As I washed my hands, I noticed a young girl dressed in black, with a short dark stick straight bob. She wore lipstick and drew on eyeliner over already heavily placed eyeliner as she talked to her friend.

“I need to go home and put on make up – I have like no make-up on.”

I almost laughed out loud, and I’m sure my expression revealed my surpise, but as I walked away I thought these young girls have no idea who is looking back at them in the mirror. And do we really see them as well?

We let our (women and especially young girls) currency and validation come from status updates and screens. Culture tells us who we are and how much we cost and we are happy to oblige. What kind of jeans to buy? Click.  How big should my boobs be? Click.  What is the in color of hair this year? Click. How to keep, catch, or train your man? Click.

Here’s the thing – I click too.  A lot. And I know the dialogue of women and media literacy is growing, but the root of the dissonance for me is lack of identity and not feeling seen. When I’m with these women and friends, it shocks me back to a more aware state of worth and joy. And this is the base to then work from and relate to other women – to see more of their divinity and strength before, or amidst, or over the critiques, judgments, comparisons, and perceived flaws of all of us. Which, let’s be honest, we have endured many Mormon Mean Girl moments from different angles and positions of late. Counter. Productive.

As we sat in a hotel room in California we listened to the audio of President Uchtdorf‘s talk at Relief Society meeting.  Tired bodies with salt water hair and baggy sweats laid heads on the table and drifted in and out of consciousness as his words seeped inside.

 “In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us.”

And I felt the strength and wholeness confirmed in his words, and also the empty scorched well many women feel. I want to see them, and for them to see themselves and others; to join forces in their writing groups, running friends, sad neighbors, book clubs, the intimidating ward members, and remember – connections among us bind and foster more growth. It’s all about trying to see one another and let our innate worth rain down.

How have women uplifted you? If you have felt isolated or unconnected from associations in your realm, what do you do to overcome?  Women and power.

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About Jennie LaFortune

(Prose Board) is from Salt Lake. Figuring life out one book, beach, road trip, museum, and front porch conversation at a time. Perpetually on the search for the best dark chocolate, finest pen, and greenest field. When she's not teaching high school, she loves to spend time with friends and family, the shore of any ocean, holding her friends' babies, or taking long neighborhood walks.

5 thoughts on “Our Binders Full of Women”

  1. It just takes one good friend to see and accept you truly to overcome all the rest. Lately, during a big life transition, God sent me more women to walk with me in total love and support. It has been vital to my sanity and hope. Women need each other.

    Reply
  2. he sent you. and through you the women of The Thing. in addition to all the lovelies here at Segullah (which sent me you…one continuous round!)

    pretty much, these groups comprise my support network. moreso than my ward, even. i am so blessed.

    Reply
  3. Blue- I thought of you a lot while writing this. I need those reminders that people actually are sent to us. You and Our Thing:)

    Reply

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