You’re a grown-ass woman—part of a crowd of grown-ass women, in fact, all currently in your living room with a few bottles of wine and some kind of bread/dip scenario and maybe a nail polish and certainly some opinions. You are seconds away from a Female Sharing Event. Soon—any moment now—someone will offer up a little personal nugget. Something small but a definite Share, the kind of thing that you couldn’t or wouldn’t say if there were anyone else in the room but this particular group, drunk on friendship, the shared experience of being young and alive, and, okay, perchance a bit drunk on “winter sangria” you made from that wine your mom brews up in her basement somehow (she gave you a lot of free bottles). This personal nugget will be built upon by the assembled group, one story of a lesbian kiss at summer camp spiralling into Shares untold about crushes past and present, girlsperimentation, and who knows what else.
This is a beautiful, sacred ritual. One of the most bewildering parts of female life is the amount of things we are supposed to keep to ourselves, experiences that are commonplace and in many cases in need of sharing but for some reason have been collectively shushed. Something pretty incredible happens to a group of women when they realize they’re in a safe space for open and honest discussion, free of judgement. You can see people’s eyes light up, their bodies lean in and their brains start to gather up old silences to make them known.
Sometimes the silence has been kept a long time, and is difficult to reveal because it’s personal and hurtful. Sometimes the silence is, like, “I have an EXTREME thing for Simon Cowell and I can’t carry that alone anymore.” Both are important and over the course of a really good night of Female Shares you can run the gamut from hilarious stories about the time you had sex with your boyfriend to stop him entering a bathroom into which you’d just deposited a Five Alarm poop to virginity loss stories (a true classic), first orgasm stories (a new classic) or more serious topics like fear of death, how you really feel about your wrinkles and where they are, or what consent means. I’m not a huge fan of gender stereotypes (“how progressive!” – no one), but I do think women are better at talking about their feelings and this is something about us that RULES. Here’s how to host your own Female Shares Evening.
Approach food and drink suggestions with the fervour and enthusiasm of a beginner improviser.
“Should we order pizza?” “Yes! AND let’s get a box of wine.” “YES, aaaand why don’t we make a big kale salad just to be fancy?” “Yes, and I’ll bring just a straight up roll of cookie dough and no one will talk about whether or not eating raw egg in large quantities like that is bad for you.” “Yes, hands! I’m throwing out my cutlery.”
There are five types of Female Sharing: Body Talk (the Robyn album and the location of everyone’s most troublesome lone hair), Affirmation Nation (“Honestly, Claire, I mean this, do you even KNOW how beautiful you are? No, Claire, seriously. Claire.”), Romance Dramz (having friends of literally all ages has revealed something to me about ladies: we do not just stop talking about boys one day. In fact, we never stop. We can’t stop.), Deep’N’Meaningfuls (the capital-H heavy stuff, more on this later) and Family Secrets (stuff your mom told you at Christmas while she was drunk).
Go with the flow, conversationally.
A solid flow comparison is probably as good a place to start as any. How’s everyone’s menarche?? A quick rundown of what exactly that time of the month means for you is a great segue into larger Female Shares. We’ve been sharing funny, uncomfortable period stories since our YM days, so no one should be too embarrassed here. Get into it. Cramps? Describe. Mood swings? Been there. Sex, comma, during? Explique. Smells? Pubescent tampon usage horror stories?? PEOPLE WANT THESE DEETS! The first person to overshare will unleash a crimson tidal wave (hi) of information that is both hilarious, helpful, and ultra-bonding, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Surf that wave, friends.
This is not the Body Issues Olympics.
Turning your pal’s story about her summer of disordered eating into a launching pad for an examination of the way your aunt once asked you very pointedly if you “really needed” that brownie will go down worse than a glass of Sochi tap water. The patriarchal celebrity/beauty/femininity industrial complex has done its job well, okay? We’ve aaaaallll hated our bodies at some point. You do not need to best your friend’s retelling of the inconveniences, embarrassments, and, maybe, straight up traumas she has experienced simply for taking up space while female. Sure, you’ve been there, and sure, her story is only part of a complex tapestry of suggested self-loathing and fad diets and, yes, weird comments from your Aunt Linda where it’s like, LINDA, PLEASE, that make up the embodied female experience, but we’ll get to that in a second. Share the floor. This applies to all stories, not just bod ones; if you are the only one talking all night it’s going to bum everyone out. There’s no I in “Everyone’s Story About Meals They Ate While Cry-ng.”
If it’s past midnight and no one has compared boobs, go home. Your Female Sharing Evening has failed.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every young woman in possession of boobs wants to look at other boobs, just to see what everyone else has going on under there. I didn’t know you could have brown nipples until I was 14. 14! Don’t be me. Whip ’em out and share the knowledge. Each nip is a snowflake, and baby it’s cold inside. (Gross.) (Srsly tho a boob pageant show is mandatory.)
It might get heavy. Don’t be scared.
Life is hard, female life is harder. Statistically, if there are three or more women in the room, someone’s experienced sexual assault. Someone’s had an abortion. Someone’s life has been touched by terminal illness. These are big topics that don’t get nearly enough airtime in regular conversation and can be hard to find the right audience for. If someone starts to open up about these or other taboo topics, do not back away. Congratulate yourself on being a person deemed safe for this kind of thing, understand how much these conversations need to happen, and then just listen. For as long as the person wants to talk. This will probably lead to a Group Cry, which is also a very important part of proceedings. If things need to lighten back up (the person sharing the Hard Topic is done/everyone has cried but the night is not really over yet) and you’re not sure what to do, take a risk on a sing-a-long. I say “risk,” but there is a 99.99% probability the ladies will be into it. 100% if the song of choice is by the Dixie Chicks. Bitches love to harmonize.
So queue up a Female Singer-Songwriters playlist on Songza, wipe off any non-waterproof eye make up and take off your bra, cuz it’s Friday night baby, and you’re about to Share.
Follow Monica on twitter: @monicaheisey