For so many years, I looked to men to fulfill emotional needs that (I now understand) can only be filled by women. I’m not talking about sexual needs. I’m talking about the profound level of connection, intimacy, loyalty, safety, recognition, shared values, playfulness, empathy, and mutual understanding that my heart has always longed for in relationship. I’ve come to believe that it’s too much to ask a man to provide all that nourishment for you. Or at least, it’s too much to ask a man to provide all that nourishment for ME. I need my sisters. I need the women in my life who really SEE me, hold me, support who I’m trying to become, inspire me, teach me, soothe my heartbreak, and work with me to make the world a better place in big and small ways. Today, in celebration of New Year’s Day, I wanted to look back with love at just a SMALL HANDFUL of the extraordinary women who have made this year so wonderful and healing and meaningful for me. (I tried to fit them all into 9 frames, but it was impossible, so I expanded it to 18, and then 27 — and then I just gave up because we don’t have all day here, people.❤️) I won’t try to name everybody in these pictures, because there are just too many of you… And I’m annoyed that I still didn’t manage to squeeze everybody in there who I wanted to celebrate. (I see you, @avb and @sofieh66! I see you @brenebrown and @oprah and @yesimsarahjones! I’m hanging out with you RIGHT NOW @jennyluvnlife and @colleenhindsley and @tiffanibrookefest! And as for @catherinemiles: why the hell don’t we have a good photo of us together?!) But let’s just call this montage my own version of New Year’s Day confetti—my best attempt to celebrate female love, talent, grace, strength, and joy. Where would I be without you all? And as for the incredible, thoughtful, compassionate women who follow me on this page: I see you, too. I love the way we engage with each other here. Thank you for showing up this year to celebrate and learn with me, and to give your hearts over to every project that I threw my heart into. We’ve processed grief, raised money, read books, and made chai together... Let’s keep going! Onward ❤️LG
Like those in her boldly honest sisterhood — Oprah, Cheryl Strayed, Glennon Doyle — Gilbert talks plainly about fear, about her setbacks and delusions, about womanhood, and about spirituality. She eschews snark. She does not have children, she is not married, she defies so many of the standard expectations of women and yet somehow gives permission to a woman like me — married, a mother, in a conventional home in a conventional city out in the Midwest — to embrace my womanhood. She is not suspicious or disdainful of her female audience, she does not reject them as less-than the male literary elite who might have accepted her had she just not written about her own damn female self. In an interview with The New York Times Magazine she said of those who might praise her for suddenly attracting the “serious” male readers, “I want to say: ‘Go [expletive] yourself!’ … ‘You have no idea who the women are who read my books, and if I have to choose between them and you, I’m choosing them.’”
It has taken me years to realize that I aspire to this �� to finally recognize that I am interested in women, and in writing as a woman. I love the women at my readings who talk to me about the self, the women who write me emails and tell me how they raised their daughters. I’ve developed somewhat of an allergy to the cynicism and ruthless intelligence that often elevates endless equivocations and qualifications to the level of truth. In a recent Instagram post, Gilbert held up a homemade cake that read, Girls, girls, girls! I thought about putting a Post-it of this simple incantation above my desk, as an antidote to the constant tug of skepticism that has me wanting to prove my work is serious, canting toward whatever male taste-makers consider relevant and important.
In an interview with Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast, Elizabeth Gilbert said, “With Eat Pray Love…I sort of came out of the closet as a woman.” It sometimes feels as if so many women writers I know are still trapped in the closet of their womanhood. How can we embody it, own it, celebrate it, meaningfully interrogate it, in a literary culture in which the central question remains what it means to be and become a man?
“Our fear is contagious,�� Gilbert told Tippett, “but our courage also is. And our courage makes other people be able to be more brave and come out of their houses and come out of their shells and out of their fear.” For me, part of that courage is continuing to write about women, to be straightforward about the fact that I do, and to hope that someday this work will redefine the bounds of serious literature.