Quite a few people commented recently that my younger daughter looks after her girl pal very well which is somewhat of a surprise as she is the youngest of five, deeply indulged by her older siblings and is an alpha female. But as she storms ahead, she always looks back to see if her girl pal is OK. I guess I raised her this way, because sisterhood with women is one of the most powerful, emotionally fulfilling networks in the world. My older daughter gets lots of support and contentment from the network of women that she knew from school, whom she continues to cook for on a weekly/monthly basis. Thus, it’s a good idea to raise girls who embraces the sisterhood and believe in it ❤
About ten years ago, I was in Tbilisi. When I told my friends (expats and newly found Georgian pals) that I was going to visit my beloved friend’s mother, they said, hmmm, that’s a very “old family”, they’re very traditional and very “high up” in the social echelon. Culturally, their ways were also very different from our laid-back English casualness. Georgia had always been isolated, surrounded by hostile neighbours and since the wars and annexation of their country, there were only 3 million Georgians. Thus, Georgians fight ferociously to preserve what they have.
I must admit, I felt a bit nervous, for my beloved friend comes from a very matriarchal family. His father was away a lot, and as a child he was brought up in a women’s only household – grandmother, mother, sister. Even before she met me, there was some friction between his mother and I: he had been taking his mother’s heart pills on a regular basis, and I told him not to because it can be dangerous eating other people’s prescription pills, especially those for the heart. His mother disagreed vehemently, saying that she and her son have the same blood, therefore what worked for her will work for him, too. I should mind my own bloody business, she said, as she continued to give her son medical advice over Skype.
And so, it was with trepidation that I rang the doorbell of the family home one evening ten years ago. The whole family still lived together, in a huge, haphazard house in the old part of Tbilisi.
All at once, I was warmly embraced by female arms: the mother, the sister and the sister’s daughter. The brother-in-law, a well-known doctor, was out on the terrace barbecuing. The women hugged me, kissed my cheeks and begged me for news of my beloved friend. We didn’t have a common language – I spoke neither Georgian or Russian – but somehow, we managed. I told them his daughter gave me the Georgian name Tamuna, and by the end of the evening, I felt very comfortable being Tamuna. His sister felt like mine. We laughed so much in each other’s company as the wine flowed. Suddenly, I was part of this very warm family; our old, imagined friction disappeared the minute I walked through their front door. I loved this household of strong women, and I learned that Georgian women form very strong sisterhoods.
Photo: My old life in Tbilisi
Then four years ago, in contrast, I stepped into the “perfect” house of a woman who hated women. Everything was perfect in her house, even the spoken words, but the poison was palpable right from the start – she hated me viscerally, even before I uttered the first word (though she praised me). Till this day, I have no idea why – it could be because I was younger, it could be because I have five children whilst she struggled to have one, it could be a whole host of irrational factors, for I have not met her before. It could be because she was deeply unhappy with her plentiful life. She struggled to hide her hatred of me through her talks about books (she is very well read) and culture. But in a short while, she caused enough damage to me with her very clever strategies, though she was the perfect hostess. I felt so awful when I left her house a couple of days later, and the poison continued for a while until I severed all ties.
I don’t bear her any ill will or malice, because she is my lesson, my reminder that it is better to love than to hate. Especially our fellow women, who share the same biology as us …. because of our biology, women’s strength throughout history is to be found in our ability to build supportive networks with each other rather than have the physical strength to club another human being for supremacy as alpha males do. There will be other women who are more accomplished than you, more beautiful, richer, younger, more fertile and have more in their lives, but guess what? Together, we raise each other up and rise as a sisterhood ❤