Girls’ night out

I just had a girls’ night out (GNO) with three fabulous friends. As a woman in a same-sex partnership, I have my fill of social time with women, so my enjoyment of GNO is more about the company of the particular women I spent the evening with. But it is endlessly fascinating to be part of women’s dialogue about life.

So, what is different about the dialogue absent men? This is not a matter of banishing Neanderthals. The absentees are metrosexual, philogynists who jealously watch the women gather without them. They are rumored to be working on Guys’ Night Out, but we know this just a reaction, rather than a genuine need to communicate in an exclusively male social group.

As Jane Austen reminds us, life is all about the primacy of the domestic. The word “domestic” trivializes female experience, and yet the domestic realm is where the great themes of life—birth, marriage (let’s interpret that in the broadest sense), and death—take place. And men are part of it. Yet women feel the utmost sense of liberation and affirmation when gathered together to share and validate domestic experience.

A good GNO should be funny, insightful, and cathartic. We laughed, we cried etc. Some guidelines follow:

  • Good to have at least one mother in the group if not more. The sense of decadence and liberation experienced by a mother leaving her child in the safe care of the other parent or babysitter adds an element of giddiness to the whole evening. This will not work if the child is ill or there is any other reason for anxiety on the part of the mother at being separated from her biggest life responsibility ever.
  • It’s important to have balance in the group regarding the mother/non-mother status. It’s fine to have the group 100% one way or the other, but you don’t want just one mother or non-mother in a minority. They will totally miss out on the validation of their particular experience and feel judged for their lifestyle choice. This does not apply to other lifestyle differences that can be easily accommodated in such a group. It’s just that kids really are the big experience divider.
  • The consumption of food is of course paramount. GNO is best enjoyed at an elegant restaurant with good service. Don’t make us work for our food. Dessert is a must, preferably shared to give a sense of group, rather than individual, indulgence, thus spreading the guilt, responsibility, and joy of consuming. GNO without dessert is a travesty. (And it doesn’t hurt when the restaurant owner offers to buy you a round of drinks.)
  • Any social group should be able to withstand a mix of personalities, but all must be ready to share domestic experience and secrets. GNO should feel like a place where private experience, however trivial, dramatic, shocking, illegal, or boring, can be disclosed and appropriately received by the group. The revelation of weakness and vulnerability is an act of friendship. Those who cannot share have no place at GNO.
  • GNO is an excellent place to give advice masked as conversation. There is room for strong opinion provided no one feels directed or bullied. This is all about empowerment and most women have perfected the art of advising without oppressing.
  • Conversation at GNO will take off like a pre-crash Concorde if there is a shared target. There is nothing more bonding and affirming than having a group agree on the inappropriate (my favorite word ever), inadvisable, incomprehensible behavior of another.
  • GNO in winter should have parking near the restaurant.

Good night and good luck.

One response to “Girls’ night out”

  1. ssw says:

    Hi Stella! Thanks for the tips! I’m headed out for a GNO tonight–I’ve printed out your advice to take with me and I’ll report back any key insights :)