Growing up, I thought I wasn’t a joiner. I didn’t belong to any groups in school or college. I didn’t know how to just join something on my own, I had to know someone or be invited. But women’s liberation changed all that. It was the first place where I felt that I totally belonged. And women’s liberation gave me the courage and confidence to join other groups.
And now... I belong to so many groups. Groups that have kept me sane through the pandemic. Social isolation has meant isolation from face-to-face gathering, but Zoom has been a lifesaver. I know there are people who hate Zoom, but without Zoom, I would have been really isolated. Seeing people, even on Zoom, has been better for me than the telephone. But back to groups. Here are the groups I have been Zooming with over the past year.
1. Women’s group. This group has been meeting for more than 20 years. It’s a group I organized in my mid-50s, after a conversation with a friend about whether I was thinking about women and aging and sex. In fact, I had been, and began asking my friends whether they’d like to be in a group to discuss these issues. Once I had a critical mass, six or seven women, I think, we held a meeting, and we were off. There’s much more I could say about this group, but let’s get on to my other groups.
2. Writers’ group. I joined this group a few years before the women’s group started. I was teaching journalism at the time, and one of my students invited me to a reading by her writers’ group. I had been thinking about a writing project, and I wasn’t going to get tenure at my teaching job. I went to the reading, each reader was better than the next, and I got up the courage to ask if I could join them. Of course, they said, and that writing project go underway. I could say lots more about this group, too.
3. Book group 1. This is a group I joined when I noticed that a friend in my writing group was reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63, which I was also reading. She was reading it for her book group, and I asked if I could join them for that discussion, because I wanted to talk about this novel. Of course, she said, and I was in a new group. This group alternates fiction and nonfiction, which
4. Book group 2. Initially, this group started to discuss aging and retirement. It was mostly historians, many at the university where I had taught, and soon it evolved to be a political group once Trump was elected. But after almost three years of politics, our organizer felt she was in so many other political groups, she wanted respite. Let’s read novels, she suggested, and that’s what we’ve done for the past many months — though even the novels we’ve read have had a political bent.
5. Book group 3. A woman I’d known for many years had terminal cancer. Years earlier I had invited her to my women’s group, but she was already in a group talking about retirement — they called it “refirement” — so after she died, I asked if I could meet with her group, and stayed. Many of the members were midwives, ret. It had become a book group as well, but relied more on books that were available at the library, so not the latest titles.
6. Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon. I learned about this salon from the writing friend whose book group I’d joined. This group, started by a lawyer by day, poet by night, meets monthly with a featured writer who holds a brief workshop, reads from her (occasionally his) work followed by a Q&A, and then an open mike. From one of the members, I heard about the next writing community.
7. Creative Expression NYC (originally Open Expression in Harlem). This group also meets monthly, and also includes a featured writer and an open mike, though with the open mike first.
8. Movie group. Another friend started this monthly group. We agree on a film in advance, see it on our own time, and then meet to discuss. Once we couldn’t agree on just one film, so for a while we would see two movies to discuss, often a foreign film. When one of our members’ macular degeneration made subtitles hard to read, we’d always have one English-language film along with the non-English-language film. There’s also a strong political bent to the movies we choose.
Is there another group I’ve missed? Aren’t these enough?
I’m participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. This is day 8 of the 31-day challenge. It’s not too late to make space for daily writing in a community that is encouraging, enthusiastic, and eager to read what you have to slice about. Join in!