The party was full of the kind of hip, earthy, intellectual women I admired the most. Sipping warm spiced cider in front of a table of homemade breads, kale salads, empanadas and fancy olives, I surveyed the room with satisfaction; every admirable profession was accounted for. Lawyers. Professors. Teachers. An advanced practice nurse, a school board member, several community organizers and social workers. The party had been advertised as women-only, a continuation of the energy generated at the Women’s Marches around the country.
The woven scarves and harem pants were beautiful. The edgy t-shirts and great boots implied a confidence in the freedom of an all-woman crowd that doesn’t need to impress itself. There was tribal-style jewelry; there were big chunky rings and simple leather bracelets; there were a few visible tattoos, surely with great stories.
The host, a woman I’d admired from the moment I met her, had invited me to her home several times in the decade during which we’d been acquainted. She was a social justice warrior, worldly and fascinating, beautiful in an interesting way, with a sexual allure that transcended — or maybe was enhanced by — her wild salt-and-pepper hair. Her children and mine were close in age but not friends.
I should have known better, but the idea of being in her orbit — even as a minor, outlying planet — was still as seductive as when we’d met. A slightly geeky, bookish kid, I grew up always far on the outskirts of the in-crowd, at best ignored and, at worst, ridiculed. As an adult, my own community grew the fastest after my children started school and I met other parents on the playground. With all of our offspring around the same age, the conversation flowed easily; developmental struggles, school politics, and community gossip were the great equalizers. In my early 30s, I settled into my skin and forged my own identity: progressive parent, liberal thinker, small business owner, amateur musician, writer. It was like wearing ill-fitting corduroys my entire life, only to slip, finally, into the world’s best, most flattering jeans. I met the host when I joined her synagogue, shyly querying whether I’d seen her on the playground at our children’s elementary school.
Ten years later, parent of a high school freshman, I found myself at this…