I consider myself something of a retirement maven, having left my full-time career almost 15 years ago. On paper and in practice, it would appear that I have followed all advice in my preparation for a worry-free future. My financial advisor gave me the thumbs up, I mended any social rifts and I have maintained a grueling schedule of doctor’s appointments in the interest of remaining healthy. Over time, I have gradually eased into a “life is good” lifestyle, and I thank all those retirement gurus who helped me get here.
Yet, despite all the information out there regarding what one can expect for a happy retirement, there remains a glaring gap in the tomes and sites of advice. I have not suffered a void of purpose, passion vacuum or social abyss. Filling my days is not a challenge. Making ends meet is not my problem. What I miss are those spontaneous and empowering communal gatherings in the ladies’ room.
Not merely a necessary space of rote and routine, this is a place where we women can all go and just be. Competitions and hostilities, rampant in the jungle of cubicles and staff meetings, seem to melt away when women meet in solidarity in what is euphemistically called “the little girls’ room.”
Lipstick smudged? You could count on your arch rival from accounting to help you repair yourself. Hair tousled? Your girl from contracts always had just the right spray to settle it down. Disappointing performance review? How did that the quiet young woman from operations always have just the right words to get you back on your feet, and ready to take a stand?
Tampons, eye shadow, a shoulder to cry on, a joke to minimize the drama du jour, an ear to vent in…it was all there and shared in the ladies’ room.
Since leaving the grind of the 9 to 5, I poignantly feel the lack of fellowship that comes from meeting the same gals in that shared space throughout the day. What I now possess in privacy I lack in harmony. I miss the jokes about “we must be on the same schedule” or “see you in a few hours.” Like squares of a multicolored quilt that we stitched together to support one another, these meetings became the underpinnings of our social fabric as women in a workplace that time and again showed itself as hostile to us.
Out in hallways where we briefly nod to each other or in meeting rooms where we argue points that could make or break careers, we might be rivals, pitted against one another by the often-toxic conditions that incite us to turn on each other. But in here, in the ceramic-tiled, fluorescently brilliant oasis, which definitely never showed our best side, we come together to take care of the real business of the day. We are all the same, just trying to make it, despite the harassment, hostility and intimidation that often defines our workplace. We hold each other up in here, so we can put our best foot forward out there.
Though the circumstances of my life have changed, and I no longer inhabit a shared workplace, the call for female companionship looms large. A refuge unlike any other, I have not quite been able to replicate those ladies’ rooms bonds in my retired life. Oh, sure, I have lunches, exercise classes and phone calls that connect me to like-minded friends. But, the steadiness and sisterhood in the little girls’ room was like a metronome beating a rhythm that lent a backdrop and stability to my day.
And, so, as I continue to alert women to the triumphs and tribulations of retirement living, I will make certain to put at the top of the list: Cherish your sisters in the ladies’ room. The bond is unbreakable.