The word ‘harem’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harem) often conjures up sexual visions where multiple female dancers hand feed a lone aging fat man grapes while twitching their finely tuned abdominal muscles and showering him with kisses.
However, in reality the word has nothing to do with men or sex or cheesy belly dancing outfits. Harem is defined as a ‘sphere for women, a sacred inviolable place.’ It comes from the Arabic word harīm which literally means forbidden. Men are not allowed inside, nor are they privy to what happens within its walls.
The notion of a harem isn’t unique to muslim households. Women across the world have been creating female sanctuaries for centuries where they reveal their secrets, solve problems, and create lifelong bonds. Sometimes it’s inside a beauty parlor (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098384/), other times it’s sipping tea on the front porch, and every once in a while it’s at a bachelorette party.
I drove up to Sonoma (https://www.sonomacounty.com/) for the weekend to join ten other women at a house tucked away in Sonoma’s wine country. It was a true California bachelorette celebration filled with overflowing wine, decadent food, and saucy conversation. As I drove through the hills to join the girls, my mind whirled with career options, romance potentials, and that never ending question of “what should I do with my life.” I could lock myself up in a room and debate options with my schizophrenic inner voices or I could rely on the wisdom of other women. As soon as I arrived I was greeted with cheers, hugs, and a large glass of bubbly. “So tell us the news,” they asked.
I had known some of the girls for years, others I met just that day. However, once I walked into the party and clinked my first glass, the rules of the harem took over. I felt safe, uninhibited, and deeply united to each woman by a common love for our soon-to-be wedded friend and the crazy beauty of our sex. I toasted our bachelorette of honor, took a sip, and divulged my thoughts without any fear of judgment.
“Let’s just admit it, we are all a little crazy,” said one girl after our second wine tasting of the day, “But that is what makes us so irresistible!”
We all laughed and continued to share our stories, not to compete with one another but rather to find common ground.
Men like to fantasize that when women get together they strut around naked and throw feathered pillows at one another. This isn’t ‘completely’ true. Although we may freely saunter around in inappropriate attire, the real nakedness we reveal is on the inside (https://heidiisern.com/naked/).
“He was the love of my life… and I don’t know if I’ll feel that way again.”
“I’ve done the colonic thing… this is what it’s really like…”
“I just started online dating and am scared shitless…”
“Can I lie about my age?”
“Yes, I’m going in for another cheese course… will you help me zip up my dress later?”
From lasagna recipes to ‘doggy style’ tactics, we shared all our secrets.
“If you just do this,” said one girl demonstrating a talented move with her hips, “it’s actually kind of awesome” (she wasn’t talking about making lasagna).
In moments like these we realize we are not alone; we can rely on each other to help us navigate the ‘trickier’ parts of life.
I drove back from the weekend with a slight hangover (this group of women wasn’t good at restraint), a borrowed mink stole (“you must wear it to the wedding”), a few decisions, and a tingle of appreciation. As I approached San Francisco, I watched the fog slowly lick the folds of the Marin hills, languidly seeping its gray self into the deep blue sky. It was a sign that life was sensual and mysterious, with a kaleidoscope of bright and dark spots that women can best relate to.
They say that men come and go, children grow up and leave, and careers change. Luckily our circle of women friends will always be there to help us throughout each trial in our life. I am infinitely grateful for the weekend and other times when women band together. I would reveal more but that would violate the sanctity of the harem.
heidiisern.com, Oktober 2012