(Today’s post is dedicated with graditude and admiration to my dear gal pals – Joanne, Lisa, and Elizabeth.)
If only we owned enough couture to be part of the “Lipstick Jungle.” And sorry, we’re far too prudish to boast the boudoir high jinks of “Sex and the City.”
What we are is the “Woo Hoo Wednesday Club.”
We are four women of color _ two of us married, and two of us single. Two of us are in our 40s, one is in her 30s, and one is in her 50s. Once merely friendly acquaintances, we are now true bosom buddies, drawn tighter into sisterhood by circumstances beyond our control. Each of us was laid off from our jobs. From the same newspaper. On the same day.
Layoffs are nothing new in Silicon Valley, where life changes in a nanosecond. One year a company is soaring stratospherically; the next it’s plummeting in freefall off the NASDAQ.
Yet for three of us, this was a brand new experience. All of a sudden a pink slip was not a girly, silk undergarment we donned to feel pretty, but something ugly and demeaning thrust upon us that we were forced to wear.
Joanne is a photographer. Elizabeth is a features designer. Lisa and I are writers. For years at our former company, that is what we were. Now, together, we hope to find what we can be next.
For anyone who has been summarily dismissed from a job they not only loved but were damn good at, there is shock, there is anger, there is sorrow, and there is more than plenty of fear.
We lugged all that to the table for the first time on a Wednesday afternoon, as we sat together at a cushy, red banquette over morsels of dim sum and icy glasses of Thai basil lemonade.
It wasn’t long before something surprising happened: As we began devouring dumplings, we also began filling up on collective strength. It was lunch – girl power-style.
Lisa dubbed it “Woo Hoo Wednesday” for how cathartic and empowering it proved to be. After all, nobody really knows what you’re going through except someone else going through it, too.
We griped about the exorbitant costs of footing our own healthcare insurance now. We feared we’d fall behind on our mortgage payments. We commiserated about how strange it was to wake up each day, and not have anywhere to be.
As the weeks went by, we shared more “Woo Hoo” lunches of spicy, sizzling Korean rice bowls and hot barley tea. And little by little, the walls all tumbled down. As Elizabeth and I struggled with post-traumatic layoff syndrome, Lisa offered strength and wisdom, having survived this ordeal twice before. “You will be fine,” she kept repeating. “You will be better than you were before.”
Elizabeth bit her lip, finally admitting she still hadn’t gathered the courage to tell her Mom she had lost her job. When we asked why, the tears began.
”Do you think she’ll worry?” I asked. “Do you think somehow she will be disappointed in you?”
Yes, Elizabeth nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks.
It wasn’t so many decades ago that a pink slip carried a shameful stigma. But in this day and age, it has sadly become all too commonplace and acceptable. Talk about a strange sense of progress.
“She won’t think that,” I assured Elizabeth. “She’s your Mom and she would want to comfort you the way only a mother can. You need to tell her.”
Elizabeth dried her tears, and promised she would.
As the weeks progressed, we, ladies who lunch, slowly but surely propped up one another even more. Elizabeth created my food blog logo. In exchange, I footed two of her “Woo Hoo” lunch tabs. Joanne snapped my photo for my promotional materials. In return, I edited her biography for her wedding photography Web site.
Lisa sent us information about every employment site she came across. Joanne patiently explained the process of getting a business license to those of us who might need one someday. When Joanne mulled whether to build storage cabinets in her studio, Elizabeth offered up the number of her trusty handyman. And all four of us got jazzed to take a basic Web site design class together.
We celebrated tiny milestones, clinking glasses of fizzy soda in tribute when Joanne was hired to photograph two weddings, when Lisa told us about a university grant-writing job she was considering, and when Elizabeth got calls back for interviews for design jobs.
The anger and grief are gone, replaced by laughter and optimism. Once, we were made to feel as if we weren’t good enough. But we have proven just what a talented, resourceful, and caring bunch we are.
We may not know exactly what the future holds for us yet. But we have taken the first steps toward the next chapter of our lives. And we have each other to thank for that. We may have lost something the day our former company showed us the door. But we found something greater in each other.
When we lost our jobs, consoling friends and family members told us to consider this time off a gift. We thought them crazy. Now, we realize how right they were.
We remember when a leisurely lunch like this was unfathomable at our former newspaper, with our then-deadline-filled, pressure-percolating days.
No, this isn’t how we used to spend our Wednesday afternoons at all. And someday, when we are all deeply entrenched in our careers once again, we may no longer have time regularly for these long lunches that have nourished us in ways we never would have imagined.
For now, though, we can’t think of a more wonderful way to spend our Wednesdays.
Woo hoo. Indeed.