On my second night in Ghent, I was invited to a dinner party comprised of six women: three Belgians, two Taiwanese ladies, and myself, an American. There were hours of chopping vegetables, drinking wine, eating a chip appetizer, and talking. And as we were talking, in a mixture of three different languages between various people, a common language began to emerge. A lingua franca, if you will, that women the world over can understand.
It started with the question of romance. I asked our hostess, a strong, elegant recent divorcee with two young boys, if she was seeing anyone now, which led us into a conversation about what we wanted from love and from our lives.
It’s one of the most revealing questions you can ask a person: what do you want in a partner? Because it’s essentially asking how they want to be loved, what makes them feel safest, most fulfilled. And we share so many of those answers in common.
One thing that our hostess said, which struck me as profound, is that out of the ashes of her divorce, she has decided to be alone, at least for now, because: “The safest person to take care of you is you. You won’t let yourself fall. You’ll pick yourself up if you fail. You won’t leave yourself. And you can control the mean things you say to yourself. I just want to feel safe.”
I thought that was a beautiful way to express a very healthy desire to be alone and heal.
Of course, these beautiful, close moments also descended into silliness:
“What do you want in a man?”
“Well, also a good lover.”
“My mother told me that if you eat the hard part of the bread you will have large breasts…I am 40 and still eating the hard part of the bread, waiting.”
So, there we sat, in a beautiful mix of cultures and languages, the silly and the profound, laughing until our faces hurt, eating veggie burgers and mashed potatoes with cabbage. This, I thought, this is my favorite thing. This is the way I love to live. This is what I want around me—many cultures, many viewpoints, but all connecting in the way we love and laugh and hope.
Later in the night, I asked one of my new Taiwanese friends what her favorite place had been (as they have been traveling around Europe for a week or two now). “Here,” she said. “Laughing with all of you.”
I couldn’t agree more.