I’ve never been one to enjoy hanging out with large groups of women. I feel completely separate from those members of my sex who like to travel in gaggles. I’m not entirely sure why I feel this way, especially since I had an all female secondary school education which was a largely positive experience. But I haven’t been part of a big gang of girls since I was twelve and wore the purple satin baseball jacket that was the uniform of The Seven Deadly Sins: my group of pals whose sins were all pretty minor.
But even as adults, why aren’t women more supportive of each other? All it takes is one look at any website that draws supposedly like minded women together to see how easily the talons come out, ready to tear at any sister who doesn’t agree with the views expressed by another. And let’s not even start with the workplace. I’ve worked for women and for men and frankly, I’ll take men any day. My best experiences were with male co-workers and partners. And no, I didn’t feel like I was treated “less than” because I was female. Okay sure, I doubt my boss would have assigned any of the guys the responsibility of ordering the Christmas wine we handed out to support staff every year but frankly, I knew I was better at tying the bows around the Mylar bags and writing out the gift cards.
Ever since I was in college I’ve had a mix of male and female friends and, with apologies to When Harry Met Sally, I firmly believe heterosexual members of the opposite sex can indeed be friends. In fact, I don’t trust a man who has no platonic women in his life. Of course there has to be respect for the romantic partners of both parties. Years ago I was dating a guy who had several close female friends. One of them liked to refer to him as “Jerry” and herself as “Elaine.” (If I have to explain that that is a Seinfeld reference you need an emergency crash course in pop culture). Every Sunday morning at 9:00am (yes, I’d slept over the night before) she would call his apartment and ask if he wanted to meet her for brunch at the place they’d always gone, to which she’d given another private-joke moniker. I was furious. And frankly, I was as mad at him for not making the boundaries clear as I was at her for assuming he was free as a bird on Sunday mornings. She ultimately got the hint (and fell off the face of the earth once she tied the knot herself) but you get my point. Where was the sisterhood?
When my guy friends have been in new relationships, and certainly when they’ve gotten married, I hope I have conducted myself appropriately and shown that I know my adjusted place. I am also very lucky in that these friends are married to women I like so much we have relationships that are independent from their husbands. When we all get together for dinner the conversation is inter-sex; there is very little splintering off for ‘girl-talk’ and thank goodness for that. I find it so depressing when you look at the other tables in restaurants and the men are guffawing only with each other while the women have arranged their chairs in a little cluster.
I should make it clear that I have plenty of wonderful female friends. I see them regularly and I love each one for different reasons. Many know each other and we’ve had dinner in small groups of three, four tops. But I’ve always thought there was something so forced about a “girls’ night” whether spent out or in. My social life is not a collection of Sex and the City moments with four different ‘types’ swilling identical brightly-colored cocktails and talking explicitly about private moments with men—it’s not now and it never was, even before everyone got married and their private moments became truly private.
And here’s where my anti-gaggle stance gets a little funny. Some nights when I’m tossing and turning I put on the TV to help me get out of my head. Wouldn’t you know, my visual lullaby is The Golden Girls. You might even call them a golden gaggle. There are four of them, each one is a type, they never stop talking and I couldn’t find them more comforting. Even before the recent surge in Betty White fandom I loved ditsy Rose, saucy Blanche, tactless Sophia and of course brassy Dorothy. But the thing is they are really friends and totally have each other’s back. There’s no mean-girl behavior, no one upmanship. Talk about girl power. And I’ve always thought their life seemed kind of appealing: living with close friends (and your mother) in a sunny climate, reading magazines on the rattan couch, wearing a pastel printed nylon bathrobe. Sign me up. In 30 years. From the first strains of “Thank you for Being a Friend” I’m transported to more than a few Saturday nights back in the 80’s, curled up on the couch laughing with my sister and craving cheesecake. There was no problem a piece of cheesecake couldn’t solve for that Miami based quartet and when I tune into a rerun (between WE and the Hallmark channel I could watch 10 episodes a day if I wanted to. Poor Betty White must spend an awful lot of time driving to the bank with her fistfuls of residual checks.) it always seems to be the exact moment when Rose is setting the cake down on their kitchen table. Having an entire cheesecake in the fridge would be dangerous for someone who lives without her two best friends and her mother, so these little one-bite treats are perfect for those I-just-need-a-taste moments. But I’m happy to share them with my friends, the boys and the girls.
Golden Girls and Boys One Bite Cheesecakes
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis, Food Network
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1 cup crushed chocolate wafer crumbs (from about 15 wafers)
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (for lower fat try part-skim)
4 ounces cream cheese (for lower fat try Neufchatel)
1/2 cup sugar plus 4 Tablespoons, divided
2 oranges, zested
Preheat oven to 350, spray mini-muffin pan with cooking spray, put a kettle of water to boil.
In a medium bowl, combine cookie crumbs and butter until fully incorporated.
Place one teaspoon of crumb mixture into each muffin cup and press down firmly.
Bake chocolate crust for 3 minutes and let cool on wire rack.
Meanwhile, in bowl of food processor combine ricotta cheese, cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, zest of one orange and 2 eggs. Process until smooth.
Place 1 tablespoon or a bit more to fill each muffin cup almost to the top.
Place mini muffin tin into a larger baking pan and place in oven. Before closing oven door, pour hot water into large baking dish filling the dish with enough water to come halfway up the sides of mini muffin tin.
Bake 25 minutes.
Cool muffin tin on wire rack for 30 minutes.
Place cooled tin in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix 4 tablespoons of sugar and zest of one orange in small bowl.
Remove muffin tin from fridge and pry each mini cheesecake out of muffin cups with small knife.
Before serving top each cheesecake with about 1/4 teaspoon of orange/sugar mixture.
Yield: 24 mini cheesecakes