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Monday, July 31, 2006


I just read an article in a local newspaper about some women who are “crazy” for joining any gathering. The main reason is that they need to socialize with other people. Other benefits to such activity are they will get more friends—in some certain time friends can be like family members--, they will get more business clients, and sometimes they also can get financial aid.
In Indonesia, especially in the scale of neighborhood, it is very common for women to have such a gathering. And it is especially for women who have got married. They meet once a month in one member’s house. Some things they usually do are (1) collecting some money; after the money is collected, they will do lucky draw to decide who will get the money, (2) the head of the neighborhood will give some information related to the need of the housewives, sometimes it is related to the welfare of the toddlers, (3) some neighborhood gatherings have cooperatives that offer the members to rent some money or some daily needs (such as rice, sugar, flour, frying oil, etc.)
This kind of gathering is for married women, and I recognize that in this community women are no longer addressed using their own names, they already become “Mrs. X”. I read it as the “killing of the old self of women”.
Such gathering also happens in many companies. Again, mostly this is for the wives. The husbands work in the companies, the wives get to know each other via this gathering.
Once, a private student of mine who joined a fitness center told me that she and her gym friends also have such gatherings. And from the article I read this morning, I found out that there are many other kinds of gatherings—mostly have women as the members.
When I was a kid, I didn’t find it strange to see my mother attending such gatherings. I saw it as a “normal” thing to do. She has four children, a fulltime housewife, and she had one housemaid at home. Absolutely she had some free time to do that. Besides, I also saw it as she did some social jobs, such as visiting the orphanage and the house for the elderly with her gathering friends, etc.
After I got married and my mom forced to join one gathering in our neighborhood, I realized that in fact I felt reluctant to do that. With the neighbors calling me as “Mrs. X”, I felt more unease. I had to lose my old self as single Nana.  Besides, different from my mom who is a fulltime housewife, I am an employee. With my teaching schedules mostly done in the evening, I often couldn’t join the gathering. And in fact, it aroused a new problem, at least for me, the neighbors started to “see me differently” as someone very busy. They mostly still stick to the old principle of course that women’s place is at home, if a woman works, she had better not do it until late; women are not supposed to work until evening, coz evenings are time for the family. Some neighbors started to “greet” me, “Always busy, eh? Much money then? What if your husband is not satisfied with your being busy like that?” bla bla bla … It made me feel they violated my rights to work, and also to do any other thing to my heart’s content, as long as I don’t harm other people. What did they know about my life?
So, instead of seeing such gathering as beneficial, I saw it as something useless. Some members tend to gossip about the other members. Sometimes it got worse by making the members ‘categorized’ into some groups; one group dislike the others and vice versa. Some members tend to show off what they have to the others.
One workmate of mine who got married some years ago and started to live in a rented house in one neighborhood and join such gathering there also felt fed up with it. “It is very useless for me to join such a gathering.” She said to me some weeks ago. However, she still remembered that her mother warned her to join such a gathering coz “It is very beneficial.” But she didn’t see the benefits for herself.
For fulltime housewives, perhaps it is a good thing to do. For employees, like my workmate and me, we already socialize with our workmates, with our students, private students, so we no longer need to spare some time to attend the meetings of such gatherings in the neighborhood. We still can be good neighbors without joining it, as long as we don’t do any harm to the others.
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