DinHer Club

Kathleen, Jael, Alisha, and Kathryn

The Brunch Club

Ottawa, Canada

Pre-pandemic, and no longer willing to wait for the moment when she had a boyfriend in order to try out the many fancy, fun places and restaurants in her city, Jael invited a group of women to join her and thus the DinHer Club was formed.  Once a month, anywhere from 8 -18 women met at a restaurant and had dinner together. 

From this large group, a smaller group of four women now get together once a month for brunch. This foursome all work in social services and their paths had crossed through their professional lives.  Kathleen, whom Jael has known the longest used to work with Jael; Kathryn was a mentor to Jael when she was in school and then they lived in the same apartment block for three or four years; and Alisha shared a hotel room at a work conference with Jael and it was a great experience and they’ve been spending time together ever since. The DinHer Club had a wreath making party and it was at that party that things really “clicked” for this group of women. Not only do they meet for brunch, but this group likes to shop together and cheer each other on when they find the perfect outfit. 

My undergraduate degree is in Social Work, and I know how hard this profession can be.  It’s part of the reason why I went back to business school—I knew that I would burn out if I remained in social services for the rest of my career.  To have a group like this to share what happens during your day and know that there will be no shock because of the comfort and safety felt within the group is invaluable in this line of work. They are able to have honest conversations about situations.

Each of the women have their own groups of friends, but there is something unique and special about this group when they get together. 

They described their group and their conversations as authentic, honest and hilarious. 

If you can find a group of women, any age, who are supportive and kind and love you, that’s the best. I am lucky enough to have a group of girlfriends that I would do anything for. They’ve picked me up through bad times and I can say I’ve done the same for them. You have to take the initiative to find your people. Just like Jael, I love good food. When I first moved to Victoria I didn’t know anyone other than work colleagues. I decided that my husband and I, both of whom love food, should start a dinner club. Through six degrees of separation I was able to get three other couples together all of whom had recently moved to Victoria-a friend from high school; a work colleague of a good friend I met on a summer job; and a sister-in-law of a friend from grad school. It’s been 25 years, 12 of which I have not been an active member–showing up only when I’m back in town. However, the women continue to be an integral part of my life and though not as often, the group continues to meet.

So the question I posed to these women, is “How do you find your squad of women?”

Jael commented that “It’s important to have your historical friendships from high school, and family members. As you get older and you start to understand who you are and what you value, surrounding yourself with people that share your values is key to having friendships that are not taxing or exhausting. These friends fill your cup up, build you up and you leave any interaction excited for the next time you get to see them.

Alisha says “friendship can come in different shapes and forms. Look for relationships where you feel energized at the end of meeting rather than ones where it takes something away from you–a friend should add good, rich things to your life.  If you’re in spaces with people where you feel lonely or you feel you have to hide pieces of yourself, those people aren’t your people. Keep looking. You should be able to show all the different sides of yourself with your group of girlfriends.”

Kathleen said, “The big dinHer club where there were sometimes as many as 18 people was a little nerve wracking but being courageous and putting yourself in those situations to try and make connections with people is the best way to go about it and find your people.” She didn’t know anyone at first and just put herself out there. 

Both Kathryn and Jael commented that you need to honour what feels good—so if you find yourself stopping yourself from saying things or not being able to be genuine or honest or maybe you leave feeling disconnected or anxious about having shared something or your not excited to see certain friends–honour how you feel! It’s okay to have those friendships–we all have them.  What you want in this group are genuine connections. Look for friends where your interests are because that’s where you’ll find people in your adult life who connect with you now versus people who you know because you lived in the same community or went to the same school.

If gathering people together does not come naturally to you, Priya Parker, in her book, The Art of Gathering provides advice on how to do it. She says, “It starts with your need.” Ms. Parker uses the example of a mother who is working outside the home, last year teaching kids at home, cooking, cleaning, etc. and was completely burned out. She was feeling exhausted and still wanting to carve out time to spend with her girlfriends. The woman sent out an email to her girlfriends for an Exhausted Mom Dinner. Her friends responded immediately and the group was started. In the case of this group of women, Jael started with a need/desire which was to go to some nice restaurants without having to wait for a guy to go on a date. From that need, she determined the format–a dinner out at one of the restaurants with girl friends and the DinHer club was created. Jael is a natural, instinctive gatherer of people.

The next point is about roles–people play different roles in the group. Jael is the ‘gatherer” and the brunches are held at Jael’s because in her own words, “I like to control things and I love hosting.” Everyone brings something to the table–alcohol, fruit, the all important bacon and even recipes. The menu for their brunch during our interview was quiche and two types of pancakes–vanilla bean with Earl Grey cream and lemon poppyseed. This group likes to cook together but it doesn’t have to be that elaborate–order in or make it a potluck.

Lastly, its the atmosphere. In this case, they’ve all known each other for years and more importantly, Kathleen commented that it’s a safe group of women.  “I’m incredibly vulnerable on a different level than with other groups of friends I have because I know I’ll be supported and there will be no judgement.” Alisha summed it up, “The older I get, the more complicated life is and the more busy life is and the more pulls in different directions I have, friendships that are low barrier, easy and accessible where we make time for each other and put in the effort and you can talk about anything are the life blood of my life. Without this group, I wouldn’t know what to do with all my thoughts and energy and feelings.  We share our deep dark secrets and the beautiful successes of our lives.  It’s a really powerful, supportive group of women and I feel really grateful to be a part of it.”

During Covid, Ottawa had very strict lock down rules–Jael, being single, was allowed to see one other family.  She committed to not seeing anyone else so she could visit Kathryn’s family.  Alisha and Jael worked together and were able to see one another through work but were asked not to see each other outside of work.  They still stayed in touch in other ways.   Now that they are all fully vaccinated, they’ve been able to start up the brunches again.  The full DinHer Club will start in November, now that all the restaurants are open.  Starting next month, the men in their lives, who haven’t met each other, will be allowed to join them for dinner every second month.  And of course, this dinner with partners will be held at Jael’s. As for the larger dinHer club, no men allowed.

Broadcast Love wishes you many more years of celebrating your lives together and supporting one another.

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