A Sense of Connection: LaoTong

Cover of "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan:...

Cover of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel

Almost two weeks ago I went with my friend Cindy to see the movie “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”  We are both Lisa See fans and read this book in preparation of seeing the movie this summer… and then thought we’d be renting it (ala “Jane Eyre”) but it came to Rochester with an Independent Movie Series!  Yay!

We both agreed that it was a beautiful movie, even with the modern storyline which wasn’t part of the book.  The book tells the story of two girls who are matched to be LaoTongs, or Old Sames, at a young age.  Wikipedia and Lisa See (the author) describe LaoTongs in this way:

Lao Tong or Old Sames was a more rare and formal relationship between women and was exclusive and life-long. Women of suitable birthdays, ages, backgrounds and birth-signs would be paired this way in a bond of exclusive sisterhood that would last a lifetime and would survive marriage, child-birth and widow-hood. A Lao Tong relationship would be rarely renounced or broken. (Wikipedia)

“A laotong match is as significant as a good marriage,” Lily’s aunt explained. “A laotong relationship is made by choice for the purpose of emotional companionship and eternal fidelity. A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose – to have sons.” “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” is the story of such a friendship. (Lisa See)

I haven’t been paired with an Old Same since birth, but I do have friendships with amazing women that have survived (ha!) marriages and children and distance.  I also see great value in creating meaningful relationships and maintaining connections with them.  After I read “The Girls from Ames” I set out to create a group of women that meets monthly to create a real-life network of amazing women, to learn from each other and support each other.  We are in our second year and our time together is something I look forward to each month!

The Chinese women sworn to be Old Sames used a secret women’s language – nushu – to communicate with each other.  We use Facebook, email, or phone calls to maintain connection with those who live a distance away, or we use walks, dinners, or girls’ night out to maintain and grow connections with those we can have more frequent contact with. No need to send servants between villages and households with secret language written on fans, but we can write letters to be delivered by the US Postal Service.

With the release of the DVD on 11/1, many book clubs are having LaoTong Nights – groups of women getting together to watch the movie and discuss their female friendships and the things they do (or can do) to maintain connections.  Below is the information they are encouraging people to think about and discuss as they think about their friendships and watch “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”

What would you add to the list below?  Have you ever planned a way to reconnect with someone you lost touch with?

Lily and Snow Flower had an intense friendship that lasted a lifetime.  Nushu helped them communicate and remain close, even in distance.  Everyone has that old friend they have known for a long time, yet find it hard to keep in touch.  Both get busy with their separate lives and don’t take the time to catch up with one another.  In honor of Snow Flower and the Secret Fancoming to Blu-ray and DVD November 1st, here’s a guide for keeping in touch with your besties, through whatever life may put between you.

Write Letters

There’s nothing like a handwritten letter to let someone know that you care and are thinking about them. Make a point of writing to your long-distance friend at least once a month, and giving them updates on what’s going on in your life, and asking what’s new in their life. If you’re so inclined, you can include photos or other small tokens of your friendship with your letters. This simple, heartfelt update will go a long way in making your friendship last.

Take a Trip Together

If it’s within both of your budgets, you and your bestie should take a trip together! Meet up in different places each year – places that are either meaningful to you both, or places that you two have always wanted to visit together. Have a weekend in Las Vegas, a week at the theme parks in Orlando, a glamorous trip to Hollywood, or a long, restful weekend in New England. Making new memories (or reliving old ones) will help keep your friendship vibrant.

Skype

One of the greatest inventions for modern day friendships is Skype. Making a weekly or biweekly “Skype date” can give you a chance to both talk to and see your long-distance friend on a regular basis. Best of all, Skype is free to use, even if you’re video-chatting someone internationally! Skype is great because, in addition to getting to hear your friend’s voice, you can also actually show them what’s new with you, or do something new together!

Start an Online Photo Album

There are so many different ways to share photos online these days, and you and your friend should take advantage of that! You can make a private album that only the two of you can access (you can do this on Facebook, PhotoBucket, etc.), and then you can both upload and comment on each other’s photos and keep up with what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Send Each Other Gifts

If you’re ever out shopping and see a little something that reminds you of your friend, or something you think your friend would love, why not send it to them? With USPS’ Flat Rate Boxes, you can send as much as you want to your long-distance friend for a small fee. Why not make a care package, filled with things you know they like (like homemade treats, or products specific to your area that they can’t get where they live)? If you exchange small gifts every few months, it will remind your friend that you’re thinking about them, and help you two stay friends forever.

Books and Movies – Love ’em!

Before the midnight showing of Harry Potter pt 2

I ended up going to a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2, with no regrets.  Marissa and I watched Pt. 1 on PPV at home (without popcorn) and then went to the theatre!  We arrived around 10:45 and the there were a lot of people there in costumes and I don’t know how many theatres were actually sold out.  The one we were in was already 2/3 full by the time we got there.  It was exciting to be there with all of the other “giddy” people, to hear the applause throughout the movie – even before the movie started – and to watch the final book come to life.  There were differences, of course, but there was also word-for-word sameness in a lot of dialogue.  Good stuff.

The books are more amazing, of course, but the movies add to the experience.  One of my favorite podcasts, Filmspotting, reviewed the movie after reading ZERO of the books (or even seeing all of the movies), so they had tons of questions, although they gave the movie pretty good reviews.  Marissa hadn’t read any books beyond the first and enjoyed the movies on their own.

So now what?  Other book-related movies are coming out soon.

  • “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” is in theatres now (7/15) but I don’t see it showing up in Rochester for a while… I will keep my eyes peeled for that one.  I had that one on audio but lost it somewhere (probably on my dead iPod) so I downloaded a digital version from the library (MobiPocket Reader anyone??? Yikes… another program downloaded to read books) but also requested a paperback – and today I got an email that it was ready and waiting!  Yay!  I’ll dig in tonight!
  • “The Help” comes out on August 10 – and it looks so good!  What a fun book to read and discuss.  It will be a book club event to see that together!
  • “One Day” comes out August 19.  (July 15 was the ONE DAY featured in the book!  Should have acknowledged it!)  I look forward to seeing that book on the screen.  I enjoyed reading it – mostly – although the ending didn’t sit right with me.  😦
  • “Jane Eyre” hasn’t made it to Rochester yet – meaning it won’t?  It was released in April, so that’s probably a good bet.  I have it in my Netflix queue but there’s no release date there yet.  Sigh.  I read that book in anticipation of the movie.  I’m glad I caught up with a classic and I know there are multiple versions of the movie that I can pick fromI
  • “Sarah’s Key” was made into a movie!  The book about the Vel’d’Hiv Roundup in 1942 in France was another sad Holocaust story, telling about another unknown-to-me piece of history.  Kristin Scott Thomas stars and it might be French, as the title is listed as “Sarah’s Key (Elle s’appelait Sarah)”.  Releases 7/22!
  • I heard that “Austenland” is being made into a movie starring Keri Russel.  I liked that book, so that’s pretty fun.  Gotta love all things Austen!
There’s the “movie news” portion of the blog – ha!  Just so much good stuff coming up, I guess.  Lots of good material to choose from!
Speaking of book club events, we had book club this afternoon.  I got there late – around 2pm – and we discussed our book (“Olive Kitteredge”) very little!  No one loved the book, although a few of us thought it was good enough.  It’s really short stories about small town life with the character of Olive showing up, being featured, or simply being mentioned somehow in each one.  So the plot and story-line was not easy to follow and the characters were many and difficult to remember.
But oh, did we laugh about other stuff!  Suddenly it was 5:10 and we wondered if we were staying for supper!  Good stories and catch-up time.  Who knows what we’ll do next, but it may be just a movie date along with dinnertime discussion of “Heaven is For Real,” since many had read it already and really wanted to discuss it when done.
Well, I can’t wait to dig in to “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”  What are you excited to read?  What movies are you excited to see?
Off to read!