So, yesterday was Saturday and my leaving of that lovely wild cottage – (www.treshnish.co.uk) I cleaned with eco cleaners, polished with eco polish and hoovered with Henry. I stripped my cotton bedcovers, took out the rubbish in recyclable bags, left some wood and kindling for the next lucky tenants and forgot to lay the fire. Then I drove very slowly away down the little track, noticing every flower and grass, the sliding sea and with my window open to hear the birds. I saw birds there that I never see here and that was gaspish.
Then the night came and it thinked me of all those girls in hardly anything and squealing with cocktail excitement, ready and stoked for a pavement/pub/club fumble and tumble in the mistaken belief that love is awaiting them this night. The bogfug of it all will be in their heads this morning. The questions, the memories of feeling horribly alone in a big and noisy crowd, out of kilter, out of money, out of themselves. Not all of them, of course, but oh so many. They will tell themselves, after a few Panadol and a Berocca that it was great fun and absolutely worth it because what else will a girl say when she feels a right twit, once again? I remember going to the Pony Club dance with hair set like plastic and enough make up on to send me into a face plant at the slightest push from behind. I remember feeling cold and lonely and riddled with regret as I stood, wallflower straight against the side wall, whilst the man of my dreams dance with everyone but me.
Mrs Beeton in her heyday would, I feel sure, have had plenty to say about gels like us, the wild ones who climbed out of windows to get away from home, who pretended it was fun because to admit the truth would have made us very vulnerable indeed. She would have tsked a lot. Nice girls, after all, never went out half naked into the streets. Those sorts of girls were asking for it, whatever it was and, to be honest, most of us have no idea of the reality of ‘it’ beyond the romantic lie of the Hollywood love story. Nice girls are supposed, for most of a Saturday night, looking wistfully up from their sewing and out of their bedroom windows as the world squeals itself along crowded pavements, flickering with sparkles and in scanty clothing 3 sizes too small.
That outdated style of thinking is not as outdated as it possibly should be. On the other hand, no mother or father wants to think of their daughter lying face down on a cold pavement, throwing up at 4 am. But this desperate need to strut our stuff is just the surface of a very deep emptiness that can last long enough to have us running into marriage without really thinking it through. We can discover, way too late, that the confines from which we ran have travelled with us. The Saturday night ache comes back on a weekly basis. I felt it last night, that longing to be swept off my feet and out to a buzzing Italian restaurant, full of people and music and excitement. Sewing and peering out of windows just doesn’t cut the mustard.
We are older now, I tell myself. You and me both. We shouldn’t hanker for such nonsense, but, instead make our antimacassars the envy of our peers and perfect our art of high rise buns, iced, of course. We must find our joy in our children and in their children, deeming it the height of delight to be asked, on a regular basis, to babysit for nobody wants a stranger getting anywhere near their little darlings who refuse to go to their beds no matter how much granny wheedles and readles. It is not ladylike to want that which is no longer available and, besides, once over 65, it is not the thing to prance about in sauncy boots, leggings and a tunic.
See how the outdated system travels with us? Deferring to men is as well in place as it was a hundred years ago. When the Ideal Wives come by 3 times a day, I can see that himself is in heaven. The carers (Ideal Wives) are there to serve and serve they do. I watch them almost curtsey. By comparison I am a veritable troublemaker, a fallen wife, for I will challenge and I will disagree and I will not jump to arms on an order. Actually, it is quite a laugh between himself and I, but, behind the airy laughter there is the solid castle of belief that I am, in fact, a fallen wife. Traditional men can be of any age. If they have absorbed the benefits to them of living in a patriarchal society, then why on earth would they want to shake that up? Talking women down, making them stay home, expecting a lifetime of sacrifice and dedication to him and his progeny without ‘allowing’ them ever to escape the sewing and to join the scantily clad pavement squealers, metaphorically speaking, is a rule book that should have been burned a log time ago. And, yet, it is still on the shelves of manhood. I see it even in the young men. The difference now is that, to a degree, the young women will not tolerate confinement by any living soul. Most of them have no interest whatsoever in any pavement embarrassment of a Saturday night, but at least they can decide for themselves.
Of course the Saturday night ache is gone by Sunday morning, but the thinks of it have not. In this life of caring, confinements abound for obvious reasons. I have a song to sing and yet I cannot sing it. A koan, indeed. An Ideal Wife would swat any such thoughts of self away, sweep them up from the floors of her mind and chuck them in the wheelie, closing the lid tight. There! That’s you gone! But, she would be wrong. The volume may be turned down for a while, but songs don’t just disappear, not when it is birthed in a woman’s heart; not when it has sung for her at times when her own voice fell silent; not when she knows that if she doesn’t sing it soon, she will explode into a million quaver and crochets, semi-quavers, minims and semibreves, the phrasing completely shot and the base notes all over the ground, like rubble.
However, the good news is good news. Songs can be rebuilt with self-compassion and a deal of letting go. For change to come about, there must be change. It isn’t, as many women think, only available on leaving the confines of the castle walls. It is available right here and right now.
All I have to do is open my mouth and let it fly.