I think much these days on we women. I doubt very much that my experience of being one is all that different to any of the rest of us, generational adjustments notwithstanding. It seems to me that whatever sort of relationship we embark on changes shape over time. Or, is it that once we are safely settled in, a sort of comfortable lack of effort arrives with enough luggage to remain in the home indefinitely?
In a traditional marriage, like mine, the woman of the house must be in accord with a master of the house. She may rebel, but quietly, and in private. She may rebel herself into creative work such as re-organising the kitchen cupboards or weeding the garden on a sunny afternoon. She may even make friends and go out on her own, but here she is also limited. A prayer group is good, or tea with sock knitters but a sudden explosion of red blooded rebellion, ie, I am Off To The Pub, will not be received well. It is considerably more peaceful inside the shared home if she sticks to the sock knitters and the prayer group, for neither of these upset the balance.
Or do they? Living within unnatural confines take their toll on a woman over time. If she is born with a red rebel gene, she cannot flush it away on command. If she manages to remain mostly herself, which takes supreme effort, much covert action and a lot of book reading, she will come, eventually, to the point when she asks herself what the heck she is doing with her life. And I doubt she will find a ready answer beyond that question asked.
Raising children, managing a noisy household, catering to the whims of a man, any man, is a full time commitment. We women can easily get lost in all that goo until one day the red rebel gene meets the goo and it’s a stand off, with the woman in the middle. She may question herself, in fact, she will do that a lot. She will wonder why this isn’t enough and why now? She may swing on a pendulum for months, endeavouring to maintain some sort of equilibrium whilst her beating heart bashes against her breastbone, one only she has seen for decades and then only in the bathroom. She has duties, she knows that but hasn’t she dutified herself enough already? Her options are simple. She stays with the duty or she packs her bag and runs.
But where to? If she has subscribed to the life of a wife and mother for all this time, she may only know what she knows. Out there, in the land of dangers and strangers she would be a leaf in the wind. She has planted her self confidence in her own garden and it is only here that it can flourish. She has a voice, yes, but how much of what she says, beginning the sentence with We, is what she really believes is her truth? She doesn’t know and it terrifies her. I know women who cannot decide whether they want tea or coffee once outside their own kitchen and I get it. Indecision and dithering is what comes of a lifetime of We when ‘I’ stopped existing not long after puberty.
I know that, as we age, we become two opposing things. One is that we grow more sure of what we want, even if we decide we can’t ever have it. We tend to say what we feel, sometimes in a voice we don’t even recognise. Out laugh gets louder and we sing a bit around the house. We make quicker decisions for ourselves and, if we are super brave, without any consultation with a man. We tsk at covert actions, instead performing them with a brazen lack of care for the consequences. We tolerate fools no more and we can smell hypocrisy, falsehood and injustice from a great distance.
The second thing is that we sense our own demise, however healthy we may be. This woman, we women, know we have a limited amount of time left to step out of the wellies and into the heels. If we are lucky, we have a man who enjoys watching us blossom into old age, who isn’t threatened by change and who secretly admires our return to the girl he fell in love with, that crazy bohemian fire-cracker. If not, well, that is sad, but not insurmountable. Feel the fear and do it anyway…….remember? It is easily said, slips like warm oil off the tongue, but flipping hard to put into practice. After all, didn’t we conform for years, for the sake of peace? Didn’t we oblige and clean up and forget all our own dreams, deal with disappointment and loneliness and all with a toothy grin? I don’t matter, after all. My husband does, my children do, but I’ll go without cake happily. That takes some undoing. A lifetime of “I’ll have whatever your’e having’ is set like DNA inside us and yet it is said that a lifetime of sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. Altogether too heavy a burden to lug about.
So I say, let the song grow. Let the blood rise. We women are wise and beautiful creatures. We just have to remember that, each one of us, for ourself.