what makes us ‘difficult’ women?

The quiet little village of Stanford lies just outside Hermanus in the valley of the undulating Overberg. A river runs through it. It doesn’t even need Brad Pitt though of course he would be most welcome. No, that it a euphemism. I would probably collapse in an unsightly heap if he ever pitched up on my porch because I think 10 children (his 6 and my 4) would be much too onerous for any single, reasonable thinking couple to consider in the long term.

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Besides which I have my own Brad Pitt.

Stanford is enticing and enchanting and I understand that Stanford choses you rather than the other way round, so lucky me, and lucky family, we have been chosen to spend special spurts of time there, in between life in the big city,  in a little cottage close to the river. It is a dream come true.

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‘Stanford choses you’ , says Annelize in her beautiful book.

 

As a young girl growing up in Johannesburg in the 70’s and 80’s, Saturday mornings were spent ice skating at the old Carlton Ice rink (the best part was when the lights were dimmed and a boy asked if you wanted to skate with him which meant, HOLD HIS HAND!) waitressing at the old Amarosa restaurant in Rosebank (I never showed much talent for that and it didn’t last long) rowing around Zoo Lake on a Sunday afternoon or walking the dog at Emmarentia dam. My best friend had a holiday cottage at Salt Rock on the Natal coast ( as it was then known (now KZN) and I imagined that this single aspect added a dimension to her young life which I would always and forever long for.

Not that I had a deprived lifestyle in any way mind you and I recall many, many wonderful memories of hiking holidays in the Drakensberg or renting a holiday house in Muizenberg or LLandudno in Cape Town, listening to Billy Joel’s “My Life” and watching the LP go round and round on the record player. It’s just that the word ‘holiday house’ has always had a certain magical tone to it for me, a place to feel held and safe and free in the beautiful outdoors and then shelter in amongst playing cards and board games when the cold weather sets in, away from the catastrophic reality of the world.

So last week when I visited my new spot and was kindly driven around and shown who lives where and who does what in a small town – ‘and here’s so and so’s house…she’s a lovely women but seldom here cos she’s Italian I think… you won’t see her much ‘ or ‘ he’s so and so… you know? Made a lot of money, owns X and Y ‘I learnt a little more about myself too. And I LOVE learning about myself.

‘So nice to meet you’, she said, as I climbed out of her aging, rattling car,’ you’re really nice…I heard you were a difficult women who had four children and was getting divorced’.

Small town talk. Misheard, misinterpreted and regurgitated. We love to do that don’t we?

So, to set the record straight: I do have four children (aren’t I lucky?) and I am most definitely not getting divorced (23 years in and just getting the hang of it, I mean wouldn’t that be a bloody waste?) but the question is, AM I DIFFICULT WOMAN?

I felt a bit offended at that. That didn’t sound very nice did it?

So I thought long and hard about what makes a woman ‘difficult’:

A woman who fights for what she believes in.

A woman who doesn’t back down just because it’s ‘easier’ to give in to a clear, legally objective injustice.

A woman who doesn’t agree to the suggestion of ‘maybe get your husband to give him (the person with whom she is involved in a silly legal issue) a call, because he doesn’t really respect women as much and maybe you’ll get somewhere with that…’

A woman who constantly questions whether there is not something more ‘worthy’ to do with her life, which is otherwise privileged and beautiful and busy in so many ways.

A woman who challenges most things and most people in their views, their ways and their world.

A woman with an opinion.

Well that’s me, I suppose. So, I MUST BE DIFFICULT.

And so? Is that good or is that bad?

Here’s my truth: The word ‘difficult’ as it applies to women is seeming and unfortunately negative. It is preferable that women, in general and even in the 21st century, after all that has gone before are more gentle, more amenable, less demanding, and yes maybe’ equal’ but only insofar as the status of men is not undermined but also beautiful and nurturing and a contributor to both the home and the general economy. Maybe even a leader. Yes, that would be good.

And I think that’s pretty difficult.

But I sought some more valuable insights for you in case you were wondering about this all as I was and co-incidentally found a brand new collection of short stories by Roxanne Gay, bestselling author (Bad Feminist ), lecturer and of course feminist called … DIFFICULT WOMEN.roxaan-ga

In an interview with Vogue http://www.vogue.com/article/difficult-women-roxane-gay-interview, she said,

“I think women are often times termed ‘difficult’ when we want too much, when we ask for too much, when we think too highly of ourselves, or have any kind of standards…I wanted to play with this idea that women are difficult, when in reality it’s generally the people around them who are the difficult ones.”

And then just yesterday I saw this little plaque in the office of our new male principal (of a brilliant all girls’ school) as I walked out of a governing body meeting last night so I’ll end off with this:

In the beginning God created Man.

Then he had a better idea.

I love it .

But here’s another for us DIFFICULT WOMEN

In the beginning, God created earth and rested.

Then God created man and rested.

Then God created woman.

Since then, neither God nor man has rested.

I dare you to BE HONEST, BE BRAVE, BE BEAUTIFUL and BE a DIFFICULT WOMAN!

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