When I was in my mid teens I read a book of short stories by an Irish author about women. They were all in unconventional situations – divorced, having affairs, single parents, strident feminists.
I remember the book upset me greatly. This wasn’t how life was supposed to turn out . What was supposed to happen was that you met a man like my dad who would always look after you and live happily ever after – just like my parents have.
I’ve thought about why that book upset me so very much on many occasions since. I can’t help but feel that as a woman more like my dad than my mum, certainly in intelligence and ambition, that in my heart I always knew my mother’s life was not for me. The book read like a terrifying prediction of the future for someone “like me”.
In becoming who I am today there has been a mix of growing into my skin and fighting who I wish I was. In some ways my relationship with “him” is a perfect reflection of this. I was desperate to just look after him and be looked after. His wife sounds more like my mum. Would love, she says, to be a housewife. He was certain she would never meet anyone else and she couldn’t cope without him. Of course in spite of my protestations that I would rather die than lose him, it just doesn’t ring true. I am very capable of looking after myself and being happy and fulfilled in my life by myself. I sense this is an unattractive quality for most men.
In my relationship with him I felt that finally what I craved and felt in my parents relationship was within reach. I could finally give up being a big person and make myself smaller to be with him.
Now he’s gone, what feels natural is to make myself bigger than I ever was before. It feels right to be very straight with people (kindly I hope), to see where I can make a contribution and not be shy about that, to be completely honest about who I am and to hold my head up high. To stand up with humour and grace for things I believe in. I have become that woman I was so terrified of being.