Independent, secure and 30-something

 

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Category: Women Date: 02 Jul 00


She must have put on at least 20 pounds since you last saw her in this crowded pub. You didn’t notice the extra weight until she drew attention to it herself, caricaturing the “dumb” woman with deadly irony. “I don’t understand how eating one pound of chocolates adds five pounds on the scale.”

 

You tended to look at her mouth. Either because she was smiling between every two words or because her Cupid bow lips were outlined in a grape-coloured lipstick which just stopped short of being vampish. Her silky, charcoal- black hair was severely pulled back to reveal a deeply olive-skinned, heart-shaped face, and black, smallish, almond-shaped eyes.

 

None of her individual features stood out, yet, as she spoke, you came away with the blurred impression of the drunkard, that she was beautiful. She threw her gaze here and there with a flutter of her lashes as a casual bone to the men in her vicinity who, craning their necks, darting sidelong looks, occasionally staring blatantly, gnawed like famished dogs at any recognition she chose to give them.

 

She laughed raucously, with wanton abandon, yet managed, astonishingly enough, to give the impression amongst all, that oozing sexuality of being intelligent. Three women surrounded her in this one-way conversation. She held court, as they listened with rapt attention.

 

There was no denying that her audience of three were goodlooking women. They were slimmer, had children, careers, security, and husbands who worshipped the ground they walked on. She told them how jealous she was of their flat stomachs, flattered them: “Didn’t you have a baby just yesterday? You are sickeningly thin” or “oh, you have it all”.

 

Yet her eyes shone with what you could not tell. It could have been reflections of moonlight, or lamplight, but seemed to be backlit from inside. She looked happier than them all. She was in her mid 30s. She had been married once, but left her husband in two years, very shortly after she discovered she no longer loved him.

 

She was quick on the draw, her comments a volley of sharp gunshots, delivered with the clipped precision, and the confidence you would expect from a woman of means, or a high-flying career.  Except that she was a secretary and her fruity English accent was the only indication that she may have had a privileged background.

“Are you going out with anyone now?” asked one of the women. She indicated a tallish man who hung around a bit and then disappeared when it was apparent that the talk was going to be girly. Laughter. The circle of women closed in.

 

She found the new man on her doorstep. She said. At work. She quipped: “Why go far when they are right in front of you?” “You haven’t seen me because we’ve been bonking solidly for six months.” She talked openly about sex, about her enjoyment of it.

 

She is shocked by doing something very simple. Telling the truth. There was no winding around it, no altering of it, no ego blocking it, no clamouring voices of society telling her what would be acceptable. She had no hang-ups. She was a woman who had come into her own.

 

The women around her went through the two stages people do when faced with the truth, especially in a social situation when people automatically have their masks on - shock, and the second, more important level, recognition, of something that resounded soundly in themselves. They were rapt.

 

“I’m going off travelling. I don’t have a career which ties me down. I can take my skills anywhere in the world. The world’s an adventure, and I love surprises.

“I don’t need the house, the husband, the children, the mortgage, the land, the cars to make myself worthy. That sort of stuff would only weigh my spirit down.”

 

As if reading the minds of the women around her, who at that moment were wistful, thinking of the compromises they’ve made, how somewhere along the road, they’ve lost themselves, but are consoling themselves with the fact of their “security” she adds.

“And if it means that I end up being alone in my old age, well at least I would have lived most of my life, my way.”  She didn’t save the fluttering eyelashes and frequent dazzling smiles for men alone, like some women, who made you think that this woman really loved life, and didn’t care who was watching. She was talking again.

“I left my husband when I decided I didn’t love him. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Telling someone who adores you that you don’t want to be with them. That’s why I won’t get married again. The odd thing is, I think if we had not gotten married we would have probably been together. But it’s important to me to maintain a sense of,  she paused, “individuality”.

 

She added: “That doesn’t mean I don’t want a stable relationship. “I do, but not on” ... and here she drew inverted commas in the air “societies terms, or at the expense of my sense of self.” The women gaped as if she were an exhibition, someone who broke all the rules, without consequences. They were used to looking smug around 30-something women who longed for children. It was clear by the look on their faces that it had already dawned on them, that it was she rather than they who had it all. But with quick generosity, as if she sensed their envy, she tripped over her words to console them.

 

“People think I have an exciting life. But I don’t, you know. Most nights I am slumped in front of the TV eating chips and then weighing myself.” She laughed dazzlingly again, flashing white teeth, as the little group dispersed, and another, largely male group, closed in around her. In the earliest hours of the morning when the large trees threw full- leafed night shadows into the pavement, the three women walked away from the din of the pub. They talked amongst themselves. “I’ve learned” said one, “that trappings of security - mortgage, cars, husband, children don’t necessarily make you a secure person.”

“Husbands can go, children grow up and a house can’t talk to you when you’re lonely. Often, security makes you far more fearful of the world, afraid of risks, afraid of adventure, robs you of fulfilment.”

 

“I’ve learned,” said the second, “not to judge the women of our century. We don’t have to be any one thing. Neither bitter bra-burning feminists, nor little dominated doormat wives. We don’t have to play dumb, skimpily-dressed bimbos to attract men. Nor do we have to be the cynical working woman screaming silently as her biological clock ticks by. We don’t have to be too thin, or too rich to have it all. We can be a little of everything, or reject all of it and make our own rules.

 

“What I’ve learned”, concluded the third “is that we have choices, and it takes a little soul-searching and a little courage, to create much happiness, to allow the moon to light us up from inside.” The clouds parted, a sudden gust lifted some heavy branches and the moon lit up three animated faces.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur