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Category: Women Date: 24 Apr 05

This is the final column in a quartet of voices from our country. Today we hear the voice of a mature woman who is a single mother and a professional. I met this woman running up Lady Chancellor Hill, remarked on the yellow Lance Armstrong “Live Strong” band she had on and we got talking.


“When I was in my early 20s I got a lot of attention from men. I’m bright, but I suppose I got ahead in my career because my bosses liked the way I looked. Back then I felt smug that I got more opportunities than women who were brighter than me. I felt that life was at my feet and I could do and be anything I wanted. I started studying marketing at UWI.


“Then I fell in love. I married young. I got pregnant right away. I stopped studying.


“My husband changed from a man who was fun, generous and chivalrous to this controlling, dangerous man who slapped me around. He is a pretty boy who likes liming but he was paying the rent and buying our food and clothes.


“When my son was small I tried to go back to school but he stopped me. I even changed jobs because he thought my working hours were too long.


“I wanted to leave him but I had nowhere to go and on my salary I can’t pay rent and take care of my child. I tried to go by my mother but she told me to go back to my husband where I belong.


“Once when I left and hid by a friend after getting knocked about badly he came back for me and threatened to kill me.


“I am working in a low-paying sales job now. I am trying to save some money but it’s not easy.


“I used to love being female when I was younger, but now it’s just hardship.  It’s strange the way we women become invisible to people who don’t worry with us as we get older. Children are a big responsibility when there is no man to help you out financially or with the million day-to-day parenting duties from potty training to PTAs, to visits to the doctor and teachers to sitting down and doing homework.


“I see a lot of women around my age with angry lines on their face. The married are unhappy because they never realised that they would be carrying so many burdens, even before the age of 40. The unmarried professionals say they are lonely, find it hard to find men who can deal with strong, independent women, but I think they are the best off.


“People say we live in a matriarchy but that’s a way of disguising the face that our men often abandon their responsibilities as fathers and sons, and break free to concentrate on careers or indulge in middle-aged toys like cars and women. Their youth is never cut short like ours is.


“The only thing that would have saved me from this cycle of dependence on an abusive man, or given me the larger life I dreamed of when I was young, is education. If I could command a better salary I could have more than taken care of myself and my son.


“You asked me about this yellow armband. I had a cancer scare once, with a lump on my breast. It was benign.


“But it taught me two things. To take care of myself and live strong.”


We end this quartet of conversations on top of this winding green hill. Passing candy-pink poui trees shake their blossoms into the wind and ground. The landscape moves with us. We are curving into a blanched stone wall with bougainvillea overlooking the ocean, dipping down to the unfolding savannah, stopping at a honeyed red bush with tiny flowers, passing a pink sky zone. A single leaf makes its journey downwards from a tall tree above us, wavers, and descends smoothly.


Whatever our perspective, I think, wisps of dying leaves, shacks, or mountains, ocean or earth-embedded roots, the main thing is to live strong.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur