Why I Can Say What I Darned Well Please


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                          I have earned my feminist stripes.

In jest,with irony, I used to facetiously remark  “How would I know/I couldn’t do that…I’m just a woman” and drew upon me the ire of Canadians (no sense of humour) or raging feminists (no sense of humour.) I don’t do it any more because I am acutely aware that even casual talk needs to be changed in favour of women if the sexes are to be viewed as equals.

How to Keep Husband


Years ago, on a starry night in the hills above Cannes, after a magnificent meal and much wine (probably the cause) at the “Colombe d’Or” restaurant – erstwhile haunt of Picasso and other artistic lads and lassies – I suffered a tongue-lashing from an Irish Entertainment Media femme for such a line.   I went back down to the sea and wrote this:

CHild or Mary

I was brought up in an Irish Catholic nuclear family.

I went to a convent boarding school and was berated thus:

“When a woman whistles, Our Lady cries”

I waited ’til the builders came to renovate the dorms

and then I whistled through any corridor I choose

(even down the dread Back Stairs,

where the lay sisters lived,

where the heavy bell-rope hung,

and which were said to be haunted.)

At sixteen I was the first person ever

in the entire history of the Congregation of the Faithful Companions of Jesus,

to wear false eyelashes to Benediction.

Pill train

In 1972 with 46 other women,

I took the “Pill Train” from Dublin to Belfast,

to flaunt the law by smuggling jels and condoms

across the Border down home to the Republic.

In 1974, I helped found the first Family Planning Clinic in our town

and thus

earned myself free cervical smears for life.

When I was 29 I went to the posh gynaecologist with the soft pink hands.

(All posh gynaecologists have soft pink hands.

I think it is because they are so wealthy that they don’t have to dig gardens,

mend things

or burn themselves with irons, ovens, pots and pans.)

I told him I wanted the Leboyer Method of natural childbirth.

He had never heard of Leboyer, so I lent him the book.


I had my daughter in ten minutes flat,

without so much as a stitch or an aspirin or a gulp of gas

then I walked upstairs to my room,

braided my hair around my head and felt like a madonna.

(I paid the pink gynaecologist my money though I had done all the work

but he never gave me back the book.)

As the child arrived I asked if they wanted to keep the placenta – good blood.

They looked at me as though they had a nutter in the bed.

Nowadays, every week,

juggernauts full of precious gamma globulin transverse Europe:

frozen placentae for the blood banks of the world.


Ten years later I hustled a divorce from the Dominican Republic

(divorce was still illegal in Ireland) and I paid for it all myself.

(Husband was a dotey pet, but I didn’t have wings on my heels.)


Then I flew to the United States to get married again

(To someone else) (I had wings on my heels)

but my back cracked up from overwork before I left,

so I was wed lying down on a couch in Connecticut,

and, moulded into a kind of inflatable burial canoe,

was flown home to face the surgeon’s knife.

Wed on a Couch

I reared my daughter solo for the first eight years of her life.

I learned to drive aged 32 and bought a car and a house

with money I had earned myself, from stuff out of my own head.


Recently I got a note from the Irish Council for the Status of Women,

To congratulate me on an article on International Women’s Day.*


And that is why I reckon that when it comes to women,

I can say what I darned well please.  


(*This was written 20 years ago, I don’t know what the article was

and I don’t still have the letter.)


Happy International Women’s Day Sisters! xxx







Isabel Healy

Isabel Healy

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