Why I Can Say What I Darned Well Please
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.
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:
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.
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
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,
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.
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