I am a journalist/writer by profession, but a few months ago, I wrote my very first personal piece. I submitted it for possible publication and it wasn't selected. Which is okay. It was my first one. So I'm posting it here because I want it to have a home.
These are from my actual journals over the years. The purpose of the piece was to illustrate the dissonance between our (or rather my) inner and outer worlds, the hiding of the true self, not listening to the self and also the false narratives around love that buries the truth in journals. But it was also to highlight the narratives that are fed to women that lead to us questioning ourselves and also staying in spaces that are no longer - or perhaps never did - serve us. ________
“Cowboys don’t cry” my father said, in a sissy voice. Fingers mockingly rubbing dry eyes. His face uncomfortably close to my brother’s.
As a young girl, I knew this was not true, even though I could not pinpoint the untruth in his authoritative voice that I was too good to question.
Later, as a young woman, men’s tears looked like love, commitment and sensitivity, and I struggled to challenge the untruth in the voice of partners that I was too nice to question.
Perhaps I should have known, as a psychologist once told me, that relationships often start the way they end. Mine started in tears....on a bench at Seapoint Pavilion, wrapped in blankets in full view of public faces and spaces. In spite, or perhaps because, of the tears, something in my worldview made it seem romantic.
“I’m sorry,” he cried. “It’s okay,” I said. “Maybe...maybe...maybe you didn’t realise that we’re that serious,” I reasoned to him...and with myself.
How stupid that sounds now. But oh, those tears. Man tears. Flowing just for me. After all, cowboys don’t cry, right? ____
07 2010: I feel as if I am in a love triangle...I haven’t voiced it out loud for a long time - but it’s time: X, myself and our past, X, myself and the women from his past, X, myself and the women in my head, X, myself and the man he used to be. ___
21 2011 I am about to explode...with anger, sadness, frustration...tears. All things not good. It’s times like this that I wonder where all the goodness has gone. Where am I in my life. I am getting engaged at the weekend. To someone I feel I barely know sometimes. I... ____
24 2012 And even though I have all of this, I’m Googling Post-Wedding Depression. Cos let’s face it, I’ve been pretty depressed. And I can call it ‘lost’ or ‘directionless’ or ‘no purpose’ - but truth is - I’ve been a teensy weensy tad depressed and I don’t know why. ____
, 18 2016, 23:38 I got divorced today. X and I got divorced today. We were the only couple where both parties were present. The judge asked me the reason. “Adultery” I said. He asked, “What else?” I wasn’t prepared for that. What else do I need?
We left the courtroom together. X held the door open for me. And then we collapsed on the nearest bench. I remember changing out of my heels into flats. I looked down, saw a drop drip onto the floor. X’s tears...dripping onto the floor.
“I’m sorry,” he cried. “I know,” I said. “Maybe...maybe...maybe we can try again. This time it will be different. I’ll change,” he reasoned with me, and probably with himself.
“Yes, this time, it will be different. ’ ,” ____________________________________
Author Chimamanda Adichie, in a TED Talk, speaks about the danger of a single story, within the context of whiteness and blackness in literature, and I agree wholeheartedly. But there is a parallel story that is as dangerous. A story that, in spite of our gains, progress and smashed glass ceilings, continues to derail us. It is the story of love.
This insight first emerged from an unlikely source. When my daughter was two, a social worker told me that she discourages exposure to Disney stories for young children because it is too sexualised.
In that moment, a 32-year old me started unlearning decades of invisible social conditioning about gender stereotypes and love. I started noticing that Disney movies were not just ougat, it was blatantly sexist and filled with narratives of non-consent.
I contemplated what Snow White or Rapunzel might have dreamt of becoming, and realised how absent their thoughts, wants and dreams were in these narratives. Why is that, I wondered. What I found is that less than 10% of Disney films have been directed by women and that as recent as last year, women comprised just 13% of directors working on the top 250 films.
While we may not consider movies as the foundation of our dreams and aspirations, popular culture forms part of our learning, beliefs and worldview. And what we have been seeing across popular media, literature and news for centuries are male perspectives and representations of love and relationships. Consider this, even in Cinderella, where a stepmother arrives with two daughters in tow, we are not given any detail about her previous life. Why was she so heartless and cruel? Perhaps because the only way for a woman to matter in the 1600’s was to marry a man.
Much has changed since then. It is time we start living and listening to our own stories and creating alternative lives and narratives that serve us.
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