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Monday, 24 November 2014

How’d we get here?



I started this blog close to four years ago (I can’t believe) as a 20-something trapezing between parties, romantic misadventures and coping mechanisms for life, sex, love, friendships and what it means to have this lame thing called a job. From where I stand now, only months away from the big three zero, my definition of Heelz and Hangovers has gone from being very literal to much more metaphorical. Instead of cocktail recipes and the best Martini offerings, I find myself reflecting on the things that lift me up in life, what it means to be Drunk in Love as Queen B puts it, and peaks that blip on my life flowchart. Headlines which used to centre around babalas, heartbreak and my insights into what men don’t get about us gals have now shifted to things that make me hammock in the dips of that very same graph. Things that make me go “hmm” or “have you ever!” Who would have thought I’d be chatting to you, my readers, about things like politics and our economy! Goodness gracious, I think I might have grown up just a smidgen.

I’m going to add to that list of grown up things today by sharing my thoughts on something I’m surprised I don’t see and read about more often. It’s been tweaking my melon for ages, and leaking into my relationships and friendships for quite some time.

I never realised what a feminist I was until this year I think – and when I say feminist, please don’t get the wrong idea. I’m no man-hater – I’m a man loverrrr. I’m no hardcore iron lady burning my bra – what silly girl would do that? Bras are downright pricey, and way too pretty for pyrotechnics. Of course the symbolic act had its place all those years ago when woman were seriously underestimated and undervalued as human beings. All you need to do is have a look at one of those 1960’s advertising memes (much like the one at the top of this post) which encourages wife beating or vacuum cleaners as a perfect birthday gift idea to know that the times they have a-changed. Woman, I feel, are no longer seen as subordinate in the workplace or in any other realm. You might argue that we still earn less, have fewer managerial positions and struggle with how the media portrays our complexities (or the lack thereof according to shows like The Real Housewives) but I think it’s become common knowledge that we are capable of most things that a man is, and this is good news.

But while we are celebrating our newly attained power and respect, there’s a kind of backlash that’s happening - a sketchy gear change in this monumental transition which is making a lot of people very uncomfortable. While we are conquering the world, heading our households, raising children and more easily climbing the ladder to our own personal dreams and goals, our boyfriends, husbands and brothers are quietly wondering where they fit in. For a species that notoriously needs to feel needed, like they have a purpose and an equally important role to play in the family unit, these are tricky times.

Looking around at my female peers (many of whom support their partners financially), this identity crisis has rippled into many aspects of a man’s va-va-voom. How’s a guy supposed to push you up against a wall, rip your clothes of and take you like Hercules if he’s feeling as strong and powerful as a wilted sunflower? How does he look after you, like his father and his father’s father most likely did for his mother, when you are more than capable of looking after yourself? How does he parade like a peacock, when your feathers have become brighter and far more beautiful? Well, any girl reading this will want to list a hundred ways in which she needs her man, and another hundred for all the things she appreciates about him. Any girl will tell you she would never think less of a man who was a househusband, as long as he was able to pull his weight in the running of the family, much like her mother, and her mother’s mother did for her father. But these same girls are all single, sitting in an upmarket bar in power suits and Christian Louboutins, hoping like hell they don’t scare off any potential partners. Or they are in relationships feeling helplessly torn between the confident, proud and powerful woman they are and the one which makes their male counterpart feel better about his own self-esteem and self-worth.

I so wish that perceptions shifted as quickly as we’d like, that adaptation and evolution was programmed to roll out seamlessly in our society and that we were all brave enough to have these conversations with each other and ourselves. Something tells me that there would be a resounding sigh of relief echoing from across the sexes. Alas, we are a far cry from any kind of closure and a long way from truly understanding and appreciating this totem pole shuffle.

I don’t have the answers I’m afraid, I’m still trying to get my head around unisex bathrooms and saunas - some things just shouldn’t change! But they do, and they will forever and ever. It’s about how we embrace that change, how we absorb the sometimes hard compromises, how we allow ourselves to be defined by different things without maximum resistance and how we drive out double-standards. For me it all comes down to empathy and the willingness to walk tall in someone else’s Heelz, or perhaps suffer simultaneously in another person’s Hangover.