So. International Women’s Day. Do you know how many years I worked in an industry where, be it International Women’s Day or Women in Construction Day, or some other day which bolsters the great work women have done, it would be met with cries of ‘when is there an International Men’s Day? Why don’t we get celebrated for all OUR hard work?’.
I know, but they exist.
I know, but they exist. And for many year’s I would fight them and argue and try to explain that they were completely missing the point of the day.
I was thinking about what I could write about to celebrate this day when I re-read something I wrote almost a year ago but didn’t ever share. And then it struck me. This year, I won’t bang on about the great women who have pathed the way for me, I will shout-out the good, the bad and the ugly of the men who have built me up, torn me down, broken and fixed me, and helped me grow into the woman I am today.
(This started as an ode to my ex, but I realised that it needed to be so much more than that. This is for my teachers, my lovers, my friends, frenemies and my nearest and dearest.)
Mr Kennedy, you were my first ever crush. I was about 8. Playing round your house was just the best. Your blonde hair. Your American parents. And the best friend a girl could ask for.
Girls can play football too.
Mr Gooding, thankyou for knowing that girls can play football too. Being able to let my inner tomboy run wild was the beginning of me learning who I was and being a girl in a boy’s world. Thankyou for driving us to matches in your little black car that chugged diesel fumes down the road and had cow skin covers on the seats.
My first real boyfriend. I learnt so much about life with you. You let me into your world which was so different to mine, but you never took me to the football. I loved and was loved. We did all the things that 15/16 year olds are supposed to do. But in the end, you broke my trust and I broke yours. I learnt how to deal with the guilt and the pain caused by hurting someone I loved. And I learnt how it feels to find out that secrets can become poison. But what I’ll always remember is how special it feels to fall asleep in the arms of someone you love. You’ll always be a part of me.
Mr Logan, you were my favouritist teacher ever. You truly cared about my successes, you never, ever doubted me and you always made time for me. It never would have even crossed my mind to take a degree in engineering if you hadn’t guided and supported me the way you did. You were firm but fair and I had complete respect for you. I can only hope that I can inspire a generation the way you inspired me.
To the boys I crushed on in sixth form- you taught me how to deal with rejection, not always gracefully, but it’s a learning curve right?! You taught me how alone you can feel when you’re a teenager looking for validation and how isolating it can be when you make mistakes.
fix myself and rebuild a better, stronger, more determined version of me
Then Mr ‘with an I’. I don’t think there are enough words which can be written to sum up what we went through. I never felt good enough for you. Like I never quite measured up to that other girl who peaked your interest. When we fought, it was nuclear. When we loved, it was magic. I learnt how it felt to have every move manipulated, but I didn’t learn this until long after the end. You didn’t have faith in me. I invested my love in fixing your shattered heart. I defended your behaviour. But it broke me. It broke me into so many pieces that by the time we were finished, I didn’t even know who I was or what I was capable of doing anymore. But it made me fix myself and rebuild a better, stronger, more determined version of me. So thankyou for making me prove to myself that I was capable. And thankyou mostly for telling me I would never make it in the construction industry, because if nothing else, I’m stubborn as an ox when someone tells me I can’t.
To the boys who dragged me kicking and screaming through my degree. Thankyou. I owe you a lot for putting up with me and making sure I passed even when I HATED what I was learning.
To the one night stands (sorry mum) – I learnt how amazing and empowering sex can be. I also learnt how debilitating it is to replace affection with meaningless sex.
I took it.
Mr May, in the short time we spent together with you as a mentor, you bucked me up, you saw what I had to offer and you made me believe it was mine for the taking. I took it. I greatly appreciated your help and advice.
Nigey-K, you were my best friend through some of the happiest times. Living in Leeds was a turning point in my life and your love and friendship will always factor so highly in that. Sunday Brunch has never been the same without you. I learnt how easy it is to want more from a relationship when you have such a great friendship. But I’ve also learnt that friendships like ours aren’t easy to come by and so I value it immensely. Thankyou for making me feel part of your family, I love you all.
Oh god, emosh.
a hard, fast, ear piercing shattering
Mr A. I don’t know where to begin because I’m not sure I ever really got over it, but very recently I’ve been ok with letting it go. I learnt what that crazy, passionate, deep-seated love is. I would’ve done anything to make you happy. The only problem was when you decided that you didn’t want to be in any more. This wasn’t a breaking that crumbled me. This break was a hard, fast, ear piercing shattering. You had these dreams which I fully backed. I believed you could do anything you wanted. I hope I helped you believe it too. I will always be grateful to have experienced a love which consumes me. I’m sure some people never find a soul with who they can share that fire. But I’m also grateful to know that I’m strong enough to collect the shards and superglue them back together. I might not have collected all the pieces, and they certainly aren’t in the right order. But they make a new pattern now. I know that love is a concept you’ve become cynical about, and for good reason. But I also know that when you are ready, you are capable of both giving and receiving love in the most epic way. Trust me.
Mr K – you’re amazing. I’m sorry that I was the one who did the breaking in this relationship, but maybe above explains it a little. You are so fun to be around, remembering your antics puts a smile on my face. I’m sorry I had a stick up my arse thinking I wanted something proper when you were everything I needed you to be. I did learn what it’s like to not be the centre of attention because, man alive, you needed to be that. Like all the time! I thank you for my love of country music and in fact, just the general musical education you gave me. I thank you for your crazy energy which inspires me and your sensitivity which has taught me to be gentle with other people’s hearts.
T-JAC, you were broken when I met you. I felt like you’d come into my life so that I could mend you. And I think that’s what I did. I got to see a part of you that I don’t think you let many people in on. You taught me how it feels to love and not be loved in return. How the more of my heart I gave you, the stronger you got and the more you realised you were still in love with someone else. I hope my love made you realise how special you are and how you hold the keys to your future. There’s nothing standing in your way. You did, however, give me Shantaram. And a beautiful inscription. When seeing it doesn’t make my heart ache, I promise I will read it.
T-Rex. You taught me how it feels to be adored. You taught me that I have capacity to be shallow and petty and that it’s not pretty. You taught me that being in love isn’t always a bonfire on fireworks night. Sometimes it’s the gentle fire which you tenderly add more kindling to and it keeps you warm all through the winter. I tried to give back to you what you gave to me, but in the end I don’t know what broke us apart. I want to thank you for breaking up with me. The end of our relationship was the catalyst I needed to book my Yoga Teacher Training course. This training changed the course of my life. It awoke in me a passion for life which I didn’t know I had any more. Safe to say, I wasn’t expecting that.
To the Peter Pans
To the Peter Pans who I have had the pleasure, and mild vexation, of working alongside. You kept me together when I wanted to crumble, you made me laugh when I was sad/ angry/ irritated and on the rare occasion you decided to not agree with what I had to say, you eventually came round to my way of thinking. When the love was lost and getting out of bed to turn up for a job which I dreaded was too tough, you brought sunshine to my cloudy days.
home is not a place but a feeling
Mr C, you were never supposed to be serious. When I met you I told you that in less than 8 weeks I was going away for 8 weeks. You were good company. The night before I went away, there was a shift and I felt more for you than I had before. I guess nothing like loosing something to make you realise what you had in the first place. I learnt that if I want to be selfish with my life then I can’t expect someone else to not be selfish with theirs also. Talking to you about my spirituality, my passion for yoga and an alternative lifestyle left me feeling silly, embarrassed and often judged. And I’ve learnt that I need to feel empowered. To have someone who won’t judge or question or fight me. But root for me. Unwavering. Continually. I need a cheer squad.
Mr G. In the two short weeks we had together, you turned everything I thought I knew on it’s head. You made me realise that I have no need to hold out for a love which doesn’t love me because there are so many wonderful people who will come into my life, you being just one of them. I had the most wonderful time with you and I wish you a life full of happiness and big love. You have an incredible light to shine on this world and I look forward to seeing you develop as you grow and listen to your soul.
Mr Bearded Man, that dream that you inspired will stay with me for a long, long time. To be asleep and dreaming yet to be so awake and present, seems to sum you in a few short words. I can still hear my heart beating with the realisation that home is not a place but a feeling.
no-one has to love you unconditionally
Dad. It’s unlikely you’ll ever read this. But the relationship I’ve had with this man is probably the one which has had the most impact on me. I’m not me because of you. I’m me, despite you. You gave me many traits; stubbornness, intellect, tenacity, the ability to manipulate a situation. But I CHOOSE to use these for good and not bad. You taught me how to deal with rejection at a young age. How to be strong when you’re scared, so scared that you don’t want your voice to work even if it could, which it can’t. You taught me that no-one has to love you unconditionally because of their title or relationship to you. You taught me to not depend on anyone other than myself. You taught me that there are people out there, that when the going gets tough, they get going. You taught me that words with no actions will only ever be words. You taught me that I am not one of these people. I love fully, I support those around me, I do my best for those who need it, I don’t run away from my problems. I am strong. I’ve learnt it’s ok to cut the ties with deadwood in order to keep yourself afloat. And I’ve learnt how to forgive the people who break you the most. Because holding on to grudges is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It doesn’t serve me. And I forgive you. And I hope you find some peace in your broken soul.
Grandad you are a true gentleman. I’ve seen you cross, irritated, frustrated but you have never once misplaced this towards me. You teach me, time and again, how to dance properly and don’t say a word when I tread on your toes. You still hold my hand as though I am a little girl. You tell me you love me often. You listen to my dreams and my plans and you don’t question my ability to achieve them or make me feel silly for wanting them. You are grateful for all the time we share together and so am I.
the world would be a better place if more people were like you
Duncan, the perfect note to end this story on. You are the best brother a girl could wish for. There’s not much to say other than the world would be a better place if more people were like you. Thankyou for being my best friend. Thankyou for making sure I fly high. And for helping me laugh when it all comes crashing down!
So thankyou to all of the men in my life, who have in some way made me the strong, loving, woman I am today. Confident and proud of my yin in a yang world.