This is the second post about my trip to Ireland and a bit about awesome women. We visited the Hag’s Head and walked the Hag’s Ladder. I kind of love the word and think I won’t mind reclaiming it so I can be called one! It sounds kind of rugged and tough.
Side note – I can’t figure out where to put my apostrophe on the word women’s, womens’, womens so forgive the creative use of punctuation.
So I sign up for activities all the time – sports leagues, workshops, trips – where, in addition to trying something that interests me, I figure I’ll
- meet potential new friends my age and
- maybe even meet “him,” the guy I might spend the rest of my journey with.
And yet, without fail, I somehow end up on teams and in groups full of married fathers and elder women. It’s the strangest thing!
So I actually had a good laugh when I met my tour group in Ireland and the guide was a married father of three and the participants were three women between the ages of 65 and 80. OF COURSE that’s who my group was!!
But you know, I wasn’t disappointed and I love them all. I figure there’s something I must be needing to learn from all of these spoken-for men and great mentor-women who I’ve been meeting over the years. If the only lesson is to have fun and live in the moment, mission accomplished!
The thing about fantabulous married men is that they’re safe because they’re off limits. I can get straight to enjoying their friendship and forget myself. There’s no fretting about trying to look good or assessing the wardrobe every morning or wasting time on trying to flirt, which I’m notoriously bad at anyway. The activity becomes about the shared event and not about the potential of the relationship.
But I want to talk about women in this post more than anything.
Women studies was brand new to the university I went to. I believe I was in the inaugural Womens’ Studies 100 course at the University of Regina in the early 1990s and a good friend of mine was the Women’s Centre co-ordinator at the University of Manitoba during our U-years. I started to learn about womens herstory and the rights movement. It felt like I was hearing our collective stories for the first time instead of only the myths, legends and heroics of white, colonial men that were taught in grade school. Who knew Laura Secord was more than a place to buy chocolates at the mall!? It was refreshing to see the world through the eyes of women who had come before me and to better understand my own context in the world via their lives.
I thoroughly enjoy talking to women older than myself because whether they realize it or not, whether they identify with having been a part of a rapidly changing culture for women and womens’ rights or not, I can see their place in it through what they tell me about how they have lived compared to how I’m able to live today.
Women are strong. Period! Whether they were stay-at-home moms, working-outside-the-home moms, single moms, women without children due to choice or circumstance, married women, single women, divorced or widowed women, lesbian, straight or otherwise women … if you take time to talk to women and listen to the stories of their lives to date and the dreams they still have for their futures, there is such great stuff there.
The more mentor-women I meet along the way, the prouder I am to be a gal and their courage gives me courage to continue to live my life without letting outside judgement affect the choices I make.
Now that I’m in my 40s, I am also discovering the wisdom and fantasticness of young women.
On the second week of my trip in Ireland our group acquired a 26-year-old Swiss woman. She reminded me a lot of the young women that I work with at home who seem so confident and comfortable in their equality with men that I think the idea that womens rights would be anything unique or distinct is foreign. For them, there are simply human rights and everyone’s story is important so the notion that they are equal to men doesn’t register as something that needs to be articulated.
That worldview is pretty cool to consider. To think that there might be a few societies where young women don’t see a need to be considered separately because of their gender in order to protect their place in the world economically, professionally or personally is wild!
I imagine not all young women feel this way. Do young aboriginal women and women of colour feel the same way? Do immigrant women feel that way? I know not all young women the world over experience equality. I am thankful that the young women I interact with seem free of the concerns that plagued and arrested the development of the generations of women who came before them.
I feel as though I am in the bridge generation. Gen X is the age group that directly inherited the benefits that came from the tireless work and struggle of our mothers, aunts and grandmothers and so we are keenly aware of and grateful for what we have, nor do we take those hard-earned rights and responsibilities lightly.
However, like younger women, we live lives that are liberated because we were told that we could be and do anything we set our minds to. So technically we share much in common with young women who seem to breeze through life knowing the world is theirs to triumph.
Granted, as Gen Xers who have been in the work force for 20-odd years, we have periodically come up against old values and systems and have had to wait or are still waiting in the wings until certain someones retire and make room for change.
But young women in their 20s? Sky’s the limit! For real and that is exciting.
Though the Swiss gal on our trip has girlfriends that are choosing what might be labeled old-fashioned roles and ways of living compared to her choice to live single, economically independent and travelling the world, the thing that seemed poignant was that they have all of the choices without any of the stigma. No judgement from their peers, their parents or their partners; at least none based on the fact that they are making those choices as women.
I made similar choices to my Swiss pal as a young adult and had to defend them. People around me still feared for my future because I walked the road less taken. We were all still learning how to embrace that hard-won equality by women past and experience the positive outcomes that were dreamed about but yet unproven.
Thankfully, as the years go by and my girlfriends and I all succeed in the various paths we’ve chosen, and as young women carry on confidently doing the same without thinking too hard (if at all) about how their gender plays into decision making, I am only more profoundly in awe of elder women. Whether they bucked the traditional, predetermined roles society laid out before them or not, they all added to the foundation that cradled each consecutive generation of girls and boys that has led to the freer world we live in today.
But that’s enough deep thinking for one day. Let’s not forget my opening statement that if the lesson learned from great mentor-women is to live in the moment and have fun …
The gals in my group tour of Ireland never skimped on desserts after supper, napped when they were tired, laughed loudly when something struck them funny and kept the Irish whiskey flowing back in their room in the evenings.