A Struggle too Long

One hundred years ago in the UK women got the right to vote. There! None of us can really imagine what a hard struggle it was to gain this crucial entitlement, but some brilliant, brave women strove for it and got it and we must never take it for granted.
There have, of course been many ‘watershed’ moments along the path to equality of gender but the most important thing to remember is that the path has not yet reached its destination. That is to say, women still have a long way to go before they can live lives as free and as privileged as men.
It seems to me that the principal reason for true gender equality taking such a long time to achieve is that, having enjoyed the benefits of privilege for centuries many men [not all] are unready and unwilling to give them up and the very fact of them being in positions of power and wealth [in boardrooms, for example] is self-maintaining.
You have only to glance at the vitriolic comments following any article on inequality to see how reluctant many are to surrender the superior lifestyles, the casual attitudes to degradation, the enhanced salaries and all-round benefits of not being a woman.
Here in the UK some areas are gradually improving. The number of women members of parliament has increased slowly over the years, although in 2017 the ratio was still 70:30 per cent in favour of men. There are some women cabinet ministers. The prime minister is a woman [although it is a downright shame that the only two women prime ministers in UK history are both from the political right].
But on the whole progress is slow. That even within the ongoing ‘me too’ campaign, an organisation [The President’s Club] sees no shame in staging a men-only night of debauchery in which women are paraded and objectified demonstrates how little men of certain wealth, status and notoriety care or notice. And until men [mainly white and older] begin to sit up and take notice and understand that they should not abuse their power in this way gender equality will continue to be an uphill slog.
Then in the wider world, daily, systematic abuse of women continues, with underage marriage [still legal in a number of US states], rape as a weapon of war, slavery and traffic endemic in many countries, repression and deprivation of rights rife in still more.
I had my own brush with the equal pay issue over 40 years ago when a student, working a summer job, nights in a soup factory, where we students manned machines packing powdered soup. Six or seven of us would work at the machine, moving place every hour in a non-discriminatory way. When I discovered the male students were paid more each week and asked why I was told that they ‘might be required to lift something’. Were they ever? What do you think?

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An Expert’s Guide to Partnership

I once read, years ago that your best chance of a lifetime partner is one who, on first meeting comes across as about a six or a seven out of ten. I also read that this potentially successful sharer of your life is likely to have elements of background in common with you; these might be socio-economic factors or cultural. They might, for instance have been born and brought up in a large city as you were, or raised in a remote farming community. They have spent their childhood in a poverty stricken tenement flat or be heir to a vast fortune. They may be from the same era and have a penchant for the same music and TV programmes. As long as their background is similar to your own the relationship stands a better chance of enduring. It makes sense and even more so when you are searching for this partner later in life, as many are.
At any age it is possible to become drawn by the way someone looks or acts. You have to feel sorry for the poor women who’ve been featured on our local TV news programme recently for having been duped by internet predators who stalked them for money. Those women naively assumed that the websites they were using for internet dating could protect them from such fraudsters. The potential suitors were charming, good looking and [crucially] professed great interest in their victims. They did not, however exist. It is easy to think of the women as foolish however anyone can be susceptible to the lure of flattery, especially those who’ve been on their own for some time or are vulnerable from past experiences.
Searching for a partner in later life is a tricky business, but I’ve always believed that anyone who truly wants a companion can have one, whatever the circumstances. It is just a matter of being realistic. For women, sadly, the field is still narrowed by having to search within an older age bracket-a difficult situation for older women! The singles group that [until recently] frequented one of our local bars on Friday nights was dominated by the same ageing females and dotted with a few similarly aged men, the entire group sharing an appearance of jaded acceptance, the women having each partnered one or other of the men at some time. At intervals one of the men would ask one of the women to dance, or a pair of women would take to the dance floor, after each sortie returning to their tables in a kind of desultory trance.
It is also important to remember that singledom can be infinitely preferable to unhappy partnerships.
There are women I know whose expectations are unrealistic [and I’m sure there are men who are the same]. I would say it is worth sitting down and assessing which qualities you feel are important in a potential mate. For me it would boil down to intelligence, sense of humour and downright kindness. Everything else-looks, charm, money etc would be desirable but no more than a bonus.
Of course, you do have to kiss a lot of frogs. I’m writing from experience here [and yes-I’ve told Husband I am still waiting for his miraculous metamorphosis to prince-lest he become too complacent!]

Home Alone?

                An item on a radio magazine programme recently concerned people who, by accident or design will be spending Christmas alone. Listening to these individuals explaining their situation, one stand out feature came across. The women had made a deliberate choice to spend the day in solitude, whereas the men felt themselves to be ‘shut out’ through no fault of their own and felt aggrieved. Some of the stories were painful to hear, such as the father who’d split from his wife and would not get to see his only son due to his ex having a new partner.

                There is a strange irony to all this. Even in this era of [slowly] increasing emancipation it is, at best unusual to see a woman sitting alone at a bar or a restaurant table, whereas a man in such circumstances would not be considered out of the ordinary or an object of speculation. The Dad who felt abandoned could simply take himself off to a hostelry. He might not know anyone but would at least be able to observe the revelries from the fringe or even get involved. The women in the programme had all planned their solo day already. They would not be leaving their homes, but knew exactly what they would eat, watch and do, and all were eagerly anticipating and expected to relish their time alone.

                During a mid-life period of singledom I took the bold step of booking, not one but two holidays as a single traveller. Although this rash action was partly a result of a messy relationship break up I forged ahead with the first- a week long skiing trip- not without a modicum of self doubt. ‘Think of it as a course you are going on’ encouraged a friend [I was a virgin skier]. I will never forget boarding the coach to the resort and explaining to the puzzled holiday rep that there was one in my ‘party’, or descending to the dining room at the hotel and forcing myself to ask if I might join a couple at their table when there were no empty tables available, then the continuing, painful experience with a lone breakfast supported only by a book as a prop. When I descended to the basement to join a beginners’ ski class the holiday underwent a miraculous conversion. My fellow beginners were a charming, friendly, inclusive bunch who invited me to join them for meals, après-ski, breakfast and outings for the entire week. The encouraging friend came to collect me from the airport, finding me cheerful, refreshed and hopeful-hopeful enough to approach the next lone exploit with confidence.

                I went to The Gambia, without the support of a ski class, but with a ‘go-for-it’ attitude. I engaged fellow travellers in conversation, chatted to fellow diners, went for tea with stallholders in the market, booked excursions, including a two day trip up river to stay in a thatched hut with a party of Netherlanders. Everyone I met was friendly and kind.

                These days, as blog followers know, I travel, dine and spend Christmases with Husband, a companion who, on balance, I prefer to be with than without-but I wonder when lone women diners and travelers will ever be a natural phenomenon?