A thanks to all the ladies

Today is International Women's Day and I think we should all take time to stop and thank the ladies in our lives. However you identify yourself chances are there have been some women in your life who have shaped you.

The piece below is something I wrote for the wonderful Fan Club 'zine. Fan Club are a monthly club night in Nottingham that celebrate all things female. They have awesome DJs, some fantastic themes and lots of glitter! You can check out what they're up to on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/fanclubnotts

This is my thanks to all the females who have appeared in my 29 years on the planet.

I lost my mum when I was eight to breast cancer. That, somewhat obviously, had a big impact on my life and who I was to become when I got older. Instantly I lost the everyday female presence that was represented in the adverts, the TV shows, the films. I found mother-figures in my aunts, my grandma, my dad’s new girlfriend but it wasn’t quite the same.
I also had a more mature outlook on life having seen such a disruption so close to home. This marked me out from my peers who hadn’t yet experienced an event like this. I had to be the strong one for my dad and my little brother, I was made more grown-up because of this and learnt to manage my emotions, even suppressing them at times.

My memory of her is hazy, but from what I can remember and the stories I’ve been told I know she was a strong woman; she respected people’s opinions but knew her own mind, she was athletic and she encouraged me to find out things for myself. She read Dhal, Tolkein, Plath and Wilde. She liked poetry, Simon and Garfunkel and played guitar. She smelled of Charlie Red and had a gold and black tiger print jumper dress.

People say I’m like her; both in looks and in attitude. But I’m also like my dad who raised me and brother. From him I learnt about Formula One, rallying, rugby and that if you didn’t like someone then don’t hide behind false friendliness to their face only to talk about them when they’re out of earshot.

That lesson from my dad meant I couldn’t play the games that other girls did. I don’t like it when people talk about others behind their back, I try not to get drawn into gossip and bitching and I’ve been the victim of some pretty mean girls in my time.
This bullying and, at one point isolation, damaged my self-worth and my trust in women. I looked to my aunts, my gran, my dad’s girlfriend, certain teachers from Primary and Secondary school. I saw the ladies I wanted to be, but my peers seemed so far removed from this that I assumed the older women had got it all wrong, that they were living in a different time, that it couldn’t possibly be this way now in the 21st Century.

However those girls and their mean plots shifted my life into a new direction. After a particularly disastrous set of A Level results meant I had to resit a year I discovered a small group of girls who liked me for who I was.
When I went to Uni I found three young ladies who helped me rediscover colour in my wardrobe (until that a point a collection of blue jeans and black tops), showed me how to apply eye-liner properly and showed me the fun in dressing up and celebrating my femaleness.

I began to trust women again. I built up stronger relationships with female friends from school and university.
I understood that wearing trousers didn't make me a “man-beast” and that I didn’t have to sacrifice my intelligence if I wore a dress and makeup.
I can be interested in the tactics of rugby and swoon over Robshaw’s thighs.
I can like craft beer and Prosseco (although prefer champagne).
I can change a tyre and my hairstyle.

The ladies I surround myself with now have the characteristics I was seeking when I was younger. They’re strong, respectful, they have a sense of humour and an outlook on life that chimes with my own. They accept me and my cracks, they build me up and I’m really glad I’ve met them all.

Sometimes I think about those mean girls from school and wonder what they’re doing. I hope, honestly, that they are happy in life. I don’t need an apology now, because I’ve accepted that I probably wasn’t the problem, that they were battling with their own self doubt and insecurities that all 13-16 year old girls go through and because I was different I was the easy target. I thank them now for how my life has turned out and for who I am today.

I’d like to say thank you to my aunts who showed me you don’t need a relationship to be happy.

Thank you to my grandma who has shown me getting old is nothing to be scared of - she’s busier now than she ever has been!

Thanks to my University housemates for the wardrobe advice, for putting up with my odd hours as Stage Manager and the wedding invites.

Thank you to my friends for the bad dancing, the loud singing, the awful photographs on Facebook, listening to my relationship woes and being patient with me.

Thank you to the girls in nightclub toilets who have made me laugh with their compliments, thank you to the woman in Next who told me my choice in pyjamas was on point, thanks to my boss who has mentored me through a new role.

Thanks to the women who have challenged me. You have all made me the woman I am today.

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