What did feminism have to do with me?
Fiftysomething: In my youth, it felt like the choices on offer to us knee-socked convent girls were desperately limited
A couple of weeks ago, on the morning the Leaving Certificate results came out, I received a text from a young friend of mine. It read: “I got 555! So delighted aggghh!!!!!”
My friend is a lovely, funny, diligent young woman; she worked hard and consistently. Unsurprisingly, she has been offered the course she wants at the university she wants; she has aspirations, plans, great hopes for her future. She is standing on the cusp of a silver moon.
My teenage son once saw the
well-crafted notes she had for each of her subjects, filed in poly pockets and ring binders, underlined, colour-coded, legible. “Cool,” he said. “Amazing.” Then shook his head in gentle disbelief and loped off back to the PlayStation.
Once again, this year girls have
outperformed boys in the Leaving Cert. They have even begun to outpace
boys in subjects that were traditionally seen as male, subjects such as physics
There are a couple of exceptions, however: apparently boys are better at Arabic and applied maths. They are also better at losing their keys, their phones, their bus tickets and their winter jackets; sometimes even finding their shoes can be a little taxing.
On the cusp of their own dreams
Anyway, later that evening I was sitting outside a bar with a friend, a woman who is almost exactly my age. Her bicycle was chained to the lamp post, her helmet was on the table next to our two glasses of red wine, and, while I was inside getting us a refill, she had hopped up on her rothar, raced down the funky road and bought us a packet of cigarettes, although neither of us really smokes any more.
But it was one of those nights: we hadn’t seen each other for a long time, we had news to exchange and, rightly or wrongly, we were behaving like a couple of
wrinkled schoolgirls at the back of the Zimmer-frame shed.
Since we’d last met, we’d both turned 50. She had entered into a civil partnership with her girlfriend and continued on with her extremely successful career; I’d done quite a lot of ironing.
As we sat outside the bar, the conversation turned to the young women we
know, and how good it is to see them achieving a kind of equality that neither
of us felt fully existed when we were in their shoes, and standing on the cusp of our own dreams.