Thursday, 24 October 2013

A Man's Job


It's a man's job to provide for his family. That's what my father always taught me. That's what my mother always said. That was the reason, Father worked all those long hours in the office, so that when I was tiny I sometimes didn't see him for five or six days. It was the reason Mother was always the one to meet us boys at the school gate. The reason she was the one who cooked the meals, darned the socks, soothed sick brows. That was Mother's job, it was what was expected of her. Father's role was to pay the bills for our expensive private schools,  fund music lessons, acting classes  and scout trips. His time with us  limited to Sunday afternoon rugby matches, shouting from the sidelines, making sure we  didn't let the side down.  Is it any surprise that I grew up thinking that was what  Fathers did. What they were. Strong. Reliable. An absence so powerful, the very mention of their names struck terror in naughty childish hearts. I had no doubts whatsoever that this is what I would become.
            It certainly seemed that way, didn't it Steffi, my love?  Though, being a modern father, I couldn't escape attendance at the grimacing births,  or changing the obligatory nappies, the natural order quickly asserted itself once the paternity leave was done.  I spent long days at the office, leaving you at home, with the job you claimed fulfilled you.  A job that  you have always claimed you loved. You may wail plaintively now, but for all that you chose me for who I am: an alpha male, with a six figure salary, and a media profile. You needed me to fund the  lifestyle of your choosing:  the country house, the chance to redecorate every year, the three foreign holidays you could brag about to your friends.  Most of all, you wanted me at work, so you could establish your power base: the stranglehold you hold over home and hearth that has rendered me isolated, a stranger to my own family.
            There have been times in the last ten years, I have wanted to protest. Times when the late night deals have palled, and I'd rather be at home with you and the kids, cuddling in front of the television. Weekends when I've found myself redundant - as I've watched you race from activity to activity assuring me I'd only be in the way. Moments when I've felt excluded from a relationship with my own children, because you have somehow created a situation where you are everything to them, and I am not.  But, I've said nothing, accepting it as the way of things, or - vaguely aware now from conversations with other men that not every relationship is like this - the way of things in our house. I have done my duty by you, delivered home the bacon, created the life you wanted. I have always been the man you have wanted me to be.

            And now, after all I have done for you, after all these years,  you tell me you are leaving me. It is now that you tell me that when I thought I was giving you exactly what you wanted I was doing just the opposite. Now that I learn that I have held you back, confined you to the kitchen sink, prevented you from realising your dreams. Your divorce citation makes pretty reading. A tyrant, a bully, who forced me to stay at home, not letting me work. And your behaviour has been a revelation. First you lock me out of the house bought with my money. Then you casually tell me you are moving to the other side of the country to be with the new man who has conveniently just showed up in your life. Now you are trying to deny me access to my own children,  claiming they have no interest in seeing me, their own father.
            I have a feeling that you think I'll take this lying down. You have clearly held me in such contempt for so long, you believe that you have neutered me.    You underestimate me. You have forgotten, you see, how I was taught it was a man's job to be strong, reliable, and above all powerful. You have forgotten, that in the years you have sidelined me, I have not been unobservant.  I have taken notes. The affairs you imagine you kept hidden from me. The drinking you think is a secret between you and the housekeeper. The moments when the perfect image has slipped, and you have revealed the raging, hysterical woman underneath. And you have forgotten, haven't you, that in the days we had pet names, I was your lion.  You are so sure you have neutered me, you do not realise I am a lion still.


                        Watch me roar.

11 comments:

David G. Shrock said...

Powerfully told, I got caught up in his situation. I hope the lion has a bit of lamb somewhere inside to work it out.

John Wiswell said...

An alternative is to have no family at all. Then the lion sleeps and feeds alone and lives with much less responsibility. Perhaps less self-destruction as well.

Anne Booth said...

That's really great, Virginia. Really powerfully told, with skilful revelation that there is more than one story there. I think it is brilliant how you have managed to evoke such sympathy and convey the complexity of such a relationship, the background and the deals that hurt both. This is top notch writing Virginia!

Margit Sage said...

Powerfully sad, and authentic. It's a shame too many follow in their parents' footsteps without question. Nice work.

Steve Green said...

Very strong and powerful writing. It leaves me rather fearful for all of them as to how things might turn out.

Rebecca Emin said...

Amazing how the sympathy can switch from one to the other as the story becomes clearer. A clear reminder that there's always more than one view of a situation.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Surprisingly, I actually hope he gets his kids back. If he's noticed how appalling his wife's behaviour is then hopefully they have too.

Larry Kollar said...

It's true, how the manipulators think their victims too stupid to know what's going on. And perhaps he might have allowed it to go on, if she hadn't thrown it in his face, eh? But there always comes a time when evil overreaches…

Katherine Hajer said...

I just hope in this case, he's a reliable narrator. I've seen a lot of real-life situations where this tale gets told, and it's not always true.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thanks for all the comments folk, kind of glad it's divided people...There are always two sides to a story, though on this occasion, my sympathy lies with the narrator. Sadly some women work to exclude their men from family life and then blame them. Either way this divorce will not end well...

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thanks for all the comments folk, kind of glad it's divided people...There are always two sides to a story, though on this occasion, my sympathy lies with the narrator. Sadly some women work to exclude their men from family life and then blame them. Either way this divorce will not end well...