It may not surprise those who know me, but I’ve always been in touch with my feminine side; and it doesn’t just manifest itself in wearing a lot of pastel pink during summer. I grew up in a one-parent family and my mother I spent a couple of years in a rehab with about eight other women who were fighting heroin addiction. My experience leads me to think that women are far superior to men; they’re cleverer, tougher and all together more graceful. Maybe they can’t piss standing up, but they multitask without needing recognition, they deal with menstruation (which would hospitalize most men), childbirth (don’t even go there), inequality and objectification. They’re also non-violent, highly sensual creatures and they smell amazing too! In celebration of International Women’s Day, here are just some of the women who’ve influenced me over the years…
It goes without saying that the single most important influence on my life was my mother. She brought me up me alone, despite leading a deeply turbulent life herself. Addicted to heroin by the time I’d started nursery, she managed to hold down a steady job as secretary to the Duke of Westminster at the same time. I have no idea how she managed this for nigh on four years – maybe the drugs were really good? In 1982 she checked herself into rehab, kicked her habit (which took nearly three years), got a social work degree and ended up chairperson of her local branch of the health charity MIND. She touched everyone who knew her and she is sadly missed, almost 20 years after her untimely death. What a woman!
Aside from the pure, carnal lust I had for this woman throughout my adolescence, she’s also a huge inspiration. Madge worked her butt of to get to the top, and probably took a whole lot of shit from music biz execs on the way up. Speaking as an erstwhile musician myself, her strength as a songwriter is often overlooked. She’s got an amazing ear for melody and is particularly expert at reinventing herself. She also has an uncanny knack of working with people who happen to be at the artistic zeitgeist of the time. Some people say she should stop making music after everything she’s achieved but why should she? The Stones haven’t. Sounds like sexism to me…
I’ve written about my wife before on this blog, and I’ll take any opportunity to praise her whenever I can. I walked in from work the other day and she was on the phone to a client, newborn baby sucking at her breast, while our 16-month old daughter played with Lego on the sofa next to her. This is multitasking squared, and is probably illegal from a DWP point of view. She’s had two caesarian sections within the space of two years, which means she’s superwoman, pure and simple. Being a parent is one thing, being a parent who’s also trying to build a business from the ground up is on another level completely. Plus, she never sleeps because or daughter wakes up to feed every hour and a half. I’ve no idea how she does it? Put simply, I feel insignificant next to her.
My mother’s friends in rehab
Anybody that seeks help with their addiction deserves the utmost respect. When my mother and I lived in the rehab centre, there were women of all ages and backgrounds there trying to kick their habit, many of whom had left children, families and friends behind. Far easier to remain within the warm embrace of smack than be uprooted, go through cold turkey, surrounded by strangers, all in complete isolation. Many were dealing with mental health issues, some with deep trauma, but they all took me under their wing and allowed me to listen in to their conversations about sex, politics and culture. Sadly a few didn’t make it, but those that did are now living lives free from addiction and have demonstrated great courage and strength to get there. You influenced this 11-year old boy more than you can ever know.
I’ve just finished reading the first part of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and it has such a lightness of touch that you forget you’re reading about such devastating issues such as racism and rape. And this is the genius of the woman; managing to take all this pain, anger and fear and turning it into something beautiful. There’s an Imagine documentary about her on iPlayer at the moment and it’s a must-see. Her life story beggars belief; in her time she was an author, a stage actor, a poet, a mother, a recording artist and a civil rights activist. Maya Angelou is an inspiration for everybody.