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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Steel Magnolia

There are 8 of us. Our friendships span more than a quarter of a century. We've seen each other through boyfriends... through weddings... through births... through breast enhancements... botox..., meeting up every year to show off happy bits of our lives and seek sympathy for the unhappy bits.

When we met up last night, I could not help feeling a knot form and twist in my stomach when I heard what H was going through. Way back when, H was every teenage boy's dream girl. Even today, grown men who knew her then (now married to other women) reminisce starry-eyed of her famed beauty. Long black hair, large eyes, porcelain complexion... H looks like a China Doll and exudes an aura of vulnerability that makes others worry for her. Actually, she looks pretty much the same today.

But this is a woman who has 4 kids. After her husband's retrenchment, she struggles to make ends meet by running her own business... whilst breastfeeding one child, coaching another special needs child and tending to the other 2. I have to worry about Little Boy and I find that tough. I wonder how she manages 4 kids whilst also being the breadwinner. It's even more heartbreaking to see how she keeps her anguish to herself because she does not want to burden her husband unnecessarily. With all that she is doing, she wishes still to be her husband's emotional pillar.

Therefore, it is amazing that after thousands of years of human civilisation, people still think of women as the weaker sex. In post-war Singapore, how many women have had to bring up 5, 7 or 9 children single-handedly after the death of her husband? Thanks to wave after wave of retrenchment exercises, how many women are family breadwinners whilst still fulfilling the traditional roles of supportive wife and loving mother? How many women have to step up to take on the responsibilities of their men when the needs arises, whilst not relinquishing the responsibilities their men married her for?

Life is unpredictable. Men don't choose to die. Men don't choose to lose their jobs. And when a husband is out of action, from somewhere inside of her, the wife must find the resources to do everything and be everything. As years upon years of history flow past, generations after generations of genteel white magnolia flowers with fragrant and delicate petals become steel magnolias in the wake of earthquakes, of economic crises... and of wars. Everywhere in developing countries, micro-loans to women allow them to build businesses that feed children and grow the economy.

Are we weaker because we cry so easily? Are we weaker because we are physically smaller? Are we weaker because we don't compete for fame and glory? Are we weaker because we don't fight wars? Are we weaker because we look prettier? Are we weaker because we tend to find satisfaction from supporting our other halves?

Odd isn't it?

4 comments:

Blur Ting said...

We often hear of women who rise to the occasion when a crisis hits. It is no coincidence because women cannot bear to see their kids suffer or starve, so they get down to work instead of wallowing in self pity.

petunialee said...

Yup! Ting... Like you.

Malar said...

Women are tough species created by god. They look so soft but they are stronger then the diamond! ;-)

petunialee said...

Malar - Someone said... "Silk soft, and silk strong".