I know this woman.
She lives in a beautiful house worth a mill or two in the best street in town. She drives a car that would make four wheel drive enthusiasts weep as she drives it around town as a glorified shopping trolley and she has a mill or two in the bank in joint accounts. But she is the poorest woman I know. Of course the word poor is subjective. Many people would see her as one of life’s winners. Married to a powerful, rich man – a banker, a forex trader, a real estate guru – he leads a charmed magazine worthy life with his beautiful family and beautiful wife. She enjoys the best that money can buy – education for her children (all four), holidays overseas in exotic destinations, and she adorns her body with tasteful shimmering status symbols that he tosses in her direction now and again. Startlingly beautiful apologies. She can afford to be picky, and she is. Every day she heads to the local market and buys the best food, bottled water (sparkling or still?) the choicest cuts of meat and all the time-saving meals a busy woman of her standing needs to keep her family fed. She can’t remember the last time she ate mince. Oh wait, she can. He didn’t like it and told her to never ‘serve this shit to me again.’ She guesses he ate enough mince as a child. She’s on a first name basis with the Maitre-D’s at the very best restaurants in town and when she dines, as she does so frequently, she can afford to leave half of her meal AND order dessert. No-one tells her to ‘think of the starving children in Africa’. They wouldn’t dare. Her pool is heated, though her bed is not. In fact, she often spends nights alone at home watching DVDs or some ‘junk on the box.’ Her husband works hard you see. She knows this. It’s even verified in those text messages he received from his eager-to-please PA. That bumptious blonde said he worked hard. She says she likes it when he does. So her bed is often cold, but she manages with bed-socks and central heating and beautiful night attire that whilst failing to attract her honey bee to her honey pot, makes her feel better. In the morning she wakes before everyone else and prepares breakfast. They all work so hard – the kids, the husband – she does what she can to make it easier for them. She picks up the dog poo on the lawn before he wakes, and puts the first of three loads of washing on. There’s a flurry of activity at breakfast and the kids are often shirty and demanding. One wants eggs, whilst another can’t understand how she can eat ‘baby chickens’ and He wants bacon – but ‘not that streaky crap’. It’s chaotic as the kids head off to school and he heads off to work – early to beat the traffic – even though he came home at 2am. She heard him, in the shower. And then the house is quiet. She often heads out for a run with the dog, she has a figure to maintain after all – the surgeon can only do sooo much – and besides, she figures she won’t top herself in public. Sometimes when she’s out with the dog she replays vignettes of happier times. They had so little in that funny little two bed flat. But they had each other, and of course those vanilla scented baby heads. So sweet. The day wears on – a continual round of picking up and washing and trying to ignore that gnawing in her stomach. It is not empty. She has eaten today. She might spend some of the day lunching with friends who are eager to be seen out with her. Or maybe she sits in front of daytime TV and gawps at those poor woman fighting and swearing, fat pouring out of their cheap tracksuits. She once banned daytime TV. When the kids were little. She wanted them to have an outdoorsy life. She signed them up to every playschool, group, club, activity she could find. They loved it. And she did too. For brief snippets of time she was thinking about something else – how to bowl the perfect cricket ball, how to master the quintessential plié, how to make volcanoes erupt. It reminded her of that life before marriage when she had a purpose, a job and a brain. A brain she fears has now atrophied. Not that she has said it to anyone. She was a different person then, she doesn’t know who she is now. She once complained to her husband and he flew into a vile rage. “You selfish bitch” he said. “I provide everything you could possibly wish for, “he said. Luckily her foundation hid the bruises well. And she never complained again. And after all, he’s right. Her place is here being the midwife to everyone else’s life. Part decoration, part housewife (she really did marry the house) she serves in her beautiful gilded cage. She ‘can check out any time she likes, but she can never leave.’* She is the poorest woman I know. She has the money, prestige, the assemblage of a perfect life and not one shred of self-respect. She’s a prisoner of fear. She is enslaved by societal expectations and her own comprehension of a successful life. She can’t leave and really, what would she leave for? Where would she go? Back to the two bed flat and a job cleaning motels? She tells herself she’ll leave when the kids have grown and left home. She’s lying to herself, and she is the poorest woman I know. Do you know her too? *Lyrics from Hotel California