When I was a kid, my Mum had a mate called Linda.
Linda was a huge woman, almost six foot with shoulders like a rugby player.
She was in her 50’s and waked with a stick.
Not because she had mobility problems, but because she was on the sick, claiming for a fictitious back injury. It was the 1980’s. It was easy to be on the sick then.
When she was pissed, she would forget and drop the act. She would tap dance on pub tables and be the first to run down the off licence when the cheap vodka had run out.
When she sobered up, the frail old lady act would be back and she would hobble like her life depended on it. In a way it did: It paid the rent.
I was fucking terrified of Linda.
When I was 8 years old she seemed like a giant. She looked like Pat Butcher and stank of cheap cigarettes. She swore and she was loud. She was the opposite of my mother, who was always well dressed with pristine make up.
My Mother was a mental health nurse and attracted people like Linda. She liked to help them.
Linda hated kids. She would take swipes at me with her stick and ask my Mother, “Why is it still here?” if I lingered too long at the dining table.
Linda also hated men.
She had been a debt collector for years and I used to overhear her telling stories of how she would kick men in the bollocks, poke her fingers in their eyes and pull down their pants and expose their genitals to the watching neighbours as she screamed at them for the money they owed.
She loved taking their dignity.
One night I overheard her telling my Mum about all the times her drug addicted father had had sex with her when she was a child. His friends watched and laughed. Then some joined in.
It made me feel sick to hear that.
But I realised why she hated men.
Then another time, I heard her telling the story of why she didn’t have children. When she was eight months pregnant with twins, her boyfriend pushed her down the stairs. She gave birth to the dead twin boys on her own, in the hallway. She’d sat in that spot for three days holding them, trapped in pain and grief, before she called an ambulance.
It made her hard. I realised why she hated other people’s children after going through that.
My Mum got cancer and we moved from Cornwall back to London.
I never heard about Linda again. She didn’t come to my Mother’s funeral a couple of years later. I assume Linda is now dead too. She’d be in her 80’s if she was alive now; the smoke and drink must have got her years ago.
I never wanted to be like Linda.
Linda really hated men. She would spit at them while she was drunk.
I never wanted to hate men.
When I was young, most of my friends were male. The bitches a school had put me off women. I felt safer with men.
Then I got older and things happened. And now I don’t like men. In general, I mean, there are some I like.
But there is always the underlying feeling of what are they really like? What do they really think?
Are they the type that think it’s okay to buy sex? The type who think it’s fun to go on a stag do and pay a Lithuanian student to gyrate on their lap? Do they belittle their wife and tell her she’s worthless? Do they think they are more, that they are special because they are male?
Why are you buying me that drink? When you sidle up to me in a pub and ask me what I am doing there (same as you, fool). When I am at a gig and you but into a conversation between me and my friend because you think that we are there only to meet men. Hey! So glad you came over to talk to us! Thank God, a man is interested.
When we are not interested in talking to you, we are frigid. Or those damed feminists. Ever think we are just enjoying spending time together having fun? That we are not there for the sole purpose of attracting a man.
What’s that? I shouldn’t have put on make up and a sparkly dress then.
Oh, do FUCK OFF.
Maybe I have ended up more like Linda than I thought.