I’m a girl’s girl, a woman’s woman. I adore women and I’m eternally grateful to the women who raised me and the women who’ve laughed, cried and journeyed this life with me.
Be afraid of a woman who describes herself as a “man’s woman” or “I don’t get along with other women.” Whatever gender you are – run. They’ve just told you about their ugly lens to the world, women are competition, back-stabbers and jealous. Obviously, they’ve just described themselves rather than ‘every other woman.’ Honing their skills at capturing male attention, it never ceases to amaze me how shallow some men are to not see through the veil. I’ve made it clear to male friends over the years, I have no sympathy for you in this scenario – learn.
Growing up in a country and family where gender bias didn’t exist, I realise now how privileged I was. It shouldn’t be a privilege of course; it should just be normal – as I assumed it was then. This was my experience I’m remembering; it may of course have been different for others growing up in New Zealand. The country does have solid factual evidence for being a pioneer of gender equality though.
I wonder if New Zealand being a relatively young country, populated by pioneers who had to all work together to build a new life, helped erode the gender roles and myths of the old countries. The first nation to give women the vote and the first where the five highest offices of power were held by women. Even before that, many Maori women held powerful and respected positions within their tribes and were part of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. One of my own ancestors travelled with the Treaty to gather Maori chief signatures for the Crown. So, growing up – I not only had great female role models in my family but also the prime minister and stories of our country’s ancestors and my own.
My maternal grandmother was from Austria. She would whisper wisdom to me from a very young age – repeatedly. I didn’t know why then, just accepted everything Grandma said was true, even if I didn’t understand it. Now I know she was preparing me for the adult world. She would say things like, “If a man ever hits you, leave, immediately, no matter how much he begs or cries and says it will never happen again – it will.” Later, when I was a young adult and saw this type of scenario happening with a work colleague, I couldn’t understand how she didn’t just know to leave. Then I remembered, I knew because my Grandmother had made sure this type of knowledge was imprinted on my brain. She had a quiet strength; you knew it was her who held it all together, but she felt no need to talk about it. One of my favourite times was being curled up in her lap while we rocked in her La-Z-Boy chair and she plaited my hair or taught me to crochet or sew.
Nana, my paternal grandmother was from a proud Irish immigrant family. The church was hugely important to her and so was independence and working. She worked as an accountant well past retirement age and always dressed well and made the best scones. She would whisper to me, “always have your own bank account, that nobody else knows about, that way if you ever need to go anywhere or do anything, you can.” Both my grandmothers had wonderful husbands who respected them, but they’d obviously seen things my young eyes didn’t know of and wanted to ensure I knew how to protect myself, if needs be, when I was older.
My mum, she was a young mum and loved being a mum. Very beautiful and slim, she’d be mistaken for my older sister when collecting me from school. She laughs loud, really loud and hangs onto your arm to shake with laughter. Mum enjoys being happy and laughing, this is a gift to grow up with. My grandfather told me that his Mum, busy always raising over a dozen children on a remote farm, spent her days singing and would often laugh with them.
I’ve had the privilege to help raise a couple of girls, through former relationships. It’s a special time, that 8-12 age range and you can have a fantastic relationship as Dad’s partner. I knew things, secrets, they didn’t tell either of their parents and we’d have so much fun doing girls things and going on girl’s outings. My girlfriends loved their company too, saying; “They’re just like us, but without the drinking and cursing.” We made an attentive, rapt audience for all the dress-up fashion shows (using my clothes, shoes, dress up boxes and make-up), the dance recitals, the new instrument playing, the school-yard gossip and the confidences about the latest boy crush. It’s all so relatable and a great honour to be there to help out a new generation with navigating girl-hood.
Throughout my life, I’ve had strong bonds of female friendship. Friends where we refer to each other as “sister”, rather than “friend” – because we’re that close ‘friend’ just doesn’t cut it. These women are still the most important people, outside of my family, in my life. As women we put a lot of energy and time into our friendships, and we’re rewarded for it. We hold each other up, encourage, advise, rejoice, comfort and hold each other accountable. Best of all though, we laugh – a lot! Have fun, poke fun and can make the best memories with just each other, a kitchen some music and some wine. I love travelling with my friends, we have girls group holidays and sometimes just go away in pairs or threes. Longer-haul I did with Adey, back in the day. We can chat away a 12 hour flight no problem and upon landing say; “Well, that went fast, feels like we just took off!”
We spent fun, crazy times together during our 30’s in London, Adey and I. Living solo in our own flats not far from each other, we were always together in one of our flats or out on the town. We had routines and traditions – we shared a lot. So much so we discovered we had our own language according to mutual friends. At a gig one night, Sinead wondered over to chat to us and upon reaching us said, in her blunt Irish way, “Oh no, it’s an Adey and JoJo conversation, I’ll leave you to it.” We looked confused at each other and then her with body language that said, “What?!” She explained; “You two can only understand each other when you’re in one of your conversations.” We looked at each other and dissolved into fits of laughter at the realisation she was right. We had so much shared experience, and are both natural communicators (we talk a lot, fast), we’d stopped waiting turns to talk and just talked together working through the same sentence and leaving out large chucks of information because ‘we knew what we were talking about.’ Usually reminiscing about some escapade or other.
Being in lockdown, we had a group video-chat the other weekend where I introduced a girlfriend from Scotland (I used to work up there) to Adey. I explained she was my London life “partner in crime.” My Scottish friend said, you have a few of those then, I was your Scottish “partner in crime.” She was right, I hadn’t realised – I like a “partner in crime” which is just a term to describe a “partner in adventure”. Adey will tell you I talked her into (with zero resistance on her part) a number of adventures back in the day. Maybe I’ll write about some of those one day…
This lockdown I asked Adey to do Adriene’s 30-day Breath yoga programme with me – we’re both really enjoying it. Adriene is an excellent yoga teacher and she’s got her dog Benji which appears in the tutorial videos as well. We’re reporting to each other how we find each day – overwhelmingly calming is the answer but it’s also definitely building strength, physical, mental and emotional.
Treasure the women and girls in your life, spend time developing great relationships – you’ll always be repaid with a richer life for it.