Oh how we fool ourselves. How we con and how we kid. Fancying we are this and we are that. In my wildest imaginations there I go, leading the charge. A rebel, a renegade, a revolutionary. That's me, up the front, astride that horse, storming that garrison. Hear my drum. Heed my cry.
But, in truth, I am no rule-breaker. Not really. Sure, on occasion, I've disregarded the law. Regular readers may recall my admission of the theft of a block of cheese. I am guilty, too, of checking my emails when waiting at the lights. I confess to the odd late-night dumping of my excess recycling in the neighbour's bin.
Ultimately, though, no one will ever describe me as some kind of rabble-rouser. More scaredy cat than lion heart. As a teenager I invited my new friend over to my old friend's house, and, goaded on by my old friend's new boyfriend, they hatched a plan to take my old friend's mother's car out that night. I stayed behind, a hot mess of righteousness, terror and regret.
Reluctantly I have come to realise that although I might pace and mutter, rail quietly from a safe corner, when it comes down to it you can count on my obedience. But while one wants obedience in a dog, say, or, to a certain extent, a child or an employee, unless you're seeking a submissive to fulfill your BDSM fantasies, obedience isn't exactly sexy, is it?
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Though I seek order and calm, strive to put systems in place, struggle to relax amid chaos, I am attracted to, impressed by, those who feel compelled, not to keep to the rules but to, instead, flout them. For my birthday a group of friends organised a private yoga lesson for us all. Attempting to adhere to the instructions as closely as possible, I breathed in deeply and twisted to my left, and was greeted by the lovely sight of my friends, all in a line, following suit.
Except for one, who lay on her back, having a snooze. I was both thrilled and shocked by this small insurrection. My fascination only heightened when next I turned her way to discover she had left the room altogether. "Where is she?" I mouthed to the friend closest to me. She shrugged. "Out the back, probably. Having a smoke." And I marvelled at such rock 'n' roll behaviour on a Saturday morning in Orakei.
Last Saturday morning, the day after Trump's inauguration, a friend invited
me on a march, a global movement of women calling for solidarity in the face of this new era of divisiveness. It was her first protest, and, having been on many myself, I rather smugly assumed it would be me showing her the ropes. However, when, ridiculously, we started marching, not up the middle of Queen St, as any self-respecting demonstration should, in order to disrupt and to draw attention, but along the pavement, it was her out there yelling at everyone to get on to the road.
I shouldn't have been surprised. This is the friend who once told me she couldn't bear being told which way to go by her GPS. Later, during the speeches, the lack of police presence was commented on, and there was the feeling that this was something good. And she pointed out to me that the assumption the police wouldn't be needed because we were women and would keep the peace was, in fact, offensive. That perhaps rather than being instinctively compliant, women have been taught to toe the line, taught that it is only men who may mutiny.
And ever since, reading about Trump and his first days in power, I have been thinking about the place of rules in these uncertain times, and I can only conclude that the key will be in recognising which rules serve the wider good, and which deserve breaking or at least stretching.
Last week I suggested fathers are less likely than mothers to find themselves wanting. Paul's letter gave me pause. When his son was small Paul worked long and late to provide, always guiltily aware his son was missing out on his time. Paul's marriage didn't survive. At 16, his son made a request of him: "Can we do a road-trip and see where we go?" Unable to turn him down, Paul says it's a trip he will never forget. "Perhaps I did a few things right after all."