I was sitting behind a group of girls on a double decker London bus. They were behaving typically of their age (fifteen, or so): honking like a flock of geese, talking over each other, endearingly addressing one another ‘cunt’, ‘bitch’, talking about boys or rather about “the” boy they all secretly seemed to lust for and, disapprovingly, about the girl whom “the” boy was “messing with”. They were happy and excited teenagers. And they annoyed me profoundly.
It was because they reminded me of myself at that age. More precisely, one of the girls in the flock reminded me so much of my younger self that I could not stop observing her. My muse behaved like the other girls—braggadocio, macho and all that—but I noted it was an attempt to conceal something more troubling – despair. When no one else was looking, apart from me that is, she gazed out of the window and only then did her eyes seem fully alive. It was as if she descried a more fascinating world somewhere in the vista. It was a melancholia, not of one who does not fit in anywhere, but of one who does not fit in where they presently happen to be.
Despair, particularly in the sense of desperation, shaped much of my pre-adult behaviour too. The desperation was not for a concrete thing. I was not, thankfully, living in a conflict area, I was not abused at home, I was not ill, or anything like that. Yet I felt an unbearable yearning and for something which I could not define, something which I was not sure even existed.
Many years later, I read a book titled Women Who Run With The Wolves. It is a self-help book of sorts, but it is also one of few existing books which seriously and enthrallingly looks at the topic of women and power in-depth. The book tells us about the wise and ageless presence of ‘Wild Woman’ in the female psyche and argues that acknowledging its presence imbues women with a sense of power and freedom. Using archetypical stories, Pinkola Estes argues that Wild Woman is ‘repressed by a male-orientated value system which trivialises women’s emotions’.
At twenty-seven, when I read Women Who Run With The Wolves, I’d just recently moved to London having spent some time in New York. I’d had a number of meaningful relationships (and a number of meaningless ones too). I had a well paying job at an ad agency while I honed on my writing passion. It was a year that always stands out to me as the year in which I became awakened into a fully independent human being, and felt a corresponding sense of joy about life. But when I read Women Who Run With The Wolves I felt a sorrow for TeenageMinna. I understood that her despair had been caused by the repression of Wild Woman in her surroundings.
We got to Liverpool street and the girls got off the bus just as noisily as they got on it, a couple of them pressing the stop button like it was an alarm bell. As they walked off into the crowds, my annoyance was replaced with sympathy and affection. They were products of girls living in patriarchy, not running with the wolves, but running away from them.
Lesley Gene Agams says
I adore that book and Clarissa Pinkola Estes. And I am proudly ‘A Wild Woman’. Hear me roar! 🙂
Ernest Ebele says
Haven’t read the the book but will look out for it. Being a man and reading this I am inclined to ‘generalise’ the theme here and say it applies to many irrespective of gender. Male oriented systems represses men and what they can be too.
Funmi Kehinde says
I loveeeeeee the way you write!!!
Would want to meet you some day.
Yinka obebe says
I can totally relate with this. It is a space we usually come into when we become adults, and i think its worth a reflection for both genders.
Also i believe this awakening can occur in ones life many times over. It is the coming to terms with the need to see yourself in its truest design which often is the more powerful place than we might have spent most of our time and years.
It will happen to everyone of us many times for the fortunate, who will get a chance to evolve many more than once as they face newer challenges and ambition drives them to be better.
Better at what?
That depend often and specifically on the realizations we come to. A further comparism is the yoruba word “marindoti”…do not walk in dirt literarilly, which instructs that you begin to see yourself in a more exalted, evolved, kingly and purposeful path by design.
Like saying lions do not run with dogs. Not with any condescending intentions, but in total truth to oneself of the need to embrace the place of strength. To know of the fact that you are not different from the wolves, you can run with them.
Thanks Minna for thiking this, and i have infact reccomended your blog and the book you cited to my wife, sure she’d love to read, being a woman of enormous strength, grace and purpose herself.