Ladies Day

G and I played golf on our honeymoon. I like golf. It’s a sport which usually involves decent scenery and a beer at the end. My kind of game. When I was growing up I watched my Dad use practice balls on the front yard, and on Christmas Day after a big lunch and presents were well and truly played with, the kids would hit the Golf Club pool while the grown ups (all men) had a quick round. When I was in my twenties I had lessons and played with my Dad. Golf makes me think of fun times, I’m not very good, but I really enjoy the way it makes me feel, the associations I have with the game.

I haven’t played golf for a long time. It’s a difficult sport with small children. It involves hours away from home and in most countries I’ve lived in (apart from Asia) it’s been an prohibitively expensive hobby. In Canada both G and I gave up completely. Summers were short. We had four children under six. G hurt his back, and we just couldn’t afford it. We walked away swearing we’d return the golf course when it was easier.

Seven years on and we’re back.

Over the summer G insisted that I buy some new clubs. He located my old golf shoes, cleaned them up and gave me the encouragement I needed to get back into it. And this is just one of the many reasons why I love my husband. He wanted us to do something together, so he made it happen. G is regularly invited to golf and regularly says no. I’m sure there are many people who feel that it’s me holding him back. It’s not. He doesn’t mind leaving the kids for a couple of hours on a weekend but there’s nothing that will convince him to be away for longer than that. Me? I could be convinced. I can honestly say though, that not one of my girlfriends in my thirteen years of motherhood has suggested that I join her on the course for 18 holes on a weekend.

In the midst of my excitement when we hit the driving range last week, I began to feel a certain frisson in the air. As I wandered by the other golfers who lined up side by side like golfing soldiers I searched for a space to fit in. It took me a few minutes to notice that I was the only woman there. There must have been about fifty men, all different nationalities, some were there on their own, others in groups were chatting amongst themselves. But as far as I could see I was the only one with a sport bra, a lick of mascara and a pony tail. That’s all it is right? Purely aesthetic? I preach to my children all the time that it doesn’t matter if the room is full of girls at dance, or boys at robotics, that they should ignore it and jump in.

There are plenty of women who golf in Qatar. I’m told if I was to hit the course early I would find a multitude of women, I can’t do early as I have to get the kids to school and G leaves for the office at 6.30am. I am also sure that there are many women who work flexible hours who are there in the mornings. But I wasn’t. I was there at night. And because I was the only woman there I started to wonder, for just a brief moment, if I was actually meant to be there. You have to remember I live in a country that has specific places for men and women. There are many gender specific areas or even gender specific days. In my own compound there are days where men cannot go to gym or pool because it’s ladies day. We have men’s salons and women’s salons for hairdressing, and men’s rooms and women’s rooms for prayer. For a brief second at the driving range I wondered if I’d missed the sign out the front.

That’s what it feels like when you’re the odd one out. You take a moment to wonder why you’re the odd one out.

After my initial moments of awkwardness, getting comfortable with my new clubs, and concentrating on my stance, I blocked out those around me and began to hit the ball. I loved it. My new clubs make an amazing sound, that unmistakable ping. I stopped to change clubs and noticed a woman sitting on a bench, she was watching her partner hit the ball. We smiled, and I tilted my head towards the green with my eyebrows raised, silently asking if she was going to have a go. She shook her head.

When I went back to my spot I noticed the guy next to me was having a terrible time. I’m guessing he was new to the game and things weren’t going his way. It’s terrible to admit this, but every time he sliced the ball I gained more confidence. I can be here. I can do this. I’m not embarrassing myself. I felt unnecessarily competitive. Like I had something to prove. I was strong and competent enough to be there. Weird, I know, but I think that’s maybe how you feel when you’re the odd one out.

G and I used the remainder of our practice balls and decided to head home. I looked over to wave goodbye to the woman on the bench and saw her with a club in her hand, her partner was looking for a glove for her to try. I grinned her in her direction. She was going to have a go at hitting a few balls. Maybe she’d got bored sitting there, maybe she got brave. Who knows.

Yesterday in Australia our new Prime Minister announced his new Ministerial Cabinet. Nineteen men and one woman. One. I’ve listened/read the discussions about “token” women in government and why people should be there on merit, but seriously? Did they really only have one woman to offer? One.

I’m a big believer in the best person for the job. I’m also a big believer in women being represented and in this case misrepresented. Which reminds me of Marie Wilsons quote in Misrepresentation:

“You cant be what you can’t see”

There’s a reason why kids don’t want to be the only girl or the only boy in the group. It feels weird. Yes, you can get over it and move on and be the best, but initially it feels weird.

I’m heading back to the driving range this week.

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