I am not a feminist. I don’t even know what it truly means to be one. I grew up in an environment where I could be as formidable as the boy next to me, sometimes even more powerful.
In my primary school, the girls outperformed the boys. The top three in standard were always girls. I was one of them.
In secondary school, I immersed myself in an all-girls convent. St Nicholas Girls was one of the nine SAP schools who offered both English and Chinese as first languages. The elite special top 7% of students. And I thought to myself, I had to be in the best company. I had to learn from the best. That was the only way I could break out of my poverty. Yes I was already reaching for the stars at the age of 12.
Then I went to Hwa Chong Junior College and to my horror, my classmates were way smarter than I was. In particular, the boys. It was true what they said: men, they blossom at their own pace. and more often than not, later than women. I was in awe of all those intelligent boys I met who seemed to excel in everything they do, effortlessly, sans drama.
I also fell in love for the first time in my life. The once-in-a lifetime-LALA LAND-kind of love. We shared the same locker. He gave me a bunny on Easter 1992. I fell ill. He went to the doctor with me. I moved. We shopped for a bed together. We held hands. I almost fainted. We never kissed. We did not know how. He left me for another girl. I snipped off my long hair to show my pain. He did not notice. I cried.
But we are equal. Always. We bear the same rights to love. We fight on the same battlefields. We suffer the same fall. We celebrate victories the same drunken way.
And so this is what I learned from the men in my life.
Don’t bitch, just work. Don’t talk, just do.
Don’t think. Live.
Don’t think. Love.
I am a much more competent and confident woman, because of the men who left and the people who stayed in my life.