Q: What is your story of strength?
Aine actually means strong woman, or temptress. (The irony of those words being synonyms does not escape us!)
I am very independent because when I was very young, my father died. He was only 34. I was 9 months and my brother was 2. When I was born, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. In my family, there is a story of when his body was being removed from the house to go to the church (of course I don’t remember this). I had been a very quiet baby up until that point, but when they took his body away, I started roaring crying. People say it was heartbreaking. It was as if I knew. My poor grandmother couldn’t go to the church. She’d already lost her other child so she stayed with me while everyone was at church, as I was too young to go.
We grew up the three of us- myself, my brother and my mother. My mother did what she could, which was amazing. I often think had she not sacrificed so much I wouldn’t be here today. But on the other hand, she wasn’t always the happiest lady. I think that is why I am very independent. I missed that softness from her. I didn’t get that intimacy that girls have with their mothers. I don’t really tell her what is going on that often in my life. If she asks, of course, I give her a brief run down. But we never discuss relationships… I mind myself.
Q: Can you tell me about a woman who exemplifies strength in your life?
My grandmother was an amazing lady. She lost two of her kids at a young age. She was such a lovely lady. When we would go over to her house for dinner and we wouldn’t eat what she made, she’d give us sugar sandwiches. It was just sugar on a sandwich! She was very caring, so soft. She’d tell me, “you’re the best girl in Ireland!” And you believed it. And that was really nice, because even though my mother was great, she wouldn’t compliment us that much. She was often quite critical.
In 1986, my grandfather got sick and my grandmother broke her hip, so they moved down to my aunt’s house. We still got to see them, but not as often. She was very funny, very sharp witted. Even when she was on her deathbed, she was just a ball! She was 96 when she died. She was lying on the bed and my cousin went in to see her (he’s such a sweetheart! He used to visit her every day.) He said ,”Granny, Granny do you know who it is? Can you hear me?” And she replied, “oh, Harry, you Micky Mouse! Will you quit annoying my head!” That was her down to a “t.” She was very sharp. She was also such a kind, generous woman. She was so good to us, she couldn’t do enough. And she really helped my mother as well when my father passed away. That was my granny. I wasn’t there when she died, unfortunately. I was in Canada and I couldn’t go. I wish I could’ve been there.
Q: Can you tell me about a time where you failed or disappointed yourself?
I think of it not as a huge singular failure, but disappointment in several smaller, more everyday instances. The first example that comes to mind, when I started college, I was outwardly very outgoing but I was actually very shy, not very confident. I met a few nice chaps who were interested in me. But I couldn’t accept that they were interested in me. When I used to meet them and date them, we would kiss. They would show interest and I would shut down. I couldn’t allow it. I pushed them away. I couldn’t speak to them, I would point blank walk past them. I think back on it and wonder why I did that to those people!? They were so nice to me, and interested. Why did I do that? I didn’t do very well in university. I failed my exams my second year. Overall, I could’ve made more of my university experience.
Another example is that I haven’t always been very healthy. I have gone to food for comfort. It took me quite a few years to learn that I would feel much better and I’m a happier person when I’m healthy. I guess I fattened myself up a bit. When I look back, I’m like, Aine, come on, you’re in your early twenties! I should’ve been out doing things and experiencing life instead of hiding in a giant shirt.
Also, at work, I can become quite stressed and annoyed. I can overreact to things and then I get all upset and annoyed and then feel quite guilty afterwards. I think, why did you react like that? I need to work on how I deal with my stress. Certain times of the month, I know my stress is higher and I’m particularly prickly. Now I know I need to hold tight and stay away from those who trigger me most during times of stress.
In the end, the disappointment is that I know I could’ve done more with myself, more with my free time. I suppose we all could.
How can we better support other women?
One thing I noticed and I really hate is when women call each other negative names. I don’t like when women call each other names based on their relationship history. I just don’t tolerate that. No man ever calls another man that kind of negative name. Women should never call other women that. There is no reason for it. Women can do what they want, when they want.
I also hate the word spinster. Women can be so great and supportive, as we saw on International Women’s Day. But other times, we have conversations with other women and the only questions we ask each other are – “are you married?” “do you have kids?” There are other choices in life people can make. We need to be kinder and more understanding of alternative choices, of why women do things. There is such pressure to be a certain way, to make certain choices. Allow yourself and others to just be. It is not a competition. And if it is a competition, you’re only competing with yourself.
Allow yourself to go to the beach in a bikini. Who cares with whatever you think is wrong with you! Everyone has something. Sometimes I see a girl in an outfit, and I think oh god why is she wearing that? And then I stop and catch myself and say, oh god Aine, stop! Don’t do that! She’s wearing it and wearing it proudly. No one is going to increase anyone’s confidence or make anyone feel like a stronger woman or a better woman by critiquing someone else unnecessarily. You don’t know what is going on in people’s lives, you don’t know where they come from. Maybe the fact that they are out today is a huge achievement.
We need to be kinder to each other and not take men’s side all the time. Take each other’s side. Not without reason of course. But we do tend to play up to men a bit. And we are better than that. I think of what we could do if we worked together. By together, I mean figuratively as well as literally. Supporting each other and getting the best out of each other is so important.