It’s a man’s job to provide for his family. That’s what my father always taught me. That’s what my mother always said. That was the reason, Father worked all those long hours in the office, so that when I was tiny I sometimes didn’t see him for five or six days. It was the reason Mother was always the one to meet us boys at the school gate. The reason she was the one who cooked the meals, darned the socks, soothed sick brows. That was Mother’s job, it was what was expected of her. Father’s role was to pay the bills for our expensive private schools, fund music lessons, acting classes and scout trips. His time with us limited to Sunday afternoon rugby matches, shouting from the sidelines, making sure we didn’t let the side down. Is it any surprise that I grew up thinking that was what Fathers did. What they were. Strong. Reliable. An absence so powerful, the very mention of their names struck terror in naughty childish hearts. I had no doubts whatsoever that this is what I would become.
It certainly seemed that way, didn’t it Steffi, my love? Though, being a modern father, I couldn’t escape attendance at the grimacing births, or changing the obligatory nappies, the natural order quickly asserted itself once the paternity leave was done. I spent long days at the office, leaving you at home, with the job you claimed fulfilled you. A job that you have always claimed you loved. You may wail plaintively now, but for all that you chose me for who I am: an alpha male, with a six figure salary, and a media profile. You needed me to fund the lifestyle of your choosing: the country house, the chance to redecorate every year, the three foreign holidays you could brag about to your friends. Most of all, you wanted me at work, so you could establish your power base: the stranglehold you hold over home and hearth that has rendered me isolated, a stranger to my own family.
There have been times in the last ten years, I have wanted to protest. Times when the late night deals have palled, and I’d rather be at home with you and the kids, cuddling in front of the television. Weekends when I’ve found myself redundant – as I’ve watched you race from activity to activity assuring me I’d only be in the way. Moments when I’ve felt excluded from a relationship with my own children, because you have somehow created a situation where you are everything to them, and I am not. But, I’ve said nothing, accepting it as the way of things, or – vaguely aware now from conversations with other men that not every relationship is like this – the way of things in our house. I have done my duty by you, delivered home the bacon, created the life you wanted. I have always been the man you have wanted me to be.
And now, after all I have done for you, after all these years, you tell me you are leaving me. It is now that you tell me that when I thought I was giving you exactly what you wanted I was doing just the opposite. Now that I learn that I have held you back, confined you to the kitchen sink, prevented you from realising your dreams. Your divorce citation makes pretty reading. A tyrant, a bully, who forced me to stay at home, not letting me work. And your behaviour has been a revelation. First you lock me out of the house bought with my money. Then you casually tell me you are moving to the other side of the country to be with the new man who has conveniently just showed up in your life. Now you are trying to deny me access to my own children, claiming they have no interest in seeing me, their own father.
I have a feeling that you think I’ll take this lying down. You have clearly held me in such contempt for so long, you believe that you have neutered me. You underestimate me. You have forgotten, you see, how I was taught it was a man’s job to be strong, reliable, and above all powerful. You have forgotten, that in the years you have sidelined me, I have not been unobservant. I have taken notes. The affairs you imagine you kept hidden from me. The drinking you think is a secret between you and the housekeeper. The moments when the perfect image has slipped, and you have revealed the raging, hysterical woman underneath. And you have forgotten, haven’t you, that in the days we had pet names, I was your lion. You are so sure you have neutered me, you do not realise I am a lion still.
Watch me roar.