I'm sorry I didn't let you into our building when you needed the toilet.
I didn't realise you were pregnant, or if I did, I didn't realise your needs. You see we had a blanket policy of not letting people use our toilets as there are public toilets 400 yards away in the park. I was apologetic but I turned you away. I was being a jobsworth.
I didn't see you as a mother with physical needs, an individual carrying a child. A child no doubt pressing down on your bladder, making you eat and drink little and often, drawing away your nutrients putting strain on you bones, your back, your legs, your hips. That your need was now. Not 400 yards away. That would be too late.
I'm sorry I didn't know.
I saw you as a person. I saw you as everybody else. I was being a feminist wasn't I? I've been taught as a woman you can do anything. You are equal to a man and you are not governed by your body- I strived to be like that. Hidden my anguish and emotional expression linked to changing hormone levels across the course of every month. Controlled my expression to be more male- the correct expression. Neutral? Fair...
This was not fair.
I was unkind. Years later I became that lady in the park. I was visibly pregnant. I waddled. It took 5 mins to walk 20 metres and then I would need to stop. My body ached. It was carrying a demanding load. My feet had swelled. Walking was troublesome. Heading into the park cafe, the lady behind the counter tried to refuse me access to the toilets. She was doing her job. It's what management had said. They were for customers only and there were portaloos over the otherside of the park I could walk to and use. I ignored her. I used the toilet. My accompanying friend felt bad- played the rules- bought a drink. Legitimised us. Having a human need was not legitimate. I was angry.
I'm sorry lady in the park for not trying to understand. I didn't realise the rules were stacked against you. That life wasn't just a little bit not fair but disproportionately so. I didn't realise the patriarchy I was still living under.
Thank you woman who stopped me. I didn't understand the lessons you were teaching me. You were subtle and led by example. You saw me turning away the lady in the park. You had authority and you used it. You invited the lady in the park in. You showed her kindness and you shared a knowing look with the lady in the park. I didn't understand what you were sharing. I knew there was something but I didn't understand it. I understand now. You didn't chastise me. You never did. You explained. I still didn't understand. I thought I did. But I didn't. I don't think I could ever have understood until I was the lady in the park.
It's not like getting caught short. That's unfortunate planning. It's more that the world has been planned without you in mind. The amazing infrastructure we have in our society has been built and shaped for man. And I mean man and not mankind. I'm not advocating for toilets every 20 metres. Just for a little compassion and understanding - understanding isn't even the right word. I don't expect you to understand - how can you its not your experience, but to try and empathise. And let your actions reflect that. Don't apologise and say dem are da rules. Say I see your need and I can meet it.
I'm sorry lady in the park.