“Is it always as tense as this with her?” I wondered.
“Not always,” Caroline thought for a minute. “Me and her have lived here the longest. Five years it must be, near enough. It’s worked well enough most of the time, I suppose. Just these last few months, though, she’s rather taken on the role of senior matriarch. It causes problems.”
“She always treats women who’ve moved in more recently as though she had some kind of hidden seniority,” Zelda complained.
“The worst thing is,” Beryl followed on, “that you can feel her doing it, but it’s impossible to pin down. So you can never talk about it with her, or you end up sounding unfair.”
“Yes,” (Zelda again) “she’s so practical. She wants everything in really concrete terms. ‘What did I do?’ She’s perfectly prepared to talk about it of course, but it’s not that easy.”
“She’s too good at meetings, “ Jess put in. “She sets everything up as though it was a formal meeting, and brings her impeccable logic to bear on it, so half the things that really piss women off never come up. We end up talking about the cleaning rotas a lot.”
“We were going to have all our house meetings in the nude,” Caroline said, “so no one could take themselves too seriously. But it got to be too cold in winter, and a bit of a distraction in summer, so we gave up on the idea.”
“All politics and most meetings would grind to a halt if the people at them couldn’t take themselves seriously any more,” Jess said.
“Politics with a big P would,” I agreed, “being full of boys, and you know what they’re like about their dignity…”
“No. All meetings, “Caroline interrupted, definite, “would become an impossible concept if you deprived the participants of their sense of social standing.”
“Humph.” Beryl jumped into the argument, waving her hands. “Women can have meetings that aren’t meetings like men have meetings. A different kettle of fish.”
“When?” Connie joined in. “Name me one damn meeting you’ve ever been to that you honestly think could have carried on without role-playing and pomposity.”
“Who needs it anyway?” Zelda didn’t have the arguing tone that the others were using. “Why bother trying to feminise meetings as a way of doing things? Why not just admit that they’re a repressive patriarchal set-up and leave them to men to tinker about with?”
page 71 of “Mud” by Nicky Edwards (reviewed here)