What I Have Learned From Growing Up in an All-Female Household

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Some people call me a cynic of love, some say I’m in denial, while others try to convince me to “just fall in love” because I need a man in my life. The truth is, everything I needed I got from the women around me.

Words by Malvika Padin

Relationships, especially of the romantic kind, have never been my strong suit. Now that might be because I’ve never tried being in one. Some people call me a cynic of love, some say I’m in denial, while others try to convince me to “just fall in love” because I need a man in my life. The truth is, everything I needed I got from the women around me.

Love? I got plenty from my grandmother who brought me up and from my mother who worked tirelessly to provide for me. Companionship, I got from the friends (all girls, mind you) I grew up with. Everything I needed, I was given, and all without the sought after male presence. I felt complete with the women around me.

Besides learning that you don’t need a man to complete you. I also experienced and learned from a few other things as I grew up in a family of only women.

Everything I needed, I was given, and all without the sought after male presence. I felt complete with the women around me.

One would be the comfort of undressing without a second thought of who’s around. It may sound silly to others, but the absolute confidence I developed in my body because of this experience is amazing. Undressing with no qualms of who’s around may be impolite, but believe me when I say it’s a liberating experience!

Another thing I’ve learned is travelling in a group of only women, is not unsafe (within reason). Where I grew up, in India, men are seen as a necessity to feel safe while travelling, but as I grew up myself and the three women in my family travelled inside and outside the country, just the four of us. We’ve lived! So who said we needed a man to feel safe?

The third thing I learnt was to let go of gender stereotypes. I watched my mum take on tasks such as home improvement, accounts and many other “manly” tasks. Since when have tasks needed a gender attached to them? They shouldn’t, but somehow people expect the men in the family to take care of certain things. Not having a man around meant having to do it all yourself which taught me to be independent and I value this lesson immensely.

Chivalry is dead, they say, but I hold doors open (for boys, even!) and carry bags for people, so maybe I’m keeping chivalry alive and that’s my fourth lesson. Chivalry and “gentlemanly” actions are not just for men.

Not everything is completely positive though because one of the things I learnt, or rather didn’t learn, is how to behave around the opposite gender.

I am a chatty, bold person around women, but add a man into the equation and all you get is an awkward silence. Even ordering a coffee from a male barista is quite a feat for me. You can see now why I’ve been single all my life. It’s from the sheer lack of experience. It has often frustrated me quite a bit when I see other girls get on with boys with ease; something I seemed incapable of doing.

Now at the age of 22, I am finally having an interaction with a man. My first ever romantic relationship. It’s quite a trial and error expedition for me. My lack of experience may make this relationship a bit hard to navigate, but growing up around women has taught me not to let my relationship define me. I may want this relationship to work, but definitely don’t need it to complete me, because I’m already complete without it.