When my mother and father were first dating, in Yeppoon in the early seventies, my mother insisted that he park his motorbike around the corner so that the locals wouldn’t cotton onto the fact that this handsome, moustachioed fellow seemed to be paying quite regular visits to the young unmarried teacher with the swoosh of blonde hair curling out from her brow like a cresting wave. Female teachers were supposed to be good and pure, as delicate and unblemished as new snow. My mother had a reputation to maintain, if she wanted to keep her job. My father thought the whole charade was hilarious.
Quite possibly, the more devoted curtain twitchers of the neighbourhood made the connection anyway. But, as long as appearances of propriety were maintained, all was well in the parched suburbs of the Capricorn coast.
I thought about my courting parents, just last night. I came up my back outside staircase wearing nothing but a bra and knickers, because I’d decided I might as well add the dress I was wearing to the load of washing I was putting on. If my neighbours glanced over from their back verandahs, they would have copped an eyeful. They may have. There are no curtains to twitch, anymore. My neighbours and I don’t know each other’s names, though I wish we did. But, I don’t care what they think of my stretched and comfortable body, or me as the inhabitant of it.
This week, King Salman issued a royal decree stating that Saudi women will be permitted to drive, as of next year. One of the main instigators of this campaign was a woman called Manal al-Sharif. When the news reached her, she welcomed it but indicated it was far from an absolute victory for Saudi women.
‘The rain begins with a single drop,’ she posted on Twitter.
Also this week, I heard a report on the radio that suggested that children born today may never drive their own cars. Instead, they’d be chauffeured by a self-governing vehicle, while they sat in the back and replicated themselves with the aid of an app, allowing them to be in multiple places at once so they would never have to suffer the agony of social calendar conflicts (I made that last bit up).
Saudi women may have just a decade or so to enjoy the quiet solace of driving alone, the privilege of being able to go where it is that you want to go, on your own steam.
But, maybe the monsoon season has begun.
Maybe all it will take is this first little nudge over a line that probably once seemed as insurmountable as a fortress wall. Maybe, in forty years, Saudi women will be flying their personal aircraft over the cities that they once could only be chaperoned through.
Maybe they will tell their daughters how they weren’t allowed to drive, and their daughters will find it hard to grasp. Maybe, their daughters will live in a time when the behaviour of women is subject to no more or less scrutiny than that of men. Maybe their daughters will decree that women can not only drive, but rule.
Let it pour.