It should come as no surprise that an oil and gas plant is a male-dominated environment. Engineering on its own is a male dominated profession. The gender of the plant operators and technicians is predominately male. Many of the managers, even those in non-technical positions – also male. The result is that a lot of the females living on compound are the wives of these males, with a limited number choosing to be here in their own right and further their career.
With the workforce on compound shrinking, so has the number of women. Many workers have chosen to retire or relocate back home to continue their career success, so of course, they take their wives with them. This means that when the tiny number of working women choose to take their careers home too, a huge whole is left in the remaining female contingent.
I have never really considered myself a girly girl. For the most part, I enjoy the company of men. I can match them beer for beer (but not scotch for scotch), I’m not easily offended by crass comments or sexist remarks (in fact, I can generally give it as good as I get) and my poddy mouth would not be out of place with a group of sailors.
Result? I’m generally pretty comfortable living and working in this environment.
Yet. Sometimes one would at least like the option of sitting down over a few wines to chat about female-related topics such as shopping, feelings and periods. And that is not always an option here.
The majority of my long-term girlfriends I have known since college. In some ways we were a bunch of misfits, but somehow, living in close proximity, sharing a bathroom and getting drunk together bonded us. We were all from rural areas, all different towns, but I guess our experience of growing up in country Australia was somehow similar. Now we are all well-travelled, educated women whose lives have taken us in various directions – some married, some with children, one living what I would like to believe is a glamorous life in Hollywood, one about to become a published writer.
Friendships can’t be built instantly; of course it takes time to build trust and to be able to express oneself without fear of reaction, particularly when navigating varying age-groups and cultural differences. I have said previously – the one positive thing about having less people on compound is that it encourages tolerance and spending time with people who perhaps you wouldn’t normally. The only trouble is that we live in such a constant state of fluidity that sometimes the people you connect with don’t stick around, and so one must constantly adapt to the ever-changing scenery of personalities. And sometimes, sadly, those connections aren’t strong enough to last off the island.
Recently, I have been yearning for my old girlfriends. My bridesmaids. The ones who have seen me puke all over myself. The ones who have danced with me all night. The ones who have still been there despite differences of opinion or belief, and over great geographical distances.
Here’s cheers to those friendships that remain, that keep on keeping on year after year, where it doesn’t matter what you say or what you do. She’ll still love you.