I’ve been almost completely single since my divorce finalized something like 17 years ago, a couple of years after my marriage ended in disabling violence and terror, when my daughter was still a toddler in her cot.
I think the problem with marriage is that is such an absolutist, totalitarian thing. I think we’d all like there to be room for manoeuvre for ourselves, less easy to deal with our partner wanting the same lassitude. So much of our sense of self is tied up in the identity we assume on marriage, an obvious manifestation is the woman changing her name, discarding the identity she has always had and taking on a new persona. In some cultures she will cut her hair and start wearing a wig, or a veil or a headscarf and she stops being the person she was completely.
Its less defined for us, but there is still a vestigial expectation that you have put away childish things and will somehow magically become… what?
I never knew what I was expected to be when I got married. I hate housework, I can’t or won’t cook and whatever sadist invented ironing can fuck right off. I tried hard. I cooked meals. I could do a mean chicken or turkey curry. I tried to be creative. All the while, somewhere in the back of my head I was like.. what the fuck is this bullshit? But you carry on in the pattern that is set -cooking, cleaning more or less, playing the part. I was doing all the things I seemed to be expected to do, but I was so bored. I loved my child, and I tried hard to be a good parent, like I tried to be a good wife. I’m certain now I was never cut out to be either of those things.. but as my mother would say, what I think or feel is irrelevant, you just get on with it, what else can you do? Who was I any more anyway? Did it even matter? This is not a good state of mind to be in when you are trying to raise a child, and I realise these observations are completely subjective and other peoples experience may be quite different.
I met a woman at the playgroup, the mother of a rather lively little boy. I was very attracted her to as a person. I suppose I had kind of
a crush on her, but it wasn’t a sexual thing. I was lonely and bored, and she was interesting and still seemed to be a person in her own
right, not a drone playing a role; not following a script written seemingly by parents and in-laws, by the mass media, by the TV, by adverts, by Walt Fucking Disney. She was cool. I had a friend, and thats always been a bit of a rarity for me.
Once our husbands were home from work and fed and we had put the kids to bed, we liked to let our hair down by going out, for a walk, or to do photography, or to go to the pub.
She viewed me as some sort of prisoner I think, in my marriage to a man who, it was becoming increasingly obvious, was far from my equal in any respect. There was no meeting of minds. It was a complete mismatch, borne of desperation, loneliness and the fear of never being asked again I suppose.
My friend’s partner likewise, although good looking and a fine musician, didn’t really match his lady’s intelligence or wit and she, seemingly free of the shackles of duty and conscience that made my life so irksome, was determined to have as much fun as possible and soon I was covering for her, concealing her numerous indiscretions as she made a reputation for herself as a good time girl up for all sorts of fun.
It wasn’t long before I was suspected of similar indiscretions of course; once the mud starts flying, some tends to stick. We were “Those girls” because of our friendship. No longer individuals, we were those boundless sluts who were out drinking and dancing when we should have been home looking after our children. More than one person felt it their civic duty to report our public drunkenness back to our partners who were at home looking after their own children (perish the thought that a man should have to demean himself so far) The truth is that I was happy to sit and talk to new friends about the things I had been compelled to put aside to be someone’s wife, someone’s mother. My life had always been mostly about music and that was not any part of my marriage. I was too stupid to realise that that one fact was not a triviality. My parents always regarded rock music as irrelevant, ephemeral, something a married woman with a child would never need to think of again. They didn’t know me as well as they thought. Nor did I.
I can’t say I have ever had enough really good sex to have developed a taste for that the way my friend had, but she was evidently unable and unwilling to live monandrously. I’m straight, so personal interest didn’t affect the way I felt about her addiction as it might if she and I had had a physical relationship. She liked a lot of sex and it was ok. I felt sorry for her partner, who really was falling apart I guess, she even offered him to me, as if that was going to help, but I was already spending a lot of time trying to convince my husband that just because my friend was shagging anything that moved, didn’t mean that I was.
I’m glad I didn’t use anyone as leverage to release me from my situation, people get hurt. In my case, it was me, but I am so glad to not be with my husband now, because we just weren’t right for each other. It’s not enough to be someone’s all-in-all, it really has to be mutual, at least for me it does, and I don’t suppose, now at 50, I will ever find that person who will love me how I would want to be loved, with encouragement and the freedom to enjoy music and have friends of my own without suspicion of sleeping around. Of course there is always that temptation, but opportunity lessens with age anyway, at least for most of us. My friend and I are no longer friends. we’ve not spoken or seen each other for many years. My advice is that if being in a relationship forces you to radically alter the way you live your life in a way you cannot be happy about, that relationship may have run its course and may need intervention and counselling to save it or mutual agreement to dissolve it. It’s better to be alone and free than to be caged and unable to change anything, well I think so at least
Having read this, I am thinking maybe it would be useful to add that people as destructively hedonistic and selfish as my friend there don’t tend to stick around ( and I am aware that some people reading this know the whole story, and of whom I am speaking..) and this story didn’t have a happy outcome for anyone, ……..so there certainly is something to be said for not trying to have it all for yourself. It has to be a balance, and my friend was a destroyer of many people’s worlds