Somebody said to me today during a conversation ‘when you eventually get married…’.
The words that immediately preceded this and followed it seemed largely irrelevant, as the core expectation was that I would eventually find a partner and settle down.
Its not the first time that people have said this in passing. Others have used platitudes like ‘I think you’re not in the right place at the moment’ or ‘when the right person comes along’ in much the same way.
I’ve often wondered if they feel sorry for me or feel a bit sad that I don’t have someone.
To be absolutely clear I’m not a lonely person. Sure, I live alone but that’s by choice. If I craved company I could move someone in tomorrow, but there’s no such impulse.
Years ago this wasn’t the case.
I couldn’t function outside of a relationship, and I genuinely thought the world would consider me to be half a human being if I couldn’t demonstrate that I had what it took to make someone love me and be in a stable partnership.
Since my home life wasn’t so great, and I came from a family that was at the time (for want of a better word) broken, the impulse loomed large at all times. I wanted to construct my own family unit, and I wanted prove that I could do it ASAP.
I never seemed to have a problem finding girlfriends – the main issue in retrospect was actually loving them, as I tended in my adolescence to go for the first one that seemed vaguely interested in me to be sure I didn’t miss the boat.
This caused a multitude of bad decisions and bad relationships – where if I’m completely honest I was way too dependant on the girls I hitched my wagon to.
Since I needed them to validate me I also needed the relationship to work. In most cases this was pre-sabotaged due to the fact that I went into the relationships for all the wrong reasons. When they fell apart, so did I – once again convinced that the world would see me as a failure and an incomplete man.
This ‘serial monogamy’ of lengthy hook up after lengthy hook up culminated in a really long relationship – only this one was unique, because for the first time I loved her deeply.
I couldn’t stop laughing when she told me jokes, and she was naturally funny. My sides would hurt all night I laughed so much. Her dark brown eyes and corners of her mouth showed such playful mischief when she smiled that I was entranced from the word go.
In the most mature way I could think of to get her attention and make her recognise I was a serious prospective mate I attempted to endear myself to her by throwing rolled up balls of paper at the back of her head until she noticed me.
When I finally scored a bullseye I heard the words i’ll never forget.
‘F**k off will you! You’re really getting on my nerves.’
She was mine.
Our relationship continued on much the same basis for some time afterwards, with several years of ham fisted attempts to show her how much I cared. We had a great many arguments and a great many laughs.
She summarised my wit and comic appeal one evening (shortly after i’d pulled her pyjama bottoms down for the umpteenth time while she had her hands in soapy dishwater at the kitchen sink) as follows;
‘You’re not funny you know – you’re just persistent!’
I never took it as an insult – in fact I rather liked the statement – as it summed me up in many ways.
One particularly long suffering (sci-fi hating) colleague of mine can attest to this. I tried to convince the whole office some years ago that he loved Star Trek by asking – no PLEADING with them to not talk to him about the subject since he was very embarrassed about people knowing.
Naturally people couldn’t help themselves, much to my amusement.
Over many years I have e-mailed, texted and messaged him sci-fi themed purchase ideas at every available opportunity. He’s always delighted and usually sends me spirited (although often monosyllabic) encouragment to underline our friendship.
Behind his single finger gestures as he passes my desk there is a deep common bond.
He has been made aware of Star Trek garden gnomes, Starfleet socks, Spock Pug Dog outfits (with matching bowl!), USS Enterprise cheese boards, Vulcan business card holders, Starfleet golf clubs, Phaser replicas that change the TV channel – the list is endless.
So she wasn’t wrong.
She was right about a lot of things actually, and I wish looking back that I had realised that at the time. I resented being changed – but failed to recognise that a great deal of the things that she was asking me to do were for my own benefit, and are among the things that I am still struggling with today.
When the relationship ended the silence was deafening. Not only did I feel I was a failure again but every experience, previously shared, was now half what it was before.
What was the point of reading a book if i couldn’t tell her about it afterwards? What was the point of going for a walk if she wasn’t holding my hand?
It took five years to properly get over the breakup. If I am completely honest only then could I sleep with the radio or television off, and only then did I successfully manage to migrate to the other side of the bed.
But something had been turned off along with the television. My own company had become ‘enough’, which was a major revelation to me. I was amazed that I no longer felt the stigma of being a single man, and the inner voices of related self condemnation were gone.
Now I live very differently – with the void she left now filled by friends, who I also love very much. Instead of her voice (which I focused on to the exclusion of every other) I now have a variety of people that I rely on for a variety of reasons. In many ways I feel like I am a much better person because of this.
So I don’t feel alone on my own, and I still don’t pine to replace her.
Maybe one day that will change – maybe when I have really become someone I’m proud of that will just happen of its own accord.
But I still can’t imagine myself married…
I mean. Like. Eeeeew.