A Fifth of a Second
July 27, 2011 § 10 Comments
I heard on the telly last night that it takes a fifth of a second to fall in love. That seems to me pretty sharpish.
I’m looking forward to that fifth of a second, if only there was someone to fill it; if only certain potential parties bothered to reply to a fucking email and meet up with me so I could have the chance to decide what I might do with that elusive fifth of a fucking second, if it happ’d to deign to present itself.
Which brings me to something my father passionately maintained. He said that there is definitely a moment – perhaps even only as short as a couple of other fifths of the same second? – when a person can decide to fall in love, or not as the case may be. He felt falling in love was not something beyond our control but absolutely always a calculated and conscious decision.
Contrary to the impression this must give, my father was a romantic man. He fell in love all over the shop, but never did he once feel that he didn’t have a “say”, as it were, in the matter. That didn’t mean he always made the sensible choice – one might argue that, more often than not, he didn’t. Certainly, he fell in love with unavailable women, difficult women, women not interested in him (though he had a tremendous knack of winning them round, an apparently magical combination of persistance and/or making them fall about – and into bed – laughing), among other women who were “awkward” in some way, but a choice he always had. I passionately agree with him, that falling in love is not something that “just happens”, something we can do nothing about. We decide, and then do the falling. Only once we have fallen are we at its mercy, only once in love is it beyond our control. Only then do we completely take leave of our senses and are beyond help or reason.
I know that he is right.
I have fallen in love with people pretty willy-nilly but I have never fallen in love with a married man. This is not a coincidence. I have always felt it was wrong and the decision not even to go there in my head means it has worked. First, while I am friendly and even flirtatious with married men, I never am in the way that is giving off the “disposed” as opposed to “indisposed” vibe, and so it is that almost no married man in all my years has ever hit on me. If you don’t “ask”, as it were, you don’t get, which in this scenario is just as it should be.
When I got divorced, a lot of people told me that invitations would dry up because women wouldn’t want me at social occasions for fear I might steal their husbands. Bollocks. The invitations have kept on coming just as much as they ever did, maybe even more. I know why. It is because I am not and never will be one of those predatory women who feels that other people’s husbands are fair game, and other women pick up on this. They know me, and they know, even if I don’t actually spell it out, that I am not that type. This is not because I am some Alpha-y, creepily Christian (as opposed to just normal Christian or not remotely Christian), pious person, self-righteous and prissy and priggish and prim. It is because over the course of my several decades, I have seen the havoc wreaked by those people who have thought fuck it, or not thought at all, and just made the selfish choice to fall in love with another person’s spouse but without a care in the world.
I own that a fifth of a second is not long in which to make a choice. But it is perfectly possible and, in reality, it is often a great deal longer than that that we have. I was engaged in something over several weeks and months with the hugely handsome, clever and sexy husband of a friend of mine which she absolutely knew about and approved of but which did not involve her. No words were ever spoken but it was patently clear to both him and to me that we found each other attractive and that in other circumstances it might have been a runner. That was a pleasing feeling, but nothing more, for we tacitly agreed that there was no way in the world that either of us was going to do anything about it. Absolutely NOTHING happened, not even one text that I wouldn’t have been happy to show the wife – in fact I often cc’d her into any emails I sent him, all the more to show how little I had designs on him – let alone a kiss. The short moment when he and I could have chosen to fall in love came, and went, because we did the right thing. It wasn’t difficult because it was so bleeding obvious. Years later he remains very happily married and we all remain the best of friends.
No one try and give me any bullshit about falling in love being beyond their control and it being a force quite other than themselves.
I repeat. Bullshit.