Companionship is All
August 5, 2011 § 93 Comments
A while ago I was staying with a friend whose marriage was not going well. She and I had to go out to collect something on Saturday evening. It was late and dark when we began to drive back to her house and the road we needed to take was closed for roadworks. My friend stopped the car and called her husband. He helped her with alternative directions and home we went.
The call she made was the kind of mundane call husbands and wives make to each other several times a day; not directions necessarily, but the one thing or another that makes up the detailed fabric of a person’s hourly existence: “Did you manage to talk to Bill about that appointment?”; “I found those papers you were looking for,”; “Some arsehole trod on my toe on the bus and it’s still throbbing,”; “Amy’s asked herself round on Friday, is that OK with you?” ; “When did you say you were going to Sheffield?”; “Do you remember when Tom said such and such? Fuck that was funny!” On it goes – some might say boring gobshite and please God spare them from it – but to my mind it is the oil of human relationships. I love all that shit.
We all know normal relationships and marriage are not one long barrel of laughs or bed of roses. In fact, the shared history, the mutual family and friends and memories, and the banal shit, you realise, is the good stuff, not just the anniversary parties or fuck-off holidays and razzmatazz. All that’s OK – though the fuck-off holiday, not that I’ve been on many, is invariably over-rated – but it’s the day to day stuff that, once gone, I miss more, strangely enough, and I suspect other planktons feel the same. I see married friends living it without realising its worth. When I said to my friend how precious it was that she had someone she could call at midnight and ask for directions and, crucially, who had a vested interest in her not winding up in Aberdeen, I wasn’t meaning to sound whinging or preachy or sorry for myself. It wasn’t said in that spirit and in fact, she entirely took my point. It’s little things like that, when I point them out to friends in difficult marriages, that actually bring home to them what they stand to lose if they decided to rock the boat. They invariably say they had never thought of that; that that had never crossed their mind. Of course, they were thinking, if they left their husbands, more in terms of the effect on the kids, the emotional and practical complexities of unravelling a life together. This is what people focus on more. It is only when they are out the other side, and have time to reflect (and regret?), that the deep resonance of the day to day with someone else – so taken for granted that it hadn’t even registered – is painfully missed.
I think it is important at this point to establish that the reason myself and other planktons would like to find a companion – partner, husband, what you will – is for the joys of just being with someone. I liked being in relationships and then I liked being married, yes, for all the mundane daily stuff as well as the sweeping big life events such as the births of children. Get a life, one person wrote in response to my blog; don’t define yourself by having a man in your life. That was to get me SO WRONG, to misunderstand me so utterly. OK, so my marital status currently stands at “divorcee” – or plankton – and this is a creature seen by some sections of society as seriously wanting to say the least. Of course, the plankton status is hardly easy or enviable, which is why I am writing this blog. Obviously, in some ways, it is one whole lot easier to be a woman of a certain age and with someone as opposed to alone, but that is not the reason I want to be with someone. I want to be with someone because, if it is the right person, there is nothing better in the world – the holidays and social life and moving in together, to be sure, all that, but also the low-key stuff which must never be underestimated and which, I suspect all planktons crave more: chatting on a walk together; browsing in a bookshop; going to a movie/play/gallery/whatever and comparing thoughts about it; sitting in a room not talking, even, quite happy before one or the other or both of you suddenly breaks the silence and suggests making supper; wrangling about the route; saying, do you fancy a cup of tea? I am thinking of all the most unscintillating shit I can think of here, the more to make my point.
That is why I want to be with someone; not as a means of upping my “status” or giving me “definition”, even if I do feel it is fucking humiliating to be a plankton.