The M word

It was the bouquet that did it. A set of modern tightly bunched white roses with the pin point glow of some white led lights dotted between the flowers as the bridesmaid, with a smile on her face, picked up the bouquet at the end of the film. It may not have been the lack of marriage in my life that I found emotional but the view of a happy couple starting their new ‘perfect life’. The vision of fresh new uncertainty and excitement of a new life together and the possibilities that are endless.

I almost feel that I’m at an age that I’m unlikely to ever feel that and even less likely, even if it did happen, to be beaming cheek to cheek from inside a post modern white dress. In my teens and early twenties it was one of those innate things that I knew I would get married. It would be part of the progress of life but as I fell into my mid twenties the idea fell out of favour. I suppose the hint of the gender thing becoming something else was probably in the back of my mind; but then I met Maddie.

The relationship was a whirlwind and even when we moved in together there was that new start feeling. Out of higher education and into our careers, a set of successful middle class friends and something new to do every weekend. The only thing we didn’t have was the M word. While it should have been a forgone conclusion and the natural thing to do the niggling feeling that I would have to confront who I was slowly crept up on me and it was a huge wall solidly built buy a professional with solid London brick and perfectly mixed cement.

Some time during the first couple of years of our relationship Maddie proposed to me, not once but twice and the excuses came. I couldn’t believe I was saying I wasn’t ready. Here were two people deeply in love and yet it couldn’t happen. The internal guilt washed through my skin and inside and out. I hated myself for it but the conflicting urge to protect Maddie from the hurt of finding out about me, Hannah was too much to over rule my need to say yes and to make Maddie happy with security and a future.

One weekend break, when we were celebrating our anniversary of our first date in a smart London hotel, it happened again. We were sharing a bottle of champagne in tall flute glasses that we opened before the suitcase. There was a noise coming from the cabinet opposite the bed. Voices and talking. I opened the cabinet doors and inside was a television with hotel graphics that welcomed us by my surname preceded by the acronyms “Mr & Mrs”. We laughed at the mistake that the hotel had made and the presumption and certainly set the mood for the break. Then Maddies demeanour changed. She looked at me with melting eyes. “Will you marry me?”

A third time. The shame of it. The shame that this far into our relationship and I was still sitting on a big secret that was big enough that I had to do something about it and yet it was stopping me saying yes and stopping me asking Maddie to marry me at some perfect location on the perfect day or perfect night. A hot summer day over a picnic in front of Leeds Castle or may be along a promenade just as fireworks rose to the stars. I couldn’t let the farce go for a third time. I said “yes.”

Despite our ‘engagement’, which to this day I forget and cannot believe, was soon filled within a few months with a flooding of pressure and stress. I needed to tell Maddie. How could I be promising my life to her if one major part of who I am hadn’t been expressed. One night we had just gone to bed. Maddie knew something was up. I don’t know whether she thought it was work stress. “Is everything okay?” she said inquisitively. She knew something was wrong and that was obvious, it was just what? I’d been acting strangely for a bit, somewhat erratic. I remember what I told her and I remember how fast my heart was going. Sweat slowly creeping out of the pores of my skin and face. I don’t even know why I told her. It was auto-pilot. It was the sheer stress of living a lie.

“Remember when we used to live at the flat –” There was no reply. There was no need for a reply because just like a counsellor she simply had to remain silent and allow my own head to just get it all out. The flow of a stream constantly gushing into a large rock pool of release and freedom, but once it was out that would be it. There would be no going back. You can’t take back knowledge and something like this was unlikely to be forgotten. It was a broken glass that no amount of glue would return it to it’s previous incarnation.

“– that day you curled my hair with the tongs.” We had messed around with the curling tongs and Maddie had written it off as fun as far as I knew but for me it was a little more of course. “Well –“ I said with a pause which felt like I was holding my breath to stop myself from drowning. “I liked it.”

Eventually that sentence turned to paragraphs and I explained how long I’d felt that way. Much of it came out in that conversation and I didn’t realise the effect at it’s magnitude it would have on her. While that is another story all talk of marriage had dissolved. It was enough just to stay together while I tried to decide what I wanted. An answer that didn’t come.

So here I am over a decade after I told Maddie. Still single and feeling like that eternal spinster-or-bachelor realising that my life is still on hold and it’s passing me by so quickly. My relationship with Maddie did, for a while, have that new life feeling for endless possibilities and so may be I have experienced that wedding day feeling in some form and I should be thankful for that; it just wasn’t in white. I do believe in fairy tail endings. I think they can happen and that is very much in our control. Finding my way is the challenge and there is so much to think about before relationships let alone the M word.

Until next time.

Hannah x

4 thoughts on “The M word

  1. I can so relate to this, only in my case, I have done it but just to prove to the outside world how normal I am.
    I admire the fact, that you felt brave enough to put Maddie’s feelings above your own with your honesty.
    It’s only now that I appreciate how much damage I did do, going through with it, in order to keep my secret. Not only to others, but to myself.
    Hindsight is such a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
    Take care

    • Hi Rachael,

      I don’t think there is any winning choice. Both decisions have regrets and hurt for both sides on some occasions. I don’t think there is a wrong decision, something we feel at the time is right.

      A bitter pill.

      Hannah x

  2. Your thoughts on this subject struck such a chord with me. Despite a conversation where I had a chance to admit my feelings I decided to try marriage as a ‘cure’, in the end twenty years passed the cure didn’t work and I was unhappy and felt trapped by my own foolishness. The day of the wedding was awful, I wanted to escape, I felt like I was walking in to a trap. I cannot recommend the experience. There were some benefits, two wonderful children, and someone special who loved me and warmed my heart every time I heard her laugh. In the end the pressure was too much for me to stand, there was nothing left for me to do other than fix myself. I caused pain for those loved ones. I have to live with that. I know they know I am happier now, and we are still friends.
    Hannah you have been brave to make the choices you have so far and you have protected others from pain and I admire you for that, but I hope the capacity is there for you to be happy.
    Take care, Debs x

    • Thanks, Debs. What you said about feeling of walking into a trap, I think that is exactly the feeling I had preempted at the time and I have felt in other situations when it comes to having to do something that means just being ‘make’.

      Like I said in my comment to Rachael, I don’t think there are any wrong decisions, just what seems right. you have two beautiful children and so it was right for you, I do not have children and so have paid a price in some ways and not in others. I think that’s why I wished I’d done something about it when I was 18, but the choice was right for whatever reasons.

      Hannah x

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