And so he left me. And this being Sydney, he left in a cloud of expensive fragrance created by putting designer items together, parking them on the perfect body of a flight attendant named Darren and gliding away in a recent model BMW. I languished on the deck of the house in Vaucluse, twirled my tennis bracelet, mopped a polite tear from my botoxed eye and booked a long holiday at a retreat in Byron Bay for the rich and fashionably addicted. After this, we commenced having very modern Christmases together, all sitting around a table quaffing seafood from Morten Bay and delicate whites from South Australia. The children went through a brief period of fist clenching in therapy, the dog mourned briefly. I packed up the Egyptian cotton sheets into equal piles and the hired packers slipped them gracefully into boxes made from recycled eco-cardboard rolled on the thighs of freerange, fair trade coffee producers. We moved into an eco yurt on the headlands with solar power and a surprisingly fragrant composting toilet. Darren and my former husband commenced life in a top floor apartment in Potts Point.
Or maybe not.*
Actually boringly, I left him. The years together not having been kind to either of us but leaving me with movement as opposed to the stagnating pond into which my once attractive, fun partner seemed to have fallen. We didn’t live in Vaucluse, I didn’t own a tennis bracelet, there was no Darren nor any packers. There were modern Christmases, after a fashion but little seafood since only the daughter and I eat it. At 40 and in the company of a neat one son and one daughter, I declared myself emancipated from the previous 12 years and launched into singlehood. The Chinese with their “may you live in interesting times” were clearly lacking imagination because what they really meant to say was, “may you find yourself female, 40 and single, with two children, a small mortgage, unmanageable pets and an unrequited longing for love”. Perhaps the characters were unknown? Or perhaps they refrained from naming so terrible a fate in case it befell them?
Have you found yourself single on the journey? Is this a place where you’re finding healing? It is a place you’re seeking healing? It can be a place we need that mama healing and it can be surprisingly easy given that caring for children without a dead weight is simpler. And while there are sometimes harder aspects, it is not harder than many of us find life with an unsupportive, absent or abusive partner.
When Bilbo talks about picking up the threads of an old life, he’s not wrong. Except that years of wedded bliss mean there is no old life. It’s been removed, excised, thrown over the back fence into the neighbour’s pool and drowned. And what does the new life look like? Fucked if I know? Initially mostly it looked like a lot of validating children’s despair and ordering home delivered Indian food because I also gave up cooking when I gave up marriage. I did feel a sense of relief, the weight of all the unsaid thoughts finally lifting from me since they no longer had a need to hang around choking me. And chocolate.
Meanwhile chocolate, tv, sitting on the couch, movies, rearranging, trips to Ikea were what singlehood looked like. Ikea should include counsellors in the aisles.
“And you’ve been single how long?”
“Well in that case, can I suggest the Sven line of armchairs? They’re big enough to imagine perching sexily on the arm but not so big as to take up space when the next lover moves in.”
“You didn’t see those in aisle 6 next to the train sets?”
Bemused silence. “Are they flat pack or preassembled?”
“Oh you’re a one! I see you stopped off at Ironic Wit for Singles in aisle 2!”
“Actually I found it in the bottom of my handbag from 1989 and tried it on again. It fits! I have an attitude from 1989 which still fits!”
“Great recycling there! Would you like a mail order catalogue in future?”
I think it would improve the Ikea experience a lot.
So we had new beds, moved the rooms around, took over paying the pay tv bill and Living.
Of course eventually the question posed by the Ikea counsellor comes up eventually. It comes up faster when you have friends who are younger, single and enjoying the tangle-free pursuit of sexual partners who seek a brief connection unsullied by commitment. We used to call it casual sex. I always thought I wasn’t very good at it. The ex husband was meant to be a one nighter and look how that turned out? Clearly my one nighter skillz were sadly lacking although I do remember my 20s to that point as being fairly brisk in the bedroom trade. Hot nights, disinhibiting drugs, skimpy Madonna outfits, music before it spiralled out of control and away from melody. Ah the good old days. The days when you felt suicidally sad the day after a big dance party but had the ache in your champing jaw to keep you company and the drug meant you didn’t remember the people you pulled, damn it. When weeks later a little sip of champagne at a Melbourne cup do at work could awaken those ecstatic pills all over and mean you spoke and sat very carefully all afternoon so as not to crash tackle the typist in the next booth with the overwhelming need to stroke her hair which looked so soft!
Back then when I still had dreams and what I was going to do In The Future which seemed distant. Well life has a way of bringing the future hither and you find you’re in it and it’s really really not like it looked from the other side of the showroom. It had seemed to show the outline of a monogamous but still devilishly sexeh relationship with a man in a suit who cast it off on weekends to become wild and at one with nature. It showed children created through kundalini sex that lasted for days, raising them with all organic food. That kind of thing.
Then life happened. Has life happened to you?
Actually other bits may not be utterly accurate either but that's ok, we don't all need to know everything about each other, right?