love

This Is How A Woman In Her Thirties Loves, And It’s Different From All The Novels You’ve Read

Sketch by Edgar Degas

Sketch by Edgar Degas

I’m 35 years old and I am in love. I’ve been in love before and it didn’t scare me. I could never relate to love songs or books or films. Love was easy and when it didn’t work out, I walked away with a bruised heart and lessons learned, but still with an overwhelming feeling that if it was meant to be it would have been. No love lost. It would be transferred on to the next person with whom I’d eventually get bored of and leave, but we would enjoy the first few years of headiness and the inexplicable desire to go on walks and pet other people’s animals.

A very cold relationship with my father has meant that I have always strived for validation from men. A man’s opinion of me is far more important than a female’s. I don’t mean this sexually. I have never found exceptional comfort in strange men finding me attractive nor did I ever actively seek that kind of attention, but if a guy allowed me into the inner sanctum of their social circle I would feel a rush of triumph. That approval for me is comforting, all-consuming, highly addictive and, as it turns out, extremely dangerous.

All my life I’ve listened to how they talk about their women when they’re together:

-“She wants to get married.”
-“I can’t come out tonight because her in-laws are coming over and she’ll give me hassle if I miss it.”
-“Look at that hot little thing over there, I’d bang that. Bet she fucks like a pro instead of the sack of potatoes I’ve been sticking my dick in for the last ten years.”
-“She wants kids.”
-“I can’t come to your stag party in Europe, she wants a new kitchen.”
-“I haven’t had a chance to play Fallout 4 yet, it’s just not worth looking at her moaning face when I turn the Xbox on.”

Drawing by Edgar Degas

Drawing by Edgar Degas

I listened intently, noticing how they never referred to their partner by her name. I knew full well that it was how my father would refer to my mother when he was around his friends, despite my mother being nothing like the woman he would have them believe. Nevertheless I found myself resenting what females had done, the mess they had made. They had created an intolerable, generic mould that I couldn’t fit into and I was on a one-woman crusade to prove that we were not all the same.

I was in a long relationship, longer than a lot of marriages. I shunned the idea of marriage as something superficial and pointless that only needy women wanted and that no man would ever willingly volunteer himself for. We never showed any affection to each other in public, we were above that. To us it was a sign of weakness. I wanted kids…someday, but I didn’t talk about it often, worried that I would come across as predictable and ensnaring.

We had sex. I never told him how I liked it. I was young and embarrassed. I felt that expressing myself sexually would earn me disrespect and make me appear easy and promiscuous, despite being among the most loyal of lovers. Passion was for pussies: Impractical and unrealistic.

I never wanted to live in that city. Year after year, each day that passed was filled with gut-wrenching fantasies of leaving, of living my life the way I had imagined when I was much younger and adorably spontaneous. I resigned myself to the fact that I would just exist, passionless and unfulfilled but with the satisfaction of knowing that my partner felt free of the reigns normally strapped upon men by their significant others. We spoke about money, bills, how we would make it through the month, mortgages, house repairs, what we were making for dinner.

I almost stayed.

Looking back, my confidence was at an all-time low. I was contributing nothing to anything and by trying so hard to avoid becoming like everyone else, I had become exactly like everyone else. I’d forgotten the buzz of what it felt like to be a woman. All of the valuable things that I’d once had to offer had blown down our paved driveway, past the wheely bin and off into the distance down our identically terraced street.

But I did leave, and I left abruptly. I was 33 years old. I still had time to rectify this. I still had time to figure out who I really was and what it was I really wanted. I promised to look at myself as a single entity instead of trying to be the person I thought the men in my life wanted me to be. What pleases me? How can I get my hands on these things? What will I have to sacrifice?

I moved far away, back to the country where I had spent my childhood – the place that hosted the memories that I had held closest to me. These memories had been locked away in a box somewhere deep down inside of me for over a decade, only to be accessed on the rare days I was brave enough to peek inside. In that box lived sunshine and friends, booze-soaked boat trips and outdoor cafés, art and beer, culture and teenage sex, romantic architecture and rude awakenings.

Drawing by Edgar Degas

Drawing by Edgar Degas

I quit my job in a powerful and lucrative industry that, in the end, exuded nothing but grey. I gave him the house and let go of the desire to immediately buy another one like all of my friends had advised. I got a job in the creative industry – just paying the bills and no more. I felt completely free. A feeling so euphoric it sometimes makes me nauseous.

As a reward for my courage, and unburdened by the need to obtain objects to distract me from my perpetual un-fulfilment, I allowed myself to fantasise about what love really meant for me. I thought about who I was trying to please, which film I had been basing all my relationships on, which of their things I wanted to be my things and why. The result was horrifying and hit me like a bullet train.

I want to get married.

I want to get married and I want to get married quickly and irresponsibly. I want to still have those butterflies in my stomach when I see him at the bottom of the aisle, not wait so long that our faces are just another fixture that we wake up to day after day. I want him to see me in my intricate dress and want me. I want the reception to be a formality, something to keep my mother happy between the vows and the moment I get to take him upstairs and have him all to myself. I want to commit to him fully and combine forces to create something unrivalled.

I want to fuck him like an animal. I want to scare myself with the things I am capable of doing to him. I want to feel ashamed of myself when we’re done. I want to make love to him. I want to be brave enough to hold eye contact with him when every part of my body begs me to look away. I want to allow the rush of emotion to completely consume me at that climactic moment when we are at our most vulnerable. I want to trust him with my secrets and teach him how to satisfy me in a way that only he can.

I want to have children with him.

I want to create something beautiful together. Our children will not be a burden even in hard times. I want us to all be in this together, our family. I want to travel together, I want to show them the things I have seen and let them show me what this world means to them. I want to learn from them, I want to talk to them and I want them to know that there isn’t a right way.

I want everything that I swore I would never have and I’m not embarrassed anymore. I’m not embarrassed to want something raw and strong and beautiful just because I am a woman.

Now I find myself in love again.

But I’m scared this time. Unbeknownst to me, he was the man who was in my head when I was honest with myself about love for the first time in my life. He wants me. He wants to fuck me, to love me, to marry me, to travel with me. He wants to be my family, he wants to let go of everything he has worked for and leave his hometown, he wants to move thousands of miles to be a part of this new world that I have discovered. The songs were written about us, the books make me cry, the films make me think too much.

It’s easy to be courageous when your life is already a failure.

The euphoria I feel with him is so fragile. The complete contentment that I have found within myself is real, therefore it can be taken from me. Yet, I feel like I have just been born. Everything up until this point was purely a lesson in what happens if you take your eye off the ball, when you just accept your fate.

I’m 35 years old and I am in love. My eyes change colour. I tear at my clothes. The skin peels off my bones. I hear music in silence. I’m starving. This is living. It hurts every day. I’m scared of losing him and my one chance of having a home.

Submitted to ArtParasites by Jillian