Recently I was chatting to an old colleague, who’s in a long-term relationship but has started having feelings for women: “I don’t know whether to talk to my boyfriend or just, you know…go have fun,” she said, flushing. Maybe…try not to cheat?” I said gently. I can’t say I’m surprised to be honest – not about her specifically, but about women in general. All the signs pointed to a day of reckoning: the fact that 50% of women over 50 identify as bisexual; the fact that women are more in tune with their sexuality than ever. You can see it on a night out: girls flirting and snogging and copping a feel on the dancefloor. It was only a matter of time before the housewives shed their pinnies and good wife status and bolted for Lesbos.
As you get older, friendships become so important. It’s ironic really, as often friends are the first thing to go in our big, busy lives. We get partners and kids and houses and suddenly we’re stressed, stressed, stressed and we’ve got no time and the babysitter just cancelled and why the fuck are my car keys in the dishwasher? and we let our friendships thin just at the time we need them most. That’s why when you find a new friend, it’s important to hold on tight. When you’re young it’s so easy to make friends. You have so much choice – at school or university – that you can round up the good ones like sheep. You don’t imagine you’ll ever feel lonely. Look at them all! you think with pride.
Sometimes I think if there were credit ratings for hearts then mine would be junk status: BAD INVESTMENT, the signs would say, PURCHASE NOT ADVISED. All the sensible consumers would keep a wide berth, tutting: “Don’t touch that sweetie,” a mother would say, “it’s rotten.” Eventually of course some loveable, gullible fool would find me and dump me in their basket with the tuna. Later, when they unwrapped me, they’d find the cuts and bruises purpling my heart like a banana. Shit they’d think, tossing me in the trash. Should have read the signs.
Maybe I’m naïve, but I assumed most people had the same values as me: don’t steal or lie, don’t cheat on your exams or taxes or people, be kind to others, help if you can, work hard, protect your family, protect our world. Actually, I’ve been surprised at how often our values aren’t in synch: how many people are disingenuous or dishonest; how many are cruel or lazy or neglectful; how many can’t see how their actions make our world and hearts a bleaker place.
Regrets are terrible things. They’re like pieces of glass littering a beach. As you roam back over your memories it’s all warm and soft until you feel the sharp slice of them through your feet. They hold so much power. What could my life have been if only I had followed my heart, held my nerve, chased my dreams? The path you took will never be as exciting or fulfilling as the one that passed you by.
Unrequited love. It sounds so…dramatic doesn’t it? Like something from a novel or a film: “l’ll never love again!” she cried breathlessly. Unrequited love is champagne tears and silk gloves and morose diamonds in the moonlight. It’s mourning and yearning and summers in Paris in the arms of another lover. It’s sending away breakfast and picking at dinner and waiting for the hopeful ding of the postman’s bell. It’s an affliction of youth: a brief, sweet, bitter wail of despair, strong in its turn but swift to abate.
“So…so, let me get this straight. You went to a party at her boyfriend’s house. You got very, very drunk. You told her you loved her. And later you were sick on your hands.” “And on my coat. And a bit on the carpet.”