Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Moment of Marriage

I attended a Quaker wedding today. It was light and clear and mainly silent. Its simple integrity was moving. The bride and groom, who have found one another later in life, were happy. I wore a linen ensemble. People said I looked beautiful. I clean up nice, I said, with a rye smile.

It's hard to write about the past week; I think I'll only be able to do this obliquely:

Yes, he said, when I said I know you're lying and you must tell me the truth now. Yes, I am unhappy and I think I want to leave.

And when were you planning to tell me that?
I said, sounding like a bad screenplay. Most of the day sounded like that; most of that day was a bad screenplay.

When I was sure, he said.

I have heard this from you before, I said. I can't go through all this again. I was unhappy for the best part of 40 years, I don't intend to unhappy for the next 40. If you have to go, then go, I said.

And then I went to leave the house myself. You see I had this deadline to get the car to its MOT, which had assumed a vital importance, as unimportant things do in a crisis. It surprised him that I went to leave. It surprised him that I didn't stay to continue the conversation. It was, he said later, at that moment that he realised what he might lose. Er, that would be me and Anna-Mouse and all that I thought you held dear, dear. Though I don't know what I think anymore. It's hard to know what to think when people lie.

I drove with speed up the road. He called me and asked me to pull over. He talked, I shouted. I think every single thing I said for the next fifteen minutes was shouted. It was a shouty conversation. But a couple of hours later I was sane again and he had found someone professional to talk to, who might help with the anger and the lying and he had told her no, there is nothing there, I want to be with my wife and family, and he was looking very very serious.

I went out and tried to get drunk and told him I'd think about it.

The thing is, we married. We had a child. We are married. We have a child. Otherwise, I'd be outta here (it's odd, this urge to bad film-speak language. I think it helps me not to feel).

Part of me wants to behave as irresponsibly as him. Hit back, kick back, go and snog someone, take the child and run. Or make him go back to Ireland and be a very brave single mum. The better part of me, the person who made herself attend the Quaker wedding today, when a wedding was the last place I wanted to be, who had to have a cry in the car park so that she could go into the Meeting House with a smile, thinks this: isn't this type of thing, this very moment of marriage, what those vows I took so seriously were made for? Isn't this why we said those things, to stop us running away at the very moment we most want to?

Something wonderful about a Quaker wedding is that everyone present is asked to sign the Quaker Marriage Certificate, which is then given to the bride and groom as a keepsake. Their vows to one another are also written on the parchment. It is an important touch, I think. I wish I had the same record of the dear witnesses at our wedding. And I'd like to re-read those bloody vows.

When it came to my turn to sign, I found myself hesitating over which name to sign. When I got married I did not automatically lose my maiden name, because it was my stage name and therefore the one I have always used professionally. This occasionally causes confusion when I can't remember which name I've given but generally satisfies the part of me that never wanted to lose my independent identity.

'Livvy..' I began in my best handwriting. And then I watched my right hand spell out the surname I inherited five years ago when I signed my life up to the sad, funny Irishman asleep upstairs.


rachel whetzel said...

OH, Livvy... I love you. I wish I had wise words for you... be true.

Livvy U. said...

You know what, Rachel, that's actually very wise. Thank you. x

Debbie said...

Dear Livvy,

There is much wisdom in this post. Keep listening to your heart.

Big hugs from across the sea,

Richard said...

I love you, my dear friend. Listen and follow your heart. Big hugs from Manhattan. Let me know if you want to talk. x

Flowerpot said...

You take care Livvy. Life can be really bumpy at times. Hold on to your lifebelt.

Anonymous said...

Goodness Livvy - I almost feel I am intruding reading this post. My heart goes out to you, I can't offer any momentous words of advice, just be strong and allow yourself time to keep your head in one piece.

Livvy U. said...

Huge apologies to Reluctant Memsahib - I deleted your heartfelt comment by accident, so sorry.

Marianne said...

Dear Livvy. Such trying times. Be strong, have faith. Be true to yourself.