This weekend, I will be meeting the “friends” referred to below. The very idea of this meeting has me in a turmoil.
extract from email from Lover, May 2005
“When I went back to England last month, I was moaning to my friends about Mad French Bird. As they are all nearing or indeed at 40 and in stable conventional relationships, none of them could see what on Earth my problem was with dating a mixed-up 22-year old. Eventually, I said “Look, the person that I REALLY like, the person that I feel completely compelled to, is someone I’ve never seen, who lives in Paris and has a partner and a child. I don’t know her name or what she looks like, but (…) I can’t get her out of my head.”
It is less than a year later, and by some bizarre twist of interweb fate we have been together for several months now. No twenty-two year old is any match for a petite anglaise with her glad rags on.
So, why the inner turmoil? So far, those of Lover’s friends I have met in France have all been lovely people, which bodes well. I do not doubt we will be in very good company.
What’s more, I am really looking forward to getting to know Lover better, as tongues do tend to be loosened by alcohol, and, with luck, some interesting stories about his schooldays in Sheffield will emerge over the course of the evening. And it’s always revealing to see a person in a new context. We all behave differently depending on who we are with, do we not? Among our oldest friends, we get back to the basics of who we really are.
The very Englishness of the weekend is also appealing, as curry and/or fish and chips and/or a full English breakfast are bound to be on the menu. An opportunity to worship at the altar of The Holy Grease. Not to be sniffed at.
But, despite all these positives, I appear to be rather nervous. This I know because when packing for a weekend away, I do not generally make a habit of trying on the entire contents of my wardrobe in front of a full-length mirror. It’s one thing being anxious about making a good impression (and striving to minimise the impression made by my disproportionately large rear, lest it steal all the limelight), but this level of panic (a code red alert) seems a little excessive, even to me.
I’ll admit to being slightly apprehensive that I won’t be able to take the pace (being woefully out of practice at drinking in pubs, all evening long, standing up) and a little uneasy at the prospect that, a few drinks into the evening, I might be an embarrassment, or a little too lairy.
But there are bigger issues here. Will I be a disappointment in some way? How do I compare with the ex-wife that they all knew so well, or the terrifyingly sexy girlfriend who helped him pick up the pieces, post-divorce? One of the most attractive things about an older man is that he knows who he is, and is comfortable in his own skin. The flipside of that coin is that he is bound to have some pretty weighty baggage; excess baggage, which in an airport would cost you dearly. And so I must deal with the ghosts of wives and girlfriends past.
Last, but not least, there is the small matter of the situation I was in when we met, as evidenced by the phrase: “who lives in Paris and has a partner and a child”. Our relationship was born out of the ruins of another. There was all kinds of fallout involved. I have taken my child away from her father, and plan to uproot us both next summer, in order to be with him. When I meet a friend of his for the first time, I sometimes wonder: are his friends simply happy for him, or do they feel slightly uncomfortable with how it all came about? Will they be judging me (as some of my commenters do)?
As usual, my mind is working overtime, creating problems, amplifying things out of all proportion.
If it wasn’t for the fact that I want to be cremated when that time comes, I think the phrase “petite anglaise – she thought too much” would have made a fitting epitaph.