Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Men from whom I would not recoil

Well I promised you juice and juice you shall have, but just in case my father’s eyes are already wide with alarm, then I shall take the precaution of subtitling this post ‘How to Stay Happily Married’.

It was our wedding anniversary on Friday - Remembrance Day, lest we forget.

Fidelity, being the highly prized moral quality that it is, seems to have got the better of us both. Six years after exchanging our vows we staggered along Regent Street, a bit wiggly from too many cocktails, reminiscing about how we might have lost our fidelity along the way, if only we could have been properly tempted. I cross-question K on the women from whom he has recoiled. ‘Too litigious.’ ‘Too horsey.’ ‘Too dull.’ ‘Too...not you.’

What virtue, I ask, in lack of opportunity? For as the existentialists would have it, morality lies only in choice. After all, is it not self-evident that:

Fidelity = opportunity x self-restraint

(Doubtless my father will correct my maths homework if it’s gone a bit wobbly.)

After six years of marriage I think we can be perfectly honest about this whole equation. There's a head thing, and there's a heart thing, and then there's a groin thing...

About three weeks ago I fell deeply in lust with a certain wine merchant. He shall remain nameless, but knows who he is on the account of my ordering three hundred quid’s worth of wine from him the next day. Alas, mine was not the only groin stirred that night. My friend E reports feeling equally unusual, and although our husbands still roll their eyes at the sound of his name, we can’t help but believe that they must at least have sympathy with our plight. Possibly a slight affection for him too, if truth be known, on account of his Château Lamothe Cissac, Cru Bourgeois 2005. Wares like that can win you a head, a heart and a groin.

Sadly he slipped neither of us a hastily scrawled note with details of an assignation. And neither of us recollects being ravished over a late night glass of Botrytis Semillion. But let us imagine for one idle moment that this had been the case....

Sorry, where was I?

... let us imagine that had been the case. How might a respectable married woman have found salvation in such temptation? Because if we are to have learnt the lessons of a certain Emma Bovary, not to mention Anna Karenina, we know these things do not end well.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to foresee that in a couple of weeks, the whole affair would have become the biggest, time-wasting, heartbreaking, pain-in-the-arse imaginable. Or more worrisome still, had the relationship run its own six year course, who is to say that another delectable wine merchant wouldn’t have eventually appeared on the scene, requiring us to run yet another weary lap on the course of true love.

To avoid such exhaustion, we must acknowledge the truth of how these things begin. Not in a premeditated fluttering of the eyelashes, nor in the heat of grand passion with an irresistible wine merchant. No. It happens in a flicker of a moment that passes so quickly you don’t catch it, yet it writes itself gently and imperceptibly into your heart. Where it lies unread, until sometime later another such moment arises and it feels warmly familiar. And then the trouble begins...

We may have made the ultimate choice six years ago, but it took us eight years to make it. I liked the idea of living in sin, of waking each day knowing ‘I choose you.’ It was high moral ground. And it seems to me that this is the fundamental problem with marriage – it gives us a sense of having chosen, rather than of choosing; a past tense instead of a present tense.

So we should look upon opportunity as our friend. For it is our chance to say again ‘I choose you’ and to hear the resounding echo ‘I chose you:’

I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you...

...all the way into the future.


  1. Ha, how wonderfully apposite, and how beautifully and economically argued. I write this looking at a bookshelf on which sits a much thumbed copy of Adam Phillips 'On Monogamy', which is part philosophy, part fortune cookie, but I like it anyway.
    I think that fidelity depends not so much on a philosophy of monogamy, but on faith. And faith, as we all know, has a co-dependent relationship with doubt. And so it goes.

  2. How very wise you are, dear Mrs Trefusis. x