This is what a friend said to me recently. The context was friendships. She also said ‘the men don’t know what they’re missing!’ This is a time when I am realising that things really are different. The pressure is off relationships meaning too much, or suggesting the wrong things simply by being close. Maybe it’s a lot to do with the anti-androgens, but it is blessed relief in some ways, because depths to friendship are safe and unambiguous. The way I can relate to, talk to, share with other women, is one of the best supports that I have right now, and I really value it.
Today I shall view a couple of flats, looking for an affordable place to rent that will provide enough space and light to make a new start. I never had to think of that before. Every place I’ve viewed to buy for 30 years, seven times, has been a shared decision, a balance of preferences and vision of making a place home. They were never new starts, just mostly little steps up the property ladder. This one is down; quite a long way down! But it has made me reflect, prepare and adjust. What am I doing?
If I was a man leaving his wife, the conversations would be very different. But then men don’t do that much, unless one he or she is having an affair, or is being violent in some way. There has to be a big reason, otherwise food on the table and a free laundry service outweigh the benefits of really discovering themselves. Maybe that’s a bit unfair, but I think I have some inside track on this one!
I feel much more like a wife leaving: because the relationship is no longer doing what it should, and it is compromising my sense of self. Not my independence, not freedom to have an affair without guilt, not even an imbalance of contribution really. No, I am going with confidence that I can live my life better on my own and see where that leads me. I was here to be loved and to love, to give as much as to receive, and the transactions are now very limited. Have you ever been in an anechoic chamber? Maybe at least you’ve seen pictures of rooms without windows, completely lined with thousands of grey foam pyramids or cones. They are places where there must be no resonance, no echoes or reflections, so that the one source of sound can be isolated with clarity. It’s a bit like that. I am not in a silent place, but even my own sounds of love have stopped bouncing back. Sensory deprivation is a frighteningly uncomfortable experience.
I am leaving for somewhere probably quite small, and I try not to think of it too much as I run up and down stairs or out into the garden. But it will be a place where friends will come and that will echo again with the happiness of free association. Was writing that last phrase a Freudian slip? Wikipedia describes the purpose of free association as: ‘… not to unearth specific answers or memories, but to instigate a journey of co-discovery which can enhance the patient’s integration of thought, feeling, agency, and selfhood.’ Sounds about right to me.
I also feel that reverting-to-type thing coming on. If I was the husband leaving, I would recreate a bachelor pad, take the hurt out by eradicating feminine memories, show my blokeishness as a marker of availability. But no, my reversion-to-type has brought a wonderful realisation that I can have a really pretty bedroom for the first time, and things on my shelves that are a bit more girly than I would have had otherwise. A kind of femininity that is perhaps better expressed on its own, rather than competing in some way. My new space will resonate with my gender for the first time in my life.
And I may build furniture. I will know how to mend things, and fix a dripping tap; I will understand the fabric of my space as well as the spirit of it. I will worry as much about where to store my toolboxes as my cosmetics, and there will be growing redundancy from living in a maintained place where I don’t have to worry about the roof. It feels kind of wholesome when I think of it like that.
And it will be a space where all my girl friends will feel welcome, where ‘would you like to come in for a coffee?’ will have no overtones, and where stories will be told, and tears shed, and deeper friendships will evolve. It will be a space where I shall at times feel incredibly lonely, but nevertheless safe in my independence with friends. I’ve been welcomed into the world of women, to learn how women can be treated, spoken to, sometimes disregarded, become aware of a certain concession given by men, and learn new friendships that are protective, more mutual, more understanding. Welcome to the world of women.
The men don’t know what they’re missing. I am a woman who is moving on, not moving out.
Postscript: as I posted this entry and tagged it up for the search engines, I looked at the cloud of tags I’ve used so far, and realised I was having to add new ones, and that I was leaving some big ones behind. I hope this is a good sign! The friendship tag I think will be used a lot more.