Twenty-eight years ago, on 14 February 1983, the thirty-year-old Julian (that was me) married W--- at Morden Cottage in Morden, near Wimbledon in south London - where they play tennis. It was a civil ceremony. And it was bitterly cold, with a light covering of snow on the lawn outside the Cottage where we stood for endless professional photos. W--- has always had those, and I can't show them to you. But luckily Dad had his little camera with him, and took the only photographic record that I can access. Here's a couple of me:
I'm not responsible for Dad's witty captions!
I had got married because I wanted to. Maybe marriage was a siren call, a rite of passage I was ready for, and a project that (of course) I'd efficiently organised once the decision was made. Maybe I was being swept along by a social process. Maybe it was an urge to settle down and try the family life, like my younger brother years before me. Maybe it was because I'd just finished with a long but fruitless attempt to pass some very difficult exams, and this was the wonderful consolation prize (although I got promotion two years afterwards anyway).
Well, it seemed magical at the time. A whole new experience. And I was determined to make a success of it. I might be a duffer at exams, but I could be Domestic Man, and Do-It-Yourself Man, and Gardening Man, and having inherited young A---, my lovely step-daughter, I so much wanted to be Caring Parent. Missing was Super Husband. I didn't do well there. I didn't stick to the script, lost the plot, wouldn't come to bed, became confused and irritable. It took a few years for things to unravel, but they did, and A--'s post-college departure for New Zealand for twelve months was the final straw. The glue had gone. We separated in 1991, and divorced in 1996. (No instant divorces were possible in the 1990s)
W-- and I never got round to a proper inquest. To this day I'm not absolutely certain what things in particular made the marriage fail. It's true that in such experiences 'it takes two to tango' and an outsider might guess that there were mistakes on both sides. If I made more mistakes than my wife did (it was my first and only marriage), or committed errors that could have been avoided, or neglected my wife's needs, then I'm happy to be named and shamed. But as I said, we never went into it, and there is no point now. We parted on speaking terms, and thereafter have maintained a civilised standoff, meaning that there is no problem if ever meeting on a social occasion where both attend. That has happened a handful of times since we separated. But we have not been in touch otherwise, and indeed until recently I had no way of directly contacting my wife. I still don't know her address, or phone number, but I do now have an email address if I want to use it.
But I won't. I like the civilised standoff. It has worked well. And my transition is a new complication, although A--- told me that my ex-wife's reaction to the news was positive, and she apparently wished me luck. A--- actually suggested that if I was going to visit her in New Zealand, could I travel with her Mum, if she hadn't yet sold up and emigrated already. Well, I'd certainly consider it. The only thing there is that M--- might want to come as well, as both women like a travelling companion. I'm not quite sure that I'd relish 26 hours in a plane with the two most significant women in my life. M--- and W--- might find some delicious topics to share: such as my many faults, my delusions, and my sad decline from the amazing guy I once was. Funny, I never rated myself highly, and still can't see what the fuss is about.
So it's reassuring that, even despite hormone starvation, I can look as comfortable with myself as this:
Both shots were taken in the last week or so.
Do you know that I've just done a St Valentine's Day post without mentioning LOVE? That's the fundamental issue with me. Both W--- and M--- and everyone else would agree. I don't understand what love is, don't seem to need it, can't seem to give it. And no transitional makeover will alter that.
Oh well. There must be something else that I can offer, although I would have thought that if you have no love in you then you are lost. So be it, then.