You lot think you know me so well. To you I’m just an immature, whining, footloose vagabond who sleeps around yet constantly complains about the quality and quantity thereof.
All this is true. But there’s more.
A long time ago, back in my twenties, I had a serious, monogamous relationship that lasted for more than four years. We talked about feelings and commitment and contraceptives and we dared to contemplate a future together, though we agreed it was too soon and we were too young to make any definite decisions. We regularly said ‘I love you’.
Once we’d both finished our studies we moved in together. We took turns cooking, divided the chores (the lawn was all mine) and we had a system for paying the bills. We bought some whitegoods together. Our family and friends perhaps expected that eventually we’d take the next step, and soon enough they’d be hearing the pitter-patter of screaming snots.
One day we had one of our little tiffs. I noticed that, far from being annoyed, I just felt calm, and peace, and love. I realized that I was adult enough to handle such ups and downs of a proper relationship. I decided that I could take her just as she was, that the good outweighed the bad, and that anyway her faults were part and parcel of who she was – that is, the woman that I loved.
I realized that I was ready to commit.
I didn’t say anything straight away. Or ever, as events would have it. I simply noted that I would soon be ready to move on to the next stage, and continued to contemplate this over the next month or so.
So, why did I not ask her to marry me?
Because she left me.
I think this was not coincidence. I suspect she sensed my evolving feelings and started thinking about things herself, imagined our future, and having done so, fled.
Sensibly, as I can now see. I’m sure we’re both glad it didn’t go any further. We were very different and would not have been happy together. Now older and knowing my troubled self better, I think I would eventually come to resent being married to anyone at all. But perhaps it is subsequent experiences have made me so?
It’s funny to think how things might have been different. That I might now be paying off a mortgage in the leafy outer suburbs of Melbourne, bringing up 1.9 kids who’d be aged around seven or eight, going to PTO meetings, worrying about work because of my family responsibilities, voting, sorting out health insurance, doing the gutters. Taking the little ones to swimming and netball games on the weekend. Scolding them about their poor school reports and cuddling them when they’re sick. Arguing with the Missus about all those things that we would most certainly be arguing about: money, housework, how to raise the kids. She would have made more money than me and she always saved much less, so all of those accompanying issues would have been present.
I would have been jealous when she went to interstate and overseas conferences, and rightly so because she may have been having affairs, and maybe I would too because she would not have wanted much sex with me after having kids.
Long, cold, dark winters. Idyllic summers camping by the beach. Friendly in-laws. Perhaps we would occasionally splurge on a holiday to Bali.
I would not know Japanese nor be enduring my current existence in Africa. My lifetime number of sexual partners would total somewhere around one. I would have read much less because I would have been busy, and I would certainly not be writing this.
But here I am, and anyway, pondering could-have-beens is one of the biggest time wasters there is – perhaps second only to reading the pointless ponderings of others.