Thursday 29 February 2024

Alice and Relationships by Judith Skilleter, white wine from the Hunter Valley

Alice is worrying about relationships, at least she is worrying about her relationships with men. Why do they peter out? Why is she glad that they peter out? In her twenty years of having boyfriends and then men friends she cannot recall a time when the end of a relationship with either a man or a boy left her bereft, left her wondering what is wrong with her, left her wondering why she couldn’t keep a relationship going after a certain length of time and left her especially wondering why she wasn’t bothered by these endings.

There was an exception. Her first love, Adam Gibson, he moved away. But he had no choice, he was eight years old and his mum and dad could not, would not, move away without him.

Alice is now thirty-six years old and she is conscious that her biological clock is ticking faster than she would like. And that adds to her worries. She cannot decide whether she wants a man in her life because she wants marriage and children or whether she just wants a man for love and companionship. What should come first? Is it a desire for a man or a desire to reproduce? And does this desire to reproduce lead to unsuitable and unhappy marriages?

And does she really deep down want marriage and children? Alice is not sure. Thankfully the pressure from her mother to settle down has stopped since Alice’s sister, Anna, produced four grandchildren in ten years. But Anna has always known what she wanted – marriage and babies and not necessarily in that order. Anna is a qualified midwife and is with babies all day every day. Alice has never seen anyone as happy as her sister even if she does constantly smell of baby posset and is more than a few pounds overweight because of finishing off small pizzas, chicken nuggets and fish fingers. And Anna adores her equally overweight husband who is also a nurse.

How could she have been so certain that that was for her wonders Alice.

Alice’s relationships are usually the result of dating sites. How on earth can she decide her future life on the basis of pictures that might have been improved (is the word photo-shopped?)  - every time in Alice’s case. And those totally unbelievable and outrageous personal statements? Most of her friends have found permanent partners this way and it is pot luck. Some have been successful but some have ended up in messy, bitter and expensive divorces. Alice does not want her future decided by the swish to the left or right.

Therefore when a relationship gets to that stage when you may or may not be living with your partner but has been established for perhaps two or three years there comes pressure from others, expectations from others – especially close friends and family.  When are you going to have a diamond on that certain finger? When are you going to name the day? When will you settle down? When will we hear the patter of tiny feet? You are nearer forty than thirty you know – time is getting on!

And that is when Alice decides enough is enough and ends the relationship. She makes her decision in anticipation of the unwanted expectations of others.

And that was what she decided with Angus. His time was up. He had been one of the better ones, he too had a busy career and was away often with work. They had had lots of fun together, lots of extravagant and expensive holidays and he was a romantic bringing her delightful and thoughtful surprises. Her friends had often said that she was lucky to have found him, he had no baggage and he was a keeper. A keeper for heaven’s sake! Does he keep goal for Arsenal?

But Alice did not pine for his touch or miss his dulcet tones during these times he was away. Rather she enjoyed the time to herself. She enjoyed pleasing herself. She enjoyed not having to compromise. She enjoyed having time to read. She especially enjoyed not having to refresh her make up before they met. Her own career was very demanding and the thought-space and rest after a break up was so beneficial and necessary. She enjoyed just being herself, doing what she wanted without having to consider anyone else. Was Alice being selfish? Perhaps. But she was not ready to change her life – yet.

Alice reached for her mobile. 


About the author  

Judith Skilleter is new to writing fiction after a long career in social work and teaching. Her first children's novel The April Rebellion, has recently been published. Judith is a Geordie, who settled in East Yorkshire 45 years ago and is married with four grandchildren. 

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