Talking In Bed by Philip Larkin
Talking in bed ought to be easiest
Lying together there goes back so far
An emblem of two people being honest.
Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside the wind’s incomplete unrest
builds and disperses clouds about the sky.
And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation.
It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind
Or not untrue and not unkind.
This poem always makes me worry about about a permanent relationship with someone. Is it safe to say that when things get here it’s time to leave? Or is this the time to work super hard? Being in bed with someone else is completely opposite to isolation, well it should be. You are at your most vulnerable, physically and emotionally, it should be easy to be honest. But sometimes it isn’t easy. Sometimes being next to the same person every night can be the most uncomfortable and difficult thing in the world.
Love is getting home to a note on your bathroom mirror after a tough day.
It’s knowing that that’s the first place I go when I get home from work.
It’s still loving me enough after 4 years to write a note before leaving in the morning.
Most relationships start out with all sorts of lovey-dovey stuff in the beginning. Ours didn’t.
The butterflies-in-your-tummy start to a relationship doesn’t really need those flowers.
It’s the 4 years on during
the do-you-still-love-me times
that need the little reminders.
Remember the princess who kissed the frog
so he became a prince? At first they danced
all weekend, toasted each other in the morning
with coffee, with champagne at night
and always with kisses. Perhaps it was
in bed after the first year had ground
around she noticed he had become cold
with her. She had to sleep
with heating pad and down comforter.
His manner grew increasingly chilly
and damp when she entered a room.
He spent his time in water sports,
hydroponics, working on his insect
Then in the third year
when she said to him one day, my dearest,
are you taking your vitamins daily,
you look quite green, he leaped
away from her.
Finally on their
fifth anniversary she confronted him.
“My precious, don’t you love me any
more?” He replied, “Rivet. Rivet.”
Though courtship turns frogs into princes,
marriage turns them quietly back.
*It doesn’t take a massive poetry geek to be able to see that this poem is a look into the whole “happily ever after” which fairy tales promise us. Perhaps the only thing lacking in the royals’ lives above is some open honest communication. Perhaps this is in fact all that marriage can provide, a general dissatisfaction and an uravelling of the lies we’ve woven in order to bag that great catch.
I didn’t post this poem to have a go at guys, its a problem us girls also create. When “courting” you’ll never catch us without makeup, we’ll make sure we’re perfectly shaped, we’ll never swear and we’ll always feel like having sex. But what happens when we have you? And isn’t a diamond encrusted (yours will of course lack the diamonds) handcuff the ultimate declaration that quite frankly we have you? And then what? You’re going nowhere unless you want to deal with an expensive divorce. And is a general dissatisfaction really reason enough to leave? For me it was but it’s not that way for everyone.
Marriage is meant to be forever but if the courting is built on lies then how can it be a real forever? I guess the only two options available are don’t get married or hope to whatever you hope to, that your partner is truthful about who they really are.
So far I’ve only commented about my negative feelings towards marriage and weddings. I think it’s only fair to present the other side of the coin too since there have been, believe it or not, moments in my life when I’ve actually wanted to get married. While these moments are few and far between they are still important to mention and perhaps to dissect.
After I left my fiancé all those years ago; the movie based on the book PS I Love You was released. I refused to watch it and I was quite anti all kinds of love stories at that time. I was afraid that love stories would melt my heart and would weaken my resolve to leave a relationship that was not only bad for me but bad for him too. I avoided that movie and about a year later, after Kenny and I had been together for a while, he persuaded me to watch it. I cried and I cried throughout the movie.
Kenny* was quite well aware of my dislike of marriage and mistrust in it so I don’t blame him for being surprised when I blurted out after the movie, “What are we waiting for? Let’s just get married already.” I had decided this quite early on in the movie at about the time when Gerard Butler’s character and his wife had a massive argument and he stormed out in a rage. A strange scene to set off a desire for marriage, but look at the great argument they were having. I wanted that then. Not the argument, but the intimacy, the closeness of being able to air your opinions without the worry that he would take offence and leave, forever. Gerard Butler’s character came back straight after walking out of their place and this kind of renewed my trust in the entire institution of marriage. By that stage, luckily, Kenny was fully aware of my knack for changing my mind and he didn’t drop to one knee and present something resembling a diamond on a piece of metal to me. He laughed and asked when I had lost my mind. “What happed to “I’m never getting married”?” he asked.
I tried to explain that the whole shared life was really what had sparked this feeling. Although I value my independence it’s sometimes a comforting thought to know that I am not alone. A shared life is not only about stuff. In fact, stuff has very little to do with it. It’s about knowing that you can rely on someone else to be there for you no matter what. Your husband/wife (personally I prefer partner, because partner makes everyone equal) can’t be a fair weather friend. We all have them, those mates of ours who come to us with their worries, then bugger off when things are good again and are nowhere to be found when we have worries; but your partner is sort of compelled to stick it out with you because if he or she doesn’t, they end up hurting themself . What I’m trying to say is that a shared life is about support, all the kinds of support that any living organism might need. Of course there is a niggly worry that this partner of yours could do more to damage the foundational levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but if you go in awake you should be able to see if they will be an integral part of your life or a total parasite.
A shared life is also about commitment. A term which is usually synonymous with fear and dread in my dictionary of life but what is commitment really? It’s not really anything to be afraid of. We commit ourselves everyday to work, university, family, friends, pets and especially debt. We never think twice about any of the above aspects of our lives and yet we worry about picking a life partner to enter into the business of creating other people and making a home together. Is this really so intelligent? I am quite sure that people were not designed to be loners and to try to do everything by themselves.
At the end of the day I need to give Kenny a break. He is really quite an amazing man and I know that we would be able to be equal share partners if we ever decided to take the leap of faith in one another. Never would he expect me to be a cooking cleaning type of person. He is usually more than willing to carry his share of chores. And when I tell him what’s bothering me, he makes a genuine effort to fix it. It is important to be comfortable alone but it is also important to be comfortable with another being who, in all senses of the word is quite like you and yet different enough to keep life exciting.