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.
When I was 12, I decided that I would not get married. I planned to have a boyfriend, live with him and perhaps have kids with him. It would all depend on how I felt in the future. When I was 12, I also had a very religious Bible ed. teacher (which is understandable I guess) and a very religious Sex ed. teacher (which is not so understandable). They both maintained that if one decided to have pre-marital sex one would find oneself dwelling in Hell for an eternity. For a fearful 12 year old, reliant on people not being angry with her this was a terrifying thought. I did not want to spend the rest of my (after) life in Hell. However, I also did not want to die a virgin. New plan; I would wait until I got married before allowing someone to pop my cherry.
My new decision to wait until marriage was going well. In other words, I was so terrified of all that fiery brimstone and the devil himself, that I did nothing with any boys. My first kiss came at the ripe old age of 14 and nothing else followed that. Until I met Gavin *. Gavin was a little older than I was, 18 was not that old, just a little over a year, but it wasn’t so much him that affected my new resolve as myself. I already had developed sexual needs and wants and Gavin, while still a virgin, was somewhat more experienced in these areas than I was. He accepted my rules and told me that he’ll wait for me. Less than a year later, I had broken my promise to God and myself to wait until I got married. I do not blame Gavin in any way, this was my decision to take and if there had been any forcing, it was probably me forcing him. Now I would be damned, forever, according to my helpful teachers. I felt guilty, not for having sex but for breaking my promise, for going back on my (relatively new)resolve, for actually enjoying the experience, for relishing in the feeling that I was a rebel. But I couldn’t escape that nagging memory that I would be relocated to Hell when I died and not Heaven. New plan; I would marry Gavin, that would be sure to set things right.
A month after having my cherry popped, I began falling out of love with Gavin faster than Kryptonite kills Superman. Gavin became stifling and unbearable. I felt unable to breathe when I was near to him (it wasn’t his aftershave) and I dreaded visiting him or seeing him. This was a major problem especially if you consider my new plan. But this plan was the only way I could redeem myself, and keep having sex. Five years later, Gavin popped the question. I knew it was coming. I couldn’t run. The smallest and most expensive handcuff I had ever seen (my engagement ring) was housed in a camel coloured box punctuating the question scrawled across a beach near Durban. To say I was disappointed would shatter his fantasy. To say I was disappointed would mean confronting a fear I had locked away in a box with plans for the key. I said yes, reluctantly.
A week later, we were in the car heading back to Jo’burg. I felt like being ill the whole way back. It wasn’t car sickness and it wasn’t morning sickness. I was ill from nerves and a clear non-desire to go ahead with this. I denied this non-desire and called it excitement. Gavin and I got down to the rather expensive and stressful business of planning a wedding. We set a date and booked a venue. To those of you who are married you’ll realise that booking a venue means paying half of the cost as a deposit. Onto the next task which, according to the wedding magazines I felt more embarrassed to buy than tampons, was to choose and book a photographer. Also, the next expensive item on the list. Luckily we were still in discussions and hadn’t made any payments or definite decisions.
A week after our 6 year anniversary, 5 months after our engagement and 7 months before our wedding I broke up with Gavin. He didn’t see it coming. Nor did anyone else. Who would after recently getting engaged? It shows how well I had hidden my feelings from him, myself and everyone else we knew. I’m not proud of it. I had denied how I truly felt about this guy because of some prescription about sexual relations preached at me by 2 teachers who used their experience and my age against me. I had lied to myself for 11 years about what I wanted, about what would make me comfortable and happy. Just because of some prescription designed to protect (I hope) people hundreds and thousands of years ago. How could I let this happen? How could I be so out of touch with myself and so needy for acceptance from a being I couldn’t see and those I shared the Earth with? I hurt Gavin really badly. I wasted 6 years of his life because some old hags told me that I would go to Hell if I had sex before I got married. I took his love, returned it half-heartedly and then threw it to the ground so that I could stomp all over it. All because of a sense of obligation and a selfish need not to be judged too harshly. New plan; no more obligations.
When I was 23 I made a new decision. If I ever find myself being with anything or anyone for any reason other than the fact that I love it and can’t bear to be without it, I need to get out. I need to pack my stuff and move along, before things get as out of hand as I allowed them to with Gavin. I need to give them or it the opportunity to find someone else to take my place. I’ve decided to trust my gut and my inner feelings regardless of what society says, thinks and approves of. This might mean that I never get married. It might mean that I do get married. Whatever it means I know that I need to be honest with myself about what I want and what I need in order to be happy and to keep those around me as happy as possible. My ideas, thoughts and feelings change as often (as the saying goes) as I change my panties, especially when it comes to the fairly contentious topic of marriage.
*Names have been changed.