May 03, 2004


This weekend is what is called a bank holiday weekend-the banks are closed today, and we have the day off.

And, as is my luck, it is fucking pouring down with rain and miserable.

But because it is a holiday weekend, we accepted an invitation to Mr. Y's brother's new home, in East Sussex. We drove down on Saturday with our duvet, a suitcase that seemed to consist solely of toiletries, and a sense of humor.

Now, I had met Alex and Terry twice before, but this was the first time I would be staying there. And the first time I would meet their two children. And the first time I was invited in a realm that is generally reserved to family only-an invitation to stay the weekend (although we opted for only one night).

We arrived Saturday evening, drove up to a large brick house and were shown the grand tour. The house was painted in what I would consider to be extremely bright primary colors, and the owners agreed that stoplight green or burgundy red with sea foam green carpeting was not on their menu either.

The kids were polar opposites. The eldest, Ida, is 6 and her younger sister Erica is 3. Erica doesn't talk at all, a point of minor worry to people, but I think she doesn't talk as she simply can't get a word in edgewise-Ida is the personal spokeswoman of all things Erica, and as such Erica really has no need for the facilitation of the English language. She's like Jeannie. All she has to do is fold her arms and blink, and she's awarded with car keys, a banana, last week's Sunday Times and a new diaper.

Upon arrival, Mr. Y and I learned that the gang would be arriving, that in fact a major barbeuce operation would be going down at nineteen hundred hours. The recon mission to the grocery store was being planned with resources being called up from the reserves. Seeing as Alexand Terry really hadn't completely planned the grill party, Mr. Y and I were called into active duty, and designed the menu. Sausages (veggie ones for me.) Burgers. Chips and dip. Salad, beer, and copious amounts of wine. I would make a strawberry cobbler with ice cream for dessert.

Basically, it couldn't be more American a menu if we tried. Add some fireworks and an American flag and we have ourselves a 4th of July deal.

Mr. Y and I went to the grocery store with Alex and Ida. Alex and Mr. Y sat in the front seat and bonded over neighborhood talks and common friends. Ida and I bonded over my pairs of sunglasses-I gave her lessons in how to be a cool chick, which included not snogging (kissing) boys under any circumstances and that "gimme five" did not include a monetary exchange. We became buddies in our own girl shop talk, and I love the kid now.

People started arriving, people that Mr. Y has known all of his life. He has a history with them that I couldn't possibly comprehend, that I could hear all the stories of but never grow to appreciate. I am the newcomer, in every sense of the word. Even Mr. Y's ex had a long history here, almost 18 years.

It's hard as a newcomer. It's not as though you can slice up a life and look at the striations of it. You can't look at the levels that one has built up in there and say: Yup. Levels 6 and 7 are what we want to infiltrate. We'll just slide you in right here.

Mr. Y was great-reassuring, very hands-on with me, and always asking if I was ok. I like his friends, they are quite nice, but I know that I am being sized up, measured, evaluated, and so I try to ensure that I dial down the crazy and be real. Mr. Y is confronted with a much easier time on his part-the honest truth is that I don't have many friends. This is out of choice I think-I just don't like people getting close to me, to know me, to understand me. If I think that could happen with someone, I don't befriend them, even though parts of me yearn to have that kind of friendship.

I kept myself busy with cooking and cleaning, something I would do anyway (I hate being idle at dinner parties), and just spent time listening. I joined the men during the talks the women had about giving birth, as I was the only woman there (besides Ida and Erica) that hadn't given birth (I didn't feel the need to point out that I had indeed been pregnant, since that's not something I discuss with anyone, really). Why do women who have given birth feel the need to sit around with a glass of wine and talk about it? I mean....why?

At one point later in the evening, Mr. Y was talking to a friend of his about his lovelife. He was being understanding, supportive, and warm. He would look up from time to time and smile at me, reassuring and questioning.

When we went to bed that night, 2 am and pumped full of alcohol, I buried my face in his neck and chest and felt such overwhelming and choking emotion for this man, this man who has a full and vibrant past, this man who looks after me and wants to touch me so much.

Maybe I will never be part of those striations.

But maybe I can be part of the new layer.


Posted by Everydaystranger at May 3, 2004 09:40 AM | TrackBack

I understand where you are coming from. It is the attempt to mesh together two areas of your life that are important to you. On what hand you have your journal and the freedom it provides you and on the other hand you have the love of the man you are with and a very very happy life together. When they both can co-exist together then you feel complete. But if you cant have both and choice one over the other you may end up with resentment towards the one you did pick.

Quick Question: Does Mr. Y like to write? Prehaps he can from time to time "guest post" on your blog. That way he can be a part of it as well.

Posted by: Drew at May 4, 2004 01:57 PM

I have found that the birth stories seem to mostly come up when there is someone pregnant, even if that someone is not present. Women talk about birth in much the same way that men talk about sports.

When both of my girls were born, I was very involved, and informed --if I do say so myself. This has been a great help when I take 2nd born to dance class, and I'm the only man present in a room with 6 other parents.

2 of the moms are pregnant right now, and the birth talk is almost non-stop, and I can hold my own in the conversation, much like I can now go to the store and buy tampons.

Posted by: Easy at May 3, 2004 10:54 PM

Roger, Allison and Solomon-I can tell you, these stories made my blood run cold and my ovaries shrivel up in horror.

I have only just been able to unclench my thighs.

Posted by: Helen at May 3, 2004 09:46 PM

Last night I was listening to Ann Leary on the radio talking about her book An Innocent, a Broad and it sounds like it could be a good read even though I never gave birth; or been to London.

Drew, Maybe like that of a cake? Everybody likes cake!

Posted by: Roger at May 3, 2004 09:16 PM

I was having margaritas in a bar with a table of girls when one of those conversations broke out. I tried ordering a double- kind of a funny way of saying- I dont' want to hear that- but it seems like any sign of someone's discomfort just feeds the need to discuss it. They were talking about head-sized blood clots when I got up and left.

I feel the same way about it anytime someone shares stuff that I would consider private- especially when it's medical or bodily related. I really don't know why women do that.

I'm sure your layer will fit right in with the others in no time, that's all life is- layers, anyway! Sounds like good times.

Posted by: Allison at May 3, 2004 09:04 PM

If you're there, you're part of the new layer. No way around it.

The super model Mrs. Solomon never sits around and talks about birthing Angel1 & Angel2, but I did notice an oddity when she was pregnant with Angel1. People seem to share every birthing horror story they can remember when they hear someone's having a baby for the first time: septic babies, tubal pregnancies, toxic shock syndrome, 90 hour labors, spinal taps gone bad, chords getting wrapped around stuff, and who knows what all else.

It was disturbing. Fortunately Mrs. Solomon is tough and can ignore that kind of stuff. Otherwise it can be very scary. Why don't people keep their horror stories to themselves when telling them won't help anything?

Posted by: Solomon at May 3, 2004 07:13 PM

oo, a holiday. you lucky duck!

i think everyone's lives are full of layers upon layers that can't be gone back into. just focus on all the new layers you're building right this very second.


Posted by: kat at May 3, 2004 06:21 PM

Here's to a Happy, Healthy new layer! *clinks monitor with coffee cup*

Posted by: Clancy at May 3, 2004 03:38 PM

They BBQ in the U.K.? Would your new layer be like that of an onion? :)

Glad you had a good weekend.

Posted by: Drew at May 3, 2004 01:34 PM

I was just commenting to someone this weekend that I know I'm supposed to be one of those mothers that talks incessently about the birth, but I can't stand it. There's only so many times I can go through the "She was a spontaneous birth" thing w/out wanting to kill someone.

I'm wishing you all the luck w/the new layer.

Posted by: amber at May 3, 2004 01:19 PM

Women talk about giving birth for the same reason that old people take non stop about ailments: it consumes their life, for better or worse.

Here's to the new Helen layer. ;)

Posted by: pam at May 3, 2004 12:17 PM

I can't read "duvet" any more without thinking of dusting it. Is that pathetic or just typical?

Posted by: Jim at May 3, 2004 11:26 AM

we had a holiday today too. but in Australia it's called a public holiday, not a bank holiday.

wonder if that's an indication of the aussie view of the establishment...

Posted by: melanie at May 3, 2004 10:47 AM
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