Saturday, July 31, 2010

The tectonic plates, they are a shifting: part 1 of ?

Today, the youngest of M's children (whom I still occasionally refer to as his chilblains) turned 28, which is the age that I was when I started going out with him. It's one of those days, essentially insignificant -- just another day, after all -- that give pause for thought, like the day I realised I was the same age that my mother was when she had me, or the day I realised I had been split from my Significant Ex for longer than we were together, or the day I realised that I'd been menstruating for more than half my life. (Shortly to be two thirds, and no sign of let-up yet. Marvellous.)

So I paused for thought. It's a difficult age, 28, and these are difficult times. I feel for her. But more importantly, I'm glad to know her well enough to be able to feel for her, as for a long time I didn't think that would happen. She (and her older siblings) are much better placed now to imagine what it might have been like for me, especially in the early days, and I think to some extent they have all done some of that imagining, Which can't have been easy, and I appreciate it. Equally, I have got much better at working out which boundaries need to be clearly defined, and which need to be porous. And at getting over stuff that essentially isn't personal.

I maintain some central reservations, but these are the things which differentiate me, to paraphrase Rebecca West, from a doormat. I have yet to find a woman who finds stepmotherhood a straightforward or 100% positive experience -- but a surprising number of us end up doing it, and I have had some excellent cathartic and/or hilarious conversations about it over the last 12 years. 

At the same time, M is about the same age my parents were when we got together, and I can see more clearly now how they might have found the prospect of their daughter going out with a not-yet-divorced man with three teenage children a bit of a challenge. 

The long game. A lot of it is about the long game. Vive la long game! 

joella

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