I confess that I often fantasise about my dream wedding dress for a hypothetical wedding of the future. It’s a ridiculous fantasy for all sorts of reasons. Reason 1: I’ve been married and it was not a success. Reason 2: I don’t like hosting big parties. Reason 3: I have too many friends and I would either have to invite all of them or none. Reason 4: I see no reason for anyone, but especially me, to get married. Reasons notwithstanding, any woman who likes clothes, regardless of her views on marriage, wants the excuse to wear a sumptuous, lavish gown and draw gasps from passers-by, dazzled by her goddess-like beauty.
To be fair, it’s not marriage that I recoil from; it’s that ghastly boner-killer – Living Together – that really puts me off.
It’s easy to see why co-habitation is so tempting. When you’re in the “in love” phase, you just want the convenience of being able to shag any time, whenever you feel like it. You yearn for the sound, the sight, the scent, the omnipresence of your lover. Co-habitation is, however, a nasty shock to most people who have lived independent lives. We all have different standards of housekeeping, and idiosyncrasies which may seem adorable at first, but soon get old. I’m not a clean freak but I do insist on fully rinsing the toilet brush before I put it back in the holder. I have evenings where I just want to watch drag queens putting on make-up whilst eating a bowl of Coco Pops. I don’t want to bring my A-game all the time when I’m at home. In fact, to be truly authentic to myself, I want the freedom to be my worst self – my laziest, most indulgent, selfish, unpolished, badly-dressed self.
The death of erotic desire in long term relationships is well-documented, but it’s mostly in LTRs where the parties are living together. As Esther Perel sagely instructs, there is a paradox in intimacy. Too much intimacy kills eroticism. Desire needs distance. None of this has anything to do with love And the distance between two separate homes (in the same town) is probably perfect. It’s nice to have some one to share the joys and pain of life occasionally, such as taking out dead pigeons the cat has brought in or changing a king-size duvet. But the part-time spouse is there for that. At his home, he gets to fart, burp and wear his underwear two days in a row. When he visits, he changes his underpants and brings flowers.
Gwyneth Paltrow gets mocked ceaselessly but she is spot on about the uncommon practice of living apart whilst married. She’s been married since last September but she and her husband keep separate homes in order to “maintain polarity”. In English, that means a little bit of distance and autonomy. I say “rock-on, Gwyneth”. I want to be my authentic (to use an over-used word but I really mean it here) self at home, and to save my best self for my partner. I want us to be hungry for each other, and to be excited to be reunited. Some get insecure that if they don’t have their partner close to keep a watchful eye over them, they will be tempted to stray. I may be unusual in this, but I don’t ever worry about that. Every single day, I make an active choice to stay in the relationship. I expect him to do the same. We don’t take it for granted that we will stay. The freedom, the permission, to seek out other people, means the act of staying is a manifestation of desire.
So I’m not against getting married. The threat of divorce is not even a turn-off. I’ve lived through the drama of it once, and I still think it was the best thing to happen to me. Impermanence is a universal constant. Things and people change, everything comes to an end and new things begin. Dan Savage often says that the end of a relationship does not equal failure. All relationships, however long they last, can and should be celebrated, as long as we know how to recognise the end and let go.
So back to wedding dresses. My first wedding dress is proving much more resilient than my first marriage. I got it from the Katharine Hamnett flagship store on Sloane Street in 1992 for £250 (it wasn’t sold as a wedding dress). I still love it and have worn it for costume parties and photoshoots. Now it’s dyed black it looks rather fabulous as a timeless, vintage dress. If I ever have another wedding, some people might make mischief and speculate on which will have more longevity – the dress or the spouse!