I literally can’t remember the last time I was this content. I am experiencing a bone-deep bliss while wrapped in a further cocoon of happiness. Or, to put it another way – I have the house to myself.
My husband is away on a work thing. For three whole days. Don’t know where, exactly. Don’t care. Just not here.
It’s unspeakably wonderful. It feels like being a teenager again when your parents left you home alone for the first time, mixed with a little of the heady excitement of the first time you pulled the front door closed on the first flat you ever lived in without housemates.
Now, I realise I am something of an extreme case because I hate being with people at the best of times. I always saw living with someone as the price you had to pay for loving them and wanting them to stay in your life. I tried to persuade my husband to move in down the road, but he insisted that coupledom meant sharing a home, and not just because we are neither of us Vanderbilts who can buy extra houses out of our chump change.
But among my female friends, especially as we get older, even the most gregarious of us have started to think of a few days home alone without partners as The Dream. There are all the immediate pleasures, of course. Like being in sole charge of the heating, binge-watching all those shows you’ve been trying to catch for aeons (me so far: Gossip Girl, Katy Perry’s Part Of Me documentary, almost all the final series of Sex And The City – my complicated feelings for Alexsandr Petrovsky remain unchanged), reading till late and sleeping undisturbed until the alarm goes off because no-one is snoring in bed or pressing his hopeful erection into your lumbar region at some unspeakably early morning hour.
But more than that there is the deep, deep peace that comes with only being responsible for yourself. Only when your other half is away do you realise how much work you are always doing for them and how many compromises you make without even noticing it in the ordinary course of every ordinary day.
Again, I’m a bad example in many ways because I consider merely talking to someone else an infringement on my personal freedom. I have never voluntarily started a conversation in my own home. It is not my way. I like to be quiet. So I admit my bar is probably set too low. Nevertheless, all relationships, even for nice people, involve compromise that represents an ongoing effort (good effort, worthwhile, character-building effort but a strain nonetheless) and when you take a break from it, the relief is tremendous – like taking your Spanx off at the end of a long, long evening. The same goes for what is known as “emotional labour” – the making sure that life goes smoothly, that friendships are managed, important dates remembered, cards sent, holidays planned – the bulk of which falls to me and to most of the female halves of the (heterosexual) relationships in my orbit. Half a week off from not having to do another person’s thinking or factor in needs they’re not even aware of into your own life is... restorative.
If I had more time I’d probably start wondering if there wasn’t a way we could rebalance the system so that the absence of one partner didn’t customarily fill the other with glee and relief, but mine’s due back tonight and Carrie has not yet left Paris, so I must get back to the sofa. This is the last of my time.