My husband thinks you are cretins. He wrote me a skype message (instead of coming downstairs) telling me that he loves me even if I think it’s meaningless and even if I tell the details of his life to everyone who reads my blog and my column in the Saturday Times. Well, he didn’t say ‘everyone’. He said ‘all the cretins.’ Obviously, it’s me he’s cross with, not you three. And also, I pointed out, they’re my secrets, not his.
Then we had something that bordered on being a row about Paul Gascoigne. It’s so strange how arguments get deflected like this. You have something to say to each other and you end up rowing about an alcoholic footballer and his marriage to Sheryl.
We had some friends to stay last week and they were mired in the hell of having very young children and yet still trying to have a nice time. Not possible really. Unless your idea of having a nice time is to see the kids happy. I remember being on Elba when mine were tiny and thinking; ‘God, this would be such a nice place to be…’ I wasn’t even sure what the ‘if’ was. If I was on my own. If I was with …well, whoever my fantasy dream man was before I knew about Barack. But the best I could hope for was to smile on adoringly as the kids had fun. And they did. And it is a form of happiness, but not one you can share.
Anyway, this couple sat outside in our garden eating ham and melon, drinking prosecco, getting bitten by the whining mosquitos (who seem to have given up on me now that my skin has turned to leather like some old ski instructor) and arguing, really arguing about Aristotle. Now our relationship is nothing to write home about, but this we had never resorted to.
So, in relation to Gazza, I said that love was manifested by loving behaviour. If you’re going to just punch someone in the head and then weep and moan that you love them, you’re just basically Gazza. My husband said that Gazza probably really did love Sheryl and was genuinely sorry. I said I was sure that was the case, but love like that is no good to anyone and it’s that kind of thing that makes the words so useless. If that’s love then presumably Sheryl is better off without it. Anyway, it isn’t love, it’s need and hatred all mixed up. Love is appreciating that the other person is separate and taking them as they come.
On the contrary, my husband argued, tucking into a curry I’d made. I get very homesick for curry here up our Tuscan mountain. Italian food is always sweet and it makes you desperate for a chicken tikka massala. He, crunching a popadom, thought it was better to be loved by someone who punches you than not loved at all. I almost laughed at this point. Almost. Because THAT ISN’T LOVE. If you love someone you don’t punch them. If you love someone you behave like you love them. My husband said he was sure that Gazza had sometimes been really nice to Sheryl. This may well be true, but it’s just part of the abuse cycle. Of course if someone’s always horrible you’d get out. It’s the nice/nasty, confusing, mad-sending cycle that makes you feel it’s your fault, that keeps women in these situations.
My whole point about ‘I love you’ meaning a huge variety of things (but never – I will always behaving lovingly) is that it must be backed up by the behaviour of love, otherwise it’s worthless. Of course Sheryl is better off without that kind of toxic, life, soul and self-esteem-destroying love. If that’s love then being unloved is preferable. It needn’t mean being lonely, without affection or without understanding. It just means you won’t get punched so much.
The little relish I made to go with the curry was really nice. Cut tomatoes up and throw in a bowl with chopped onion, chopped parsley, a lot of lemon juice, a lot of salt, some cayenne pepper and some toasted cumin seeds. Hot and delicious…