You’ve made your bed, now lie on it.

20 03 2013

The girls asked us not to ‘come out’. It wouldn’t just be embarrassing, it would be the end of their lives. They would be beaten up and bullied, forever ostracised. The boys weren’t too bothered, and never have been, but as I’ve said, they were younger. 

I didn’t mind keeping it quiet. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t going to be shouting my mouth off about my new relationship. People close to us knew about it, and that’s all that mattered. Some people close to us did not approve, and that had been a big shock, so we became two women whose marriages had broken up and who decided that an affordable solution would be for all of us to share a house. In our defence, this wasn’t untrue. It just left out something rather significant.

When you’re in a ‘normal’ relationship, things pass you by. You don’t notice how women, when suddenly single, are viewed by others. A newly-divorced mum from the school playground once told  me that another divorcee had warned her about her new identity: ‘You’re single again, and the others will think you’re after their husbands.’ 

Nobody could accuse either Jen or I of being after anyone’s husband, but the husbands themselves certainly took a fresh interest. As for single dads, it was shocking how blind they could be to what was very obvious to many people. There we were, always together, always close, living in the same house, etc, etc. You didn’t have to be a Mastermind champion to make an educated guess about our situation, if you were at all interested. But I remember clearly having to lie to a rather persistent dad about Jen having a boyfriend who worked away. His poor little face fell at this news, but that didn’t stop him from telling me to tell her that he was a nice guy … as if he and I were in on the plot together. ‘Yeah, I’ll tell her. Of course I’ll tell her,’ I said, before fixing him with a steely ‘Shut your door on the way out’ look (I’m good at that one). 

The boys didn’t seem too concerned at having two mums, but they did know it was a bit of a secret. Oh, the power. I took six-year-old Vinnie to the optician one afternoon and in the dark lab, he was asked to relax back into the chair so that the optician could lean in and check his eyes.

‘is this how you lay back on the bed with Mum, Carol?’ Vinnie asked in the darkness. I was momentarily stuck for words. In fact I don’t think I recovered at all, just spluttered something, grateful that nobody could see me. Vinnie thought it was hilarious. He still does. 

Over time, things settled down and we were experiencing the same issues as any other family: moody children; hormones; the infamous ‘Year 8 child’; dodgy friends; homework dramas, and so on … Before long, we’d forgotten there was anything unusual about us. After all, we’d both doubled our child responsibilities, so there wasn’t time to gaze upon our respective navels. And over time, the children themselves settled into a way of life that they accepted. Having said that, we were still two families, two sets of likeness, two lots of family DNA.

It was never going to be straightforward.

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