Other people tell my stories differently from me. In fact, sometimes I don’t even recognize them as my own stories. I recently discovered that some of my extended family members think my first marriage was to a man who may have been mentally unstable and that I married him in order to leave home. They also think that my second marriage was very romantic because I travelled half way around the world to be with my husband. I wanted to say “No! That’s not how it was!” But then, I paused.
All of those things are true in some respects, but they are not how I remember the events. The stories I tell myself are quite different. I married my first husband because I was in love with him, not to leave home—although that was a plus. We met at art college and we were both student artists, which may be enough to define us both as mentally unstable. It turned out to be a bad match and I left when it became impossible to maintain my own identity. He was one of those men who like to control their partner’s behavior and who become incensed when she has friends/ideas/interests of her own. Maybe that is a kind of madness, but when I tell my story, his mental health isn’t the focus. It is about surviving with my own sense of self and it’s about my personal development.
Similarly, my second marriage is not quite as romantic as the legend supposes. Yes, I was in love, and yes I travelled from the UK to Canada to get married, but the relationship was not really a Harlequin Romance. I married a really, really good friend. We had known each other as part of a group of friends for about three or four years before we fell in love. Actually, I didn’t even know he was in love with me until one of our friends told me. That’s when I started to see him with different eyes. If I hadn’t been nudged to look romantically in his direction, I would have happily gone on indefinitely dating men who treated me badly!
So, sorry folks. The stories you have been telling each other about my life are charming, but my actual life story doesn’t quite come up to your dramatic standards. It doesn’t really matter, though. I like knowing that there is a family legend about me that gives my life added flair.
While it was very surprising to realize that the narrative being perpetuated about me back in the UK is not the one I would tell for myself, it’s not wrong, exactly. It’s just different.
What matters most in all this is that my family has remembered me by telling interesting tales. I like that. I am not present in person, but so long as someone recalls a story about me, I’m not entirely absent. If they want to remember me as a rebel who first married a blackguard and then married a white knight, who am I to say they are wrong?
Image source: Wikimedia Commons