MEET­ING A FROG LED ME TO MY PRINCE

The Herald Magazine - - VALENTINE’S DAY -

IHAVE a the­ory that 25 is a danger­ous age for women. Uni­ver­sity is be­hind you and you’ve climbed the first steps up the ca­reer lad­der and that’s when your body clock catches up with you. It’s sneaky – noth­ing as un­sub­tle as mak­ing you yearn for a baby. No, what hap­pens is that, like a witch’s curse in a fairy tale, the next man you meet is trans­formed into the One, re­gard­less of how un­suit­able he is.

You may be lucky enough to land a good ’un, a man with a true heart who wants to love and care for you. But, if you’re like me and many of my fe­male friends, you are more likely to end up with the Bad Boyfriend, the kind of per­son you’d have run a mile from a few years ear­lier but who now seems like the an­swer to your dreams.

My BB was funny, clever and tal­ented, and seemed to adore me. Look­ing back he clearly couldn’t be­lieve his luck: he wore dodgy ill-fit­ting tweed suits and knit­ted ties and his teeth were a bomb site. No mat­ter, he was a fixer-up­per, I thought, and I took him shop­ping and to a den­tist.

We had a cou­ple of fun years to­gether be­fore it be­gan to dawn on me that far from find­ing Prince Charm­ing, I’d kissed the big­gest frog in the swamp. I found out he’d built up a moun­tain of debt only when two sher­iff of­fi­cers ar­rived to poind our be­long­ings for un­paid park­ing fines. When I con­fronted the BB, he sheep­ishly pro­duced a bin bag full of un­opened let­ters from irate bank man­agers and cred­i­tors – in­clud­ing the den­tist.

Worse was to come as he took to the drink, dis­ap­pear­ing for days at a time and trail­ing home with id­i­otic ex­cuses I tried to be­lieve. I should have got out ear­lier, but I’d al­ready in­vested so much time and en­ergy on try­ing to turn him into the man he could never hope to be. Af­ter all, he was the One, wasn’t he? I ig­nored my friends who shook their heads sadly at the dis­as­ter that was my un­rav­el­ling life. I don’t know what made me wake up; I’d just had enough one day, and with great sad­ness and heart­break called time on our four years of highs and, in­creas­ingly, lows.

At the age of 29, I felt washed up. Ridicu­lous, of course, but I was look­ing at life through the prism of a bro­ken heart. I was con­vinced I’d never find love again. And then, of course, I did.

Michael is gen­er­ous, hon­est and kind, as well as be­ing funny, tal­ented and clever. We mar­ried 15 years ago and have an adorable eight-year-old son. In a way I should thank the BB – if it weren’t for his mon­u­men­tal aw­ful­ness I wouldn’t have been drawn to his op­po­site, my hus­band and my true love.

MAGGIE RITCHIE might say rose-tinted) heart-shaped spec­ta­cles. It had echoes of Sara Moon meets Pier­rot (hugely popular at the time), which to my young eyes seemed ter­ri­bly grown up and so­phis­ti­cated. In­side was the in­scrip­tion: “To my girl.”

The card – as I had quickly de­duced from the post­mark – was from my grandpa. My gran would have bought it and posted it, but I’m cer­tain it’s his writ­ing.

I was 10 when he passed away and my rec­ol­lec­tion of the years he was alive is a frus­trat­ing hotch­potch of jum­bled snapshots as if viewed through muslin cloth or a grimy win­dow. The mem­o­ries flit and flut­ter. No mat­ter how hard I try to pin them down they al­ways evade my grasp.

This much I can re­call. His favourite chair was on the left-hand side of the fire­place. He al­ways had neatly pressed slacks. When it came to fly fish­ing his knowl­edge was en­cy­clo­pe­dic. His com­pet­i­tive spirit at board games was ri­valled only by my own. He showed me how to make per­fume from wa­ter and flower pe­tals. His tip­ple on spe­cial oc­ca­sions was Bell’s.

I re­mem­ber him ly­ing quiet and still in a hos­pi­tal bed af­ter a stroke. It felt like a pro­longed pe­riod, but prob­a­bly wasn’t. The elas­tic­ity of time plays tricks on the mind.

The af­ter­noon be­fore he died I told my mum he squeezed my hand as I talked to him. If I’m hon­est now, I don’t think he did.

At the age of 29, I felt washed up. I was con­vinced I would never find love again. And then, of course, I did

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