Living separate but together an option
Back in the days when I edited The Erotic Review, the dashing poet Hugo Williams wandered into our London office every now and then to select the best verse from our mail bag.
I once asked him what he planned to do on a particular weekend and was struck when he said, “I’m going to visit my wife at her home in France.”
Her home? This seemed rather exotic, even for habitués of Erotic Towers, but Williams explained his wife had inherited a country house and was running it as an artistic community.
He supported his spouse’s enterprise, but had no intention of abandoning his tranquil study in Hampstead for the shared chores and chaos of communal living.
The idea of being married “apart together” seemed rather odd to me then, but today — especially when I note the Williamses have been 49 years spliced — it makes better sense.
When you’re young and lovesick, it’s intolerable to be more than a heartbeat away from your beloved. But when you’re older, a room of one’s own isn’t bold enough a daydream: why not a whole separate house?
My husband and I can never read of a fortunate celebrity who has wealth and gumption enough to adopt this lifestyle without sobbing in envy. Take the actor Martin Shaw, who announced recently he lives 200 yards away from his partner, Karen da Silva, but the couple use both houses and this suits them just fine.
And then there’s actress Helena Bonham Carter and husband-director Tim Burton, who also live in adjoining abodes. One reason? Burton snores.
My husband is an only child, who managed to maintain an or- derly solo hearth until I nabbed him when he was 42 and I was 27. It’s fair to say he’s never quite got over the shock. This, after all, is a man who shelves books in thematic order and chases down germs with bleach. I file important papers under the carpet and treat discarded mugs as petri dishes. Then our sons came along and added insult to injurious mess: as when the oldest peed on his Dylan CDs and the youngest pulled the propellers off five painstakingly assembled Spitfire models. The boys and I jeer when he plays Grateful Dead tracks.
The truth is, the poor chap needs a cottage in the Hebrides, or a refitted nuclear bunker. But next door would do for starters.
Some married friends spent their first five years of wedlock in two houses with adjoining back gardens.
She used to creep through a gap in his garden fence in a fur coat and skimpy panties, and both parties were the merrier for separate abodes. Then she fell pregnant and they bought a home together. Now the poor man looks as hunted as my husband.
Not that it’s just male partners who suffer. I’d love just once to watch a film that doesn’t involve superheroes, aliens or gangsters. I want to make a shrine to shoes. I long to play Dolly Parton til my ears bleed.
Would it really be unnatural to park my men folk across the picket fence with their boys’ toys and The Sopranos?
I’ll gladly keep the cat and Game of Thrones.
When you’re young and lovesick, it’s intolerable to be away from your beloved. But when you’re older, living in separate rooms or even houses doesn’t seem so far-fetched any more.