When I was 17 I studied Frankenstein and much as I hated the novel, and as it turns out all gothic novels, I was fascinated by the history of the writing, by Mary Shelley, and, as I read more, by her mother Mary Wollstonecraft. I read A Vindication of the Rights of Women and Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. I ignored much of the more salacious tales of her life which painted her as a slave to her emotions and what some might call ‘boy crazy’ as I was fascinated by the neat functionality of her short marriage to William Godwin.
Regrettably, after her death, Godwin published a book which contributed to the image of her which I had mostly ignored (though the praising of ‘reason’ over emotion has always irked me). Before her death, though it seems by all accounts that they had a happy marriage living in separate but adjoining homes. To me this seemed ideal, the idea that I could be near someone but not have to give up my independence was an idea I latched on to and, it seems, one I have not given up on.
When I was 21 I achieved something akin to this ideal, I had a flatshare and my then boyfriend had a flatshare next door. We could spend the night together and then in the morning get ready for the day in our respective homes without someone else in the way. We could each have a room to ourselves and make it what we wanted our own room to be. It was a very happy time for me in that regard as I had the perfect amount of independence and codependence. My colleagues thought it was weird, or just a stage before we moved in together but I thought it was nirvana. The only way to make it better would be if neither of us had flatmates. Obviously, when we moved to London this combination was not possible and financially impractical so we moved into a small one bedroom flat in Finsbury Park. We had happy times there and I still got a lot of independence due to him being a chef and working long hours, but I know we did sometimes feel trapped together there. I resolved that next time I would live alone for as long as possible.
With Twig that did not happen. We moved in together almost immediately, first with a flatmate and then in a tiny house. I said it was good, that though I’d always loved time on my own, time with him felt as restorative as time on my own. This was untrue but I really wanted it to be true. I really wanted to be someone who just wanted to be with someone else all the time, that was what love was meant to look like, wasn’t it?
We all know that did not work out but for a long time afterwards, I was still pursuing that idea. Love being living together, love being spending all our time together, love being something I have never wanted love to be. Now though, eighteen months on I realise that is not what I want. I want independence no codependence. I want us to want each other rather than need each other and I want space on my own. As good as falling asleep wrapped in each other’s arms is, I also adore waking up slowly in my own bed, stretching out and feeling the space to myself. It means I know I can do everything in my own time, spend time dancing around my bedroom as I get dressed and not need to worry about how annoying that might be for someone else. I want to be able to decorate my space as I see fit, and have a place that feels like it belongs to me. I am aware that adjoining houses or flats might not be financially possible, but I am rather attached to the idea of having separate rooms. Since Twig *finally* moved out in August 2016 I have taken so much joy from having my own space. I don’t think I could ever give that up now.