The day after I got back from my honeymoon in Derbyshire, which had been lovely, I sat in my new bedroom, sorting out some washing, and cried. To this day, I’m not sure what I was crying about, but I sat up there, alone, for ages. I wanted Husband #1 to come upstairs and tell me it was all going to be OK, but I was still crap at articulating any kind of bad feelings and I wiped my eyes, calmed myself down, then went back downstairs to watch TV as if nothing had happened. I don’t think I ever told him that. Well, why would I?
I was just a bit overwhelmed, I think. I was chuffed to bits to be married, starting a new life, independent…it was all very exciting. But I think I was on some sort of wedding comedown. The wedding had been lovely, despite the migraine that started halfway through the ceremony. At that time I didn’t even know I got migraines, I thought it was a ‘stress headache.’ I had a slight panic as I waited for the car to take me to the church, but when Dad turned to me and said, “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, and we’ll be here for you whatever happens,” I decided that my pre-wedding jitters were par for the course and I got in the car when it arrived, beaming from ear to ear.
I would have cried even more if I’d known what was going to happen the next day.
I transferred my job from Ipswich to Cambridge County Court. The best thing I can say about the place was that I only stayed there for 18 months. I met three people there who would become part of my life, but mostly the place was a complete nightmare. Whereas in Ipswich we mostly worked together, although there were rivalries, falling-outs and gossip, at Cambridge it was every woman for herself and the atmosphere was very oppressive. I hated it from the very first day. I got home and burst into tears in front of my bewildered husband as it hit me that not only was I going to be working in the shit job from hell for the foreseeable future, but I had left all my lovely friends, family and everything I knew behind in Ipswich and I was pinning everything on the man standing in front of me asking me what was wrong. He didn’t know what had hit him any more than I did.
I wanted to ‘reinvent’ myself when I moved, but I soon became really miserable. The Chief Clerk and her two deputies (or hench women) made it very clear that they disapproved of me, which was pretty unfair because I was actually good at the job. They were vocal about the fact I came from a more successful court in the ‘league tables’ and whenever I did something wrong, in the way that we’d done it at Ipswich, they’d sneer at me. Often, they’d change their ways afterwards, but not without having a right go at me first. I worked with a woman who gave incompetence a bad name, who was constantly off sick and who was three civil service grades more senior than I was.
I was still on a diet – I remember a few in particular from that time. ‘Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell’ – a strange one that involved a whole lot of complicated calculations but was essentially low fat; one that involved visualising everything you ate turning to sludge, unless it was apples or veggies; a high fibre F-Plan type thing and oh, another one, remember Susan Powter? Never let a morsel of fat pass your lips and exercise a lot. Phew!
Husband #1 and I had joined the YMCA gym, he was usually quite good at going every week but I would try and weasel out of it at any opportunity. He thought I should join a Step class to make friends. I told him I wouldn’t be able to breathe after an hour of Step aerobics, let alone talk to anyone afterwards! We used to bicker because he’d want to buy chips every week on the way home, and I was always on a diet. I would smell those chips and practically dribble at the thought of them, but my constant “I’m on a diet” meant I denied myself and got narky at him for being able to eat anything he wanted. “Why should I not have what I want just because you don’t have any willpower?” he snapped back one day. I told myself it wasn’t fair, he’d never understand.
He got me one of those ‘stepper’ things for Christmas the first year we were married. It’s OK, I did want one, it wasn’t a hint. I had tonsilitis all over Christmas, which I tried to make go away by drinking a lot, and eating Pringles. Our heating packed up at 6am on Christmas morning and I was at the doctors first thing because it hurt so much I couldn’t swallow and I couldn’t even breathe without coughing. He gave me Co-codamol and told me to drink gin. I still managed to cook my first ever Christmas dinner, like a good wife.
We started going swimming together in about 1994. It was the first time I’d been fitter than him, I’d stay in for the obligatory 50 lengths of the pool and he’d get out halfway through and sit in the sauna. I also started walking to work a bit more often – I lost a bit of weight after noting in horror that my weight had gone up to almost 12 stone a few weeks after the wedding…and I was edging into a size 16 for the first time ever. We ate out a lot on the honeymoon, and the freedom to be able to eat whatever I wanted, comfort eating at work and wanting to prove that I could cook all contributed to the situation. Another contributing factor was the fact that Husband #1 went out most weeks to a ‘jam session’ as he was a guitarist, and I would use those nights to either invite my new friend, let’s call her ‘L’ over for dinner, or stock up on junk food at the corner shop as soon as the car was out of the driveway and eat until it was all gone.
If ‘L’ came for dinner we’d usually drive to Tesco, get custard doughnuts and other treats and both scoff them, vowing that we’d go on a diet the next day/week/millennium.
The only good thing for my crappy eating habits was that I’d started to read a bit of feminist literature, Naomi Wolf’s ‘The Beauty Myth’ and Susie Orbach’s ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ included. They planted the seed of the idea that diets didn’t work, but at that point it was just a vague idea, because if diets didn’t work, I could never be slim, right? How else was I going to do it?
I thought that being married meant I’d never feel lonely again, that I’d feel loved and that I’d be more confident. In all honesty, nothing had really changed. I didn’t really know who I was, and I was losing my identity because I was unhappy every day at work and couldn’t really explain why I felt so lonely to my husband. It was never going to end well, was it?
PS: I have to keep saying this but I’m absolutely NOT blaming anyone else for my weird eating habits or the way I felt about myself. I expected being married to make me feel better about myself…but only I could do that!