The public face

Oh, Clare and F: they’re a lovely couple…

Why is it we are saddened, hearing of a split? For at least one of a couple, when they split it is new freedom. It may be recognising a reality. It may be a betrayal- “I gave him the best years of my life”- but if there are no children, she may still be better off without him.

Their divorcing partner is never the best one to describe a person to you. Walking through Nupton with E, I watched another greet her and chit-chat a bit. She did not introduce me, but said after, “That was F. You know, M’s ex-wife?” And I thought, that’s surprising. She wasn’t gibbering like someone possessed, nor turned out like someone about to be made homeless.

Or, “I met him, you know. He seemed quite personable.” Of course he would! He did that in the privacy of their home.

She covered it up, too.

Another split- she has instructed her solicitor, they are having an amicable separation, he is using her lawyer. In that case, your brother deserves to be cleaned out. The lawyer is not allowed deliberately and clearly to lie to him, but otherwise he is fair game. So up go the fees, and amicable becomes contested- yet he is still the bigger fool, not to have a lawyer.

I have been thinking about this for months, not quite understanding what it was: knowing it was vile, worthless, harmful, from Hell; knowing it was impossible, knowing I wanted it. I have worked it out. I want the public appearance of being a happy couple. This, for me, involves certain rules of presentation which she must follow.

That is, I want her to be less than she is. I want her watchful and hypocritical.

Why? Because I want to hide from the world, and myself to present a public mask which in the worst case she would become a mere compliant accessory. I don’t know if I could find such a woman, or like her if I did. She might have a different conception of what that face should be. It is strange to me. It seems ridiculous and disgusting, and yet the desire remains.

Hammershoi, Artemis

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