Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dragged out of marriage

Just don't say anything. At least they got my name as wrong as they could
It's a cold evening in November 2005. I'm in the reception area of Chelsfield Methodist Church, in full make-up, black wig and wearing a gold, ankle-length ball gown. And I'm having that conversation with my wife.

You know the one. No, not that one. Or that one. The other one.

We – the Orpington Rep, that is, not Thérèse and I – were rehearsing a pantomime. This would be my first experience of this peculiarly English genre and I was moderately enjoying it, considering everything to do with the stage was new to me and I was never, ever going to do another panto.

It was barely a year since I'd sat at the computer in the early hours of the morning, drunk of course, doing something utterly shameful. While Thérèse was upstairs in bed and assuming I was doing what any decent husband of 14 years would be doing and looking at pornography, I was actually trying to find an amateur drama society. In the end I found two, which is how, a year later, I found myself playing Baron Hardup in Cinderella.

I'd never been on stage before, not even at school, so I figured that now the kids were old enough to put themselves to bed I would have time to do something in the evenings, and acting was something I'd always wanted to try. It took me till the age of 40, but finally I did it.

I know what you're thinking: that isn't Baron Hardup in the picture. You're right, but Rob, the tall, thin ugly sister was on holiday and someone who would fit the clothes had to step in when the press photos were taken. And while I was being prepped for the shoot, Thérèse was at home going through my briefcase, where she found the stub of the cheque I had written to a solicitor. She marched over to the hall and cornered me. To her credit, she made no comment about the garb I was wearing and got straight down to business.

So that's how we came to have that conversation. She in shock; me in a ballgown and the other members of the society looking through the windows from while pretending not to notice. There wasn't much to say, other than that I'd made up my mind and that was it. This photo was taken about 15 minutes later.

There were lots of reasons for the breakup. I'm too concerned with preserving the myth of being a nice guy to detail what was my fault and I've got no business using the web to say what was her fault. All I can say is that wearing women's clothes and make-up had nothing to do with it. I'd only worn make-up once before (for a girlfriend at university) and once since (for the Rocky Horror Show).

I still do amateur drama but I've ever worn a dress or any other women's clothing, before or since. But I've done Morris dancing, and that's humiliating enough.

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