“The majority of women spend half of their existences trying to set up a physical and emotional space that is nothing else but a trap where they will live for the other half of their lives.”
I can feel that with those words she is starting a conversation carefully prepared during long days and sleepless nights. Her name could be Vanessa or Maria but I shall call her Paula. She was taking care of the kitchen when I arrived. To hide her nervousness from me, Paula is now playing with the bubbles in the dishwashing sink.
“I know you like him. It is a fair sentiment for a friend. Besides, he revives in us, women, a certain urge to protect him from any bad thing. It was the same when I first met him. It wasn’t passion, not even love gradually constructed within the relationship. Nothing of that kind! It was a simple contract. I was supposed to protect him from himself, from his mistakes and faults, from annoyances and a series of existential questions troubling him from time to time. What did I got in exchange? Family life in pastel colors! You ask me where love fits? Nowhere! Why such surprise? Relationships of this nature, unfortunately, are far more common than you suppose. At the beginning I had at least the novelty of married life: organizing our house, consolidating our contacts with family and friends, looking after the children, everyday scares, happy events… Over the second ten years I already knew that the contract was a trap. Still, I was convinced I could be inside of it forever: dignified, admired, unhappy…”
Her marriage was one of the few solid ones in our circle of friends, that’s why I can’t avoid my reaction of surprise and regret. I know that Paula can read the bewilderment on my face so I look outside trying to hide it. It is such a beautiful, sunny afternoon! After the difficulty of the first words, Paula seems at ease and conversation is flowing naturally.
“Listen! When we are young we need so little to be content and in peace with life! Sometimes we just ask for a little of sun kissing our skin, a fresh breeze playing with our skirts. That’s why it is so easy to live at twenty with someone that we don’t love. The reasons are enough, strong and justified. Yet, only at 30 restlessness multiplies. If there is a pit between both, by 30 it is already a wide lake. Still, deep inside, we still believe it is possible. And what to say when there are children? Maybe for a man it is easy to leave but for a woman it’s painful only to think about. He can desert the boat in the middle of the journey, not us! After 30 it is the “learning age”, when we discover that everything we detest is ironically more visible at 40 or 50. If he was anti-social, by then he will be completely alone. If he was greedy, he will have turned paranoid. That’s when we can foresee two things: that it is impossible to go on, and that we are at the limit age to start all over again and, who knows, find love. Are you laughing? Do you think ridiculous to find love at our age? Some people only find it at 90!”
Paula is openly smiling at me. She shakes the foam from her hands and stares blankly at the wrinkled skin from the immersion in the soapy water. She listens attentively to my question and replies without a moment of hesitation.
“No, it wasn’t a sexual matter. I read somewhere, and I totally agree, that it is possible good sex without love, but bad sex with love would be impossible. I am convinced that women’s satisfaction have a lot to do with communication, personality, romance, admiration, independence, and fair play instead of power games. There are so many reasons and some of them so peculiar! I remember a movie I saw long time ago about a girl’s disillusionment because her boyfriend didn’t say ‘God bless!’ when she sneezed. The explanation can be insignificant, yet so crucial for us! Understood?”
Illustration by Ti.