“Men go to bed with Gilda, but they wake up with me.”
I’m pretty sure the first time I can definitely say that I remember hearing “Men go to bed with Gilda but they wake up with me” was on a warm summer’s afternoon at my high school best friend’s house, as we watched Notting Hill with that ardent desperation that only teenagers seem to have.
That being said, it’s possible I heard it prior to Julia Roberts’ quoting Rita Hayworth in Notting Hill after she sleeps with the protagonist’s character, which is just Hugh Grant playing his normal Hugh-Grant-roles, but owns a ridiculously cute bookstore. I know for a fact that I liked Rita Hayworth, as not only classic films like Casablanca were a regular in my household, and my dad has always liked feminist women in movies (one of his favourites is Katherine Hepburn).
It honestly doesn’t remember when I first heard the quote.
The point is why that quote stuck with me.
It’s something I only worked out why it was bothering me so much last year – and it wasn’t because of any romantic relationship.
Let me explain.
Rita Hayworth’s most iconic role was as her performance of Gilda, in the film by the same title. It’s so iconic that any image you may have of Rita Hayworth is probably a still taken from the film of Gilda. Have you seen The Shawshank Redemption?
Then you’ve seen the scene I’m talking about, the one that Red loves because of “that thing she does with her hair”.
Anyway, after Rita Hayworth starred in Gilda, millions of people fell head over heels with Rita Hayworth.
Except they didn’t.
Millions of people fell in love with who they thought Rita Hayworth was.
What actually happened is that millions of people fell in love with Gilda – hence Rita’s bittersweet infamous quote.
And the same thing happens to me all the fucking time, and it’s not just men who do it (however, it’s far more obvious and common with men).
Trust me – I even tracked down a guy from my past that I never liked, but knew he had liked me, on Facebook (it was from my first year of uni, so like a decade ago he liked me, I think it’s fair to say he had no feelings at the time, especially as he has a girlfriend). And, after a little bit of talking, a little bit of false vulnerability, and I asked him straight out: Why had he liked me?
And he told me.
He thought I was “the type of woman who would love children, who would love being a family woman, who would love being a wife”. (Not actually a direct quote, because I don’t want to be rude and take what he actually said. I just want to summarise it – and that was the truth.)
I wasn’t surprised when he told me – it was the answer I’d been expecting.
Men have, continuously, fallen in love with the idea of me.
I am Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
I am Not Like Other Girls Girl.
I am The Damsel In Distress.
I am The Good Girl, The One You Take Home To Mum.
I am The One Who Got Away.
I am Gilda.
I am all of these things, to certain degrees, and also I am none of these things.
All those things above?
Those people who made those statements? (Or other statements that revealed that – while their views of me were far less obvious and cliched – a less-specific trope I filled for them.) They swore they loved me. That I was the one.
Yet none of them really saw me.
Every single guy, bar one that I’m aware of (that “bar one”, by the way, is obvi my husband) has seen the person they want to date, the person they seem to think I am, not the person I actually am.
And it’s not just men – it’s everyone. People who don’t make me make a lot of assumptions – some accurate, some less so.
But Scott was the first person to really see me.
He saw beyond the fact that I like pretty dresses and sometimes love putting on make-up, and he learnt about who I was.
He knows all the shallow stuff: That I love honey, not sugar, in my tea, and I prefer my tea black; he knows that 2 am (Breathe) by Anna Nalick is my favourite song, and if I’m having a panic attack, and he can get me to sing that song along with him and the music, the panic attack will usually pass; he knows that I only like one type of ice-cream, and that as a general rule, I hate ice-cream; he knows which horror movies I watch to calm down to, and which ones I actually love (thrillers); he knows my favourite author used to be Tess Gerritsen, but it’s now Liane Moriarity; he knows my favourite perfume is Belle Cherie from this French tour we went on; he knows I despise the taste of sweet things.
He also knows the stuff that isn’t shallow, but isn’t big, either, like the fact that I love dresses because I find them more comfortable and easier. I started buying them because, especially in my first year of teaching, I moved a lot. (I think I had five or six moves in my first year of teaching.)
I kept misplacing pants/skirts and tops, or I wouldn’t find something that matched easily, or when I did, it’d been scrunched up somewhere because for a few months in my first year of teaching, I had a lot of my possessions piled up in the back of my car as I was in the process of leaving my abusive ex.
Most people think I must love, love, love dresses, because it’s what I wear.
And I do.
But what I loved was the ease of access. I could go into Myer and Review during the Christmas sales, buy a bunch of nice work-appropriate dresses, and I’d be set.
In fact, I don’t think a single dress from Review has worn out properly, since I started buying them.
Below: Typical work outfit
So when I was finally set up, and I knew I wasn’t immediately moving again, and I’d been given a full-time position, I started setting up my room and buying a proper closet and shit, and I bought a lot of dresses, because it made sense. I found that I was saving money by spending a little more on clothing each year, instead of going to the really cheap stores, and I would never really have to worry about the question ‘I love this top/skirt/pants but what if nothing looks good with it’, because I had my outfit planned.
No one ever said beauty and laziness couldn’t co-exist peacefully.
And then he gets me on a deeper level, the real level, the actual who-I-am level.
He listens and understands when I’m ranting about some new cause, and if he doesn’t know what the fuck I’m on about, he asks.
And then he genuinely listens.
He doesn’t talk over me, or do this:
He just listens.
But most importantly, he loves me for me.
I remember watching the movie This Is 40 with my best friend Jasmine and another friend, Pat. I can’t remember what the couple were arguing about, but I remember saying something like, “Oh my god, she has to leave him now. I’d never forgive that.”
And Pat turned to me and he said that true love, real love, was far more complicated than that. He told me that if you really loved someone, that meant that sometimes they hurt you, but it’s “just different”.
I scoffed. I didn’t believe him.
I know a lot of you have asked how I could forgive Scott, and it wasn’t easy. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, I don’t want to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, but I will tell you how I feel, and that it’s okay if you decide you want to forgive and stay with your partner. You don’t need to justify your reasons to anyone, but you do need to be in a safe and healthy relationship. If you aren’t in a safe and healthy relationship, that’s definitely problematic.
The truth is, if I’d found out Scott had cheated on me before I married him, I would have left him.
It wouldn’t have mattered if it was emotional or physical.
I wouldn’t have cared to listen.
It’s a part of who I am – I can be stubborn, defiant and if someone I love betrays me – I can be spiteful at times, even to my own detriment. (Hey, I always said I’d be honest – and that includes about my failings. I’m trying to become more aware of them, to improve on them.)
I’m glad I didn’t know.
Scott and I were going through so much at that time, because he’d been forgetting me so often, that if I’d learnt that, it would have been the nail in the coffin.
Actions have always meant more to me than words – I’ve learnt that people say a lot of things, usually to be nice (not being judgy, I do it too), but actions will tell you how a person really feels.
There was no way I wouldn’t have been able to listen to him, because the truth would have been: Despite his words of “I love you”, his actions were showing that whatever he felt, he didn’t care enough.
But also during that time, I’d sat down with him – for the second time in our relationship – and I’d addressed how frequently he was forgetting me and cancelling our dates. I explained that I understood his work roster, and that I had no problems with boys’ nights out. I had no problems if – because all of his friends had similar dodgy work rosters – there were sometimes last minute changes, as long as he actually explained to me why he was cancelling (sometimes getting all the boys together could be hard – like I said, work rosters).
I told him I loved him very much, and I could definitely see a future with him, but he needed to work out why he was cancelling and forgetting me so much, because I deserved better than that, and I wasn’t going to stand for less than what I’d expect from a friend.
And while his behaviour didn’t change overnight, he immediately started taking things more seriously. He saw that I wasn’t exaggerating or make a big deal, like he’d first thought, but that I really did have a point.
That some of the things he’d done had horrified people, even if they hadn’t been aware that he was the responsible party.
He realised that all I was asking was to be treated with basic decency and respect.
And by the time I would fall seriously ill the following year with meningitis, things I’d once had to beg for, came without any questions.
I remember the night after his birthday party – I’d spent weeks organising it, so his friends and family could come up from Adelaide if they had wanted to – he didn’t get too drunk, so that he could bring me fresh orange juice and a gluten free honey-date loaf from the bakery for breakfast in the morning, to check on me.
And when we realised I wasn’t getting better, and this was going to be a long-haul life-changing thing, he never wavered. He’s attended every appointment, with every specialist, that he can. He recently spent six weeks carer’s leave with me at home, caring for me, because I literally cannot always care for myself.
He will clean endless amounts of vomit up without question, setting me up with a saucepan for when it gets too bad and my knees are too bruised from constantly kneeling by the toilet seat. He rubs my back slowly, soothingly, telling me it’ll be ‘okay’, and to ‘Just let it out’.
He will brush my hair when my arms hurt too much to move.
He checks on me, even when I appear to be fine, because he knows that after years of suffering abuse for “not being sick enough”, that I go overboard pretending to be fine, and do more damage, that only he sees.
Below: He was whispering in my ear because he knew I was really cold (I had a blanket in between shoots; it was in winter.)
Those cute whisperings you seem him do? That’s him, setting up escape plans if I need them, to avoid embarrassment if things like cataplexy set in. It’s him, reminding me my health is more important, and anyone that doesn’t get that it wasn’t worth a dime of my time. It’s him, checking that I’m not lying to everyone, including myself, about how sick I really am.
If I’d learnt that my husband cheated on me when he did, I wouldn’t have learnt how seriously he would take all those other vows, how earnestly he would love me, how much he would care for me.
I would have missed out on a man who loves me just as much when I’m sick and broken as when I’m well and happy.
I would have missed out on a man who really did mean “for better or for worse”, because the worst keeps happening, and he’s as steady as ever.
I would have missed out on a man who would hold my hand for every scary test, who would take time every time we had to hear bad news about my health, who would do anything and everything to make sure that I would have the best chance when it comes to my health, to help get me back on my feet.
I’m not saying if your partner cheats on you, you should stay. I would never advocate for such a thing.
What I am saying is that if I’d learnt that information earlier, I hadn’t learnt enough of the good things about my husband – and I hadn’t grown enough as a person.
I would have left him because I would have wanted to make a point, and to hurt him the way he’d hurt me. I would have acted in anger, and even if I got over my anger, I probably would have done something to ensure we couldn’t get back together (that spite thing again).
But I’ve grown. I’ve learnt that what hurts me wasn’t that he needed attention from someone else; it was the lying.
I also learnt that my husband truly didn’t believe his behaviour was unacceptable, and I also learnt that if knew how badly it would hurt me, it would never have happened.
I’m saying that if it does happen to you, listen to how you feel, not what everyone tells you what they think you should or shouldn’t do.
All I know is that his emotional affair doesn’t bother me, and we both are well aware that I forgive him (after all, he’s at least pre-read almost all of these posts to varying degrees), and that his amazing goodness, his kind soul, his selflessness nature, completely outweighs a thoughtless mistake he knows he made.
And things are better now – really. He bought me a vibrator from Honey Birdette so that I can entertain myself (as I’m not allowed to do any strenuous activity) if I want to, because we communicate better now. We express our needs and desires more freely now, and we try and make better compromises.
I have a person who accepts and loves every aspect of me, even the parts he hates, and especially the parts he says he loves but-we-all-know-he-secretly-hates.
And I feel that way about him. I feel understood, loved, and cared for. Even when Scott fucks up – which he still does all the time – it’s usually from a place of love.
And to me, that’s the definition of love.
So whoever you love – whether you’re married, or you’re a teen, or you’re pansexual, or whatever or whoever, you decide within your partnership. I once read that lesbians have better sex because they’re rarely portrayed in the media, so they communicate more about their likes and dislikes – and you know what?
It’s fucking hot.
Don’t do things you aren’t comfortable with, don’t waste time on people who aren’t worth it, and don’t stay in a relationship where you are unhappy.
But we all go through shit – no one’s perfect.
Work out what you need your rules to be, and have those tough, complicated conversations – the ones you don’t want to have, because we want to pretend like we never, ever notice an extremely beautiful person (we do), but I promise you, if you think your relationship is worth it, it helps. It’s a slow process, and I’d start with a relationship therapist, but try to remember what I would have missed out on if I’d found out sooner, or I was still a horribly spiteful person. (I’m still spiteful, just not entirely horrible.)
That saying about ‘blessings being disguises’ sometimes can be true. Mostly it isn’t, but sometimes it can be. Try and work out which one is yours.
And this last post is for Scott, who still is and will forever always be, the love of my life.