I didn’t expect it to be. And I nearly didn’t let it happen.
The first cliché is that love comes crashing into your life when you stop looking for it. The second is that you so rarely know exactly what you want that you’re in danger of not letting it in when it does appear.
I’d been dating for a long, long time. There were some mediocre men and some shockers; some who bruised my heart around the edges and some who didn’t capture it at all; some who turned out not to be what they first appeared, and one who took me on a first date to Strada and made me sit through such a miserable hour that he single-handedly inspired me to give up on the whole sorry project.
When I gave up on dating, I meant it. I was genuinely happy with my own company, and would far rather be by myself than I would waste my time sitting through endless dinners with men I had little in common with and no inclination to get to know better. I had a job, a home, my friends and family, and didn’t feel that I needed a relationship to improve my life.
And then, out of the blue, The Redhead suggested I go for a drink with her former flatmate - “you both love a good balsamic vinegar,” she said, “you’ll have the most middle-class friendship ever.”
So I did. I didn’t think too much about it, wasn’t wearing anything special… And had the best first date - nay, any date - that anyone anywhere has ever been on. I still have to pinch myself sometimes in order to believe it was real. I fell, hard, in a few hours, for a man I thought I was meeting for a friendly, nothing-else-to-it drink.
But even when I had fallen, hard, for the man who was about to change my life, I nearly missed out because love didn’t look exactly how I expected it to.
I think we all have a picture in our minds of the person we’ll end up with - a rough, pencil sketch even if we can’t picture the details - and sometimes that rough sketch is more guided by what we assume other people’s expectations are for us than those which we hold for ourselves.
The sketch in my mind was tall - but not a foot and a half taller than I am. He was intelligent and articulate and warm and witty and kind. But he wasn’t a journalist (if I’m brutally honest, he had a more lucrative job). He wasn’t allergic to cats (how could he be?!). He read the Sunday Times, not the Observer, and his politics reflected that. And he most certainly wasn’t younger - much younger - than me.
I can admit now that I had a wobble. Publicly. In front of The Writer, on our second date, halfway up Goodge Street. A wobble about whether this was the right thing to do - and whether it was the right time to do it... Was this really what I wanted, who I wanted, was it the right time to want it?
And then I stopped thinking, stopped letting the wobble in all its total ridiculousness get to me, and went with it. I let myself fall.
And I’ve spent the last 1,095 days being so, so glad I did.