A friend of mine came round for dinner on Saturday night, with her new man.
I met Mandy over twenty years ago when she was going out with one of Ewan’s closest mates. We got on really well together and when she dumped Michael, because he had the audacity to ask her to marry him, we stayed friends.
I always thought she had made a big mistake, as Michael is lovely. He was devastated when they broke up but about a year later he met someone else who he married and they went on to have three beautiful children. Splitting up with Mandy was the best thing that could have happened to him as he found a woman who totally adores him.
Mandy always told me that she didn’t regret her decision but I knew it hit her hard when we told her he was getting married and then, each time she found out he’d had another baby. But she said the reason she didn’t want to marry him was because he wasn’t The One and she didn’t want to just settle. I couldn’t understand it because she acknowledged that he was thoroughly gorgeous and decent and great in bed and kind and generous and that in fact there was nothing wrong with him but she felt he was second best to what she was looking for and that she wouldn’t know what that was until she found it.
Of course, deep down, I knew what she meant. Ewan and Michael are very similar and although I was aware from the start that Ewan wasn’t The One it didn’t matter because on paper he had everything I was looking for and I wasn’t convinced that I would ever find a better fit. And he loved me and I found him incredibly attractive and attentive so unlike Mandy, I did settle – I wasn’t brave enough to do anything else.
And as the years went by and I watched Mandy, I knew I had done the right thing. She drifted in and out of relationships, desperately lonely but desperate not to put up with anyone that wasn’t right.
The longest relationship she had lasted about five years. He was a television presenter and we all thought he must be the one but while they were away on holiday she suddenly announced that this wasn’t what she wanted and it had to end before she found herself in a rut. He told us later that he had a ring in his pocket and had found the perfect spot to propose and had been waiting until the last day of their holiday to do just that. I was heartbroken on her behalf but she just got up, dusted herself down and got on with life, only slightly stunned when within the year, he married an ex-girlfriend.
Once she hit her forties, she found it incredibly hard. Everything (and it seemed, everyone) was telling her that she was getting older and the longer she left it the less chance there would be to have the family she so wanted and that she shouldn’t be so “picky”. But if anything she seemed to be more resolute in her desire to hold out for true love.
She often told me that she would know him when she met him. That her soul would recognise her perfect mate. It sounded like a bad song to me. She wanted what her parents had before her mother died. And I have to admit that when I met them at Mandy’s big fortieth birthday party, they were so adorable together. Very close…still holding hands and still looking at each other when something made them laugh. I did think that was very special.
She’s forty eight now and recently she told me that she had given up all hope of having children and that she was frightened of growing old alone and that increasingly she had been thinking of past relationships and wondering if she had been foolish in letting them go so easily. But even in that conversation she said she knew the right man was out there.
And reader, I have to tell you – I think she’s found him!
She brought Hugh round on Saturday night and he is indeed, wonderful. They only met last month but they have seen each other practically every day and they look like a couple who have been together for years. Very easy in each other’s company and the way he looks at her made my heart melt. His hand on her back or the occasional touch of her face and her pure radiance in his company which I have NEVER seen in all the time that I have known her was just so moving. And I think it touched Ewan too because he, in turn, was very attentive to me, kissing me on the top of the head as he passed by to take the dishes out, taking my hand as he asked if I wanted him to do the coffee. In fact, he does that sort of thing all the time and I guess I have always just taken it for granted. But Hugh pointed it out when we were talking about relationships and said that we were clearly a special couple as twenty years together hadn’t stopped the obvious affection and that he hoped, twenty years from now, he would still be kissing the top of Mandy’s head…….
I had to disappear off to the loo then to have a quick cry. How lovely that he thinks me and Ewan are special. How stupid am I to think that we’re not. Maybe I did settle for Ewan but I realise now, that’s because he WAS the right man. For all his faults, he is so perfect for me. No one else would have put up with me for all these years the way he has.
I’m so pleased that Mandy has finally found The One after all this time but it’s only dawning on me now, how lucky I am, that I found mine twenty years ago.
Cooking for One
2 weeks ago