I believe that quite early on you set the tone of your marriage.
You have probably discussed at length plans for children, career plans, where you would like to live, how you will parent, your dreams for growing old together and how you will manage your finances.
Will you be the ‘United as one’; who go everywhere together, exercise together, socialise together, are not opposed to matching jumper’s couple?
Will you be ‘The Powerhouse’; two careers, violin playing children, scholarships, Olympic swimming, Yoga practising couple?
How about the ‘Independently Dependants’, ‘Happy with your lot’, ‘Go Getters’, ‘Adventure Seekers’, ‘Traditionalists’…
Or complete and utter ‘Disaster Zones?’
You stand at the top of the altar after months of preparation, after months of being an absolute Dick Head, after months of the whole world revolving around your sacred union and you take your vows at the same time hoping that your tulle skirt is not tucked into your pants and you have managed to take the price tag off the sole of your over-priced (no I’m totally going to wear them again, I’ll get them dyed) shoes. Simultaneously crossing your legs so as not to pee your pants because The BM’s were all giddy and drank too much champagne before leaving the house, you are crossing your fingers and hoping beyond hope that life will turn out the way you planned…
It may not surprise you that me and The S.O made no such plans.
We were young, we were in love, we were Gobshites and we were getting married. WHOOO HOOOO.
The rest would work itself out. Besides as soon as I had clapped eyes on The S.O at sixteen (yes, yes I know) it was a foregone conclusion, it was, is and always will be, just him. We were a real life frickin’ fairy tale. What could go wrong?
I was a beautiful bride.
Yes I can say this. I had earned it. I was twenty five. I glowed like Ready Brek and I had lost a very small person in weight. College had left me with a mediocre degree and a layer of skin that needed to take a hike. So with a Slendertone belt strapped around me shocking the shite out of my fat, a set of weights strapped to ankles and wrists, Disc Man tucked inside it’s carrier bag and attached around my form (heck I was wearing a belt bag and I didn’t even know it), I walked with purpose every night up a hill so sharp that my nose almost touched the road chanting…
‘I will be a beautiful bride, I will be a beautiful bride…’
The weight crept away and for the sheer sport of it I would hop on and off the scales, (fully clothed, with my shoes on), sometimes holding various items to see the difference it made and I was still happy. A far cry from the nowadays buck naked, holding onto the side of the sink and convincing myself that I must be standing on a heavy tile or was definitely carrying water or extreme muscle mass, ah I was wearing a heavy hair bobbin!
Life was good. The wedding came and went and since we were the first of any person we knew to take the leap, we could have gone in low but no, we set a high standard and I loved every darn minute. I swept about in my timeless gown, glittering like Edward in Twilight, as happy as could be. I was Mrs. S.O. I was hot, I was in love, bring this marriage shit on.
We had selected a two centre honeymoon. (Dick Heads) The Maldives and Dubai. It just so happened that for the days we would be in Dubai, just a quick five, that it was hosting an International Shopping Festival. HOLY FUCK!
Let me get this straight, a festival celebrating shopping? I could picture it now. Music and dancing while we shopped, everyone high fiving and congratulating each other on their purchases, ‘Yes Nuala, you will without a doubt wear the Stuart Weitzman Tanzanites on the school run, don’t mind yer man, get them’; let’s just skip the Maldives bit, no?
But no, ten days later after truly setting eyes on paradise, swimming in a sea as warm as Oxtail soup after GAA training, more sun, sea and well let’s just say we could never get out of the marriage on the ‘No Consummation’ clause. BOOM BOOM!
We were rested, we were tanned, we were married and the money was burning a hole in my flippy sundress. There hadn’t been as much as a coconut to buy in the Maldives, I was ready to shop.
We packed our bags (no baggage allowance in those days, I practically had an emigration trunk with me) and boarded the boat to the Mainland.
That was the last time I felt well for six entire months.
I located a lump the size of an egg on the back of my head and I felt most unwell. But I was no quitter and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like a head lump wreck the shopping. I would battle on. But even the strongest of people must sometimes crumble and after arriving in Dubai, we were collected by a marble man, in a gold leaf car and transported along platinum roads to the hotel shaped like a wave built out of diamante.
I collapsed into the bed and slept for at least 14 hours.
The S.O knew as soon as I awoke that something was wrong and with no argument he marched me to the hotel Doctor. She took one look at me, pointed to a tiny blister on my chest, picked up the phone and direct dialled United Emirates Airline, looked at me and said ‘no fly twelve days, no go to pool, no go to restaurant, no leave room, chicken pox.’
We walked outside where a golf buggy was awaiting us with our luggage and we were driven to the very outskirts of the complex to a little house and told ‘DON’T LEAVE’.
It took a few minutes to absorb WHAT THE FUCK had just happened?
These people are bat shit crazy and highly efficient, which I couldn’t help but admire. I mean I was sick but just one little blister, I’ve already had chicken pox, what is going on….I could already see myself walking back into the Doctor all Julia Roberts saying, ‘BIG MISTAKE… HUGE…’
And then it hit me like a tonne of empty shopping bags. My mind rewinds like a Betamax..
The nephew… and there I am like an Estee Lauder advert in my wedding dress in slow motion bending down to kiss his sweet little (lightly dusted with a very mild dose of Chicken Pox) face and he is looking up at me with his raisin brown eyes.
The Mothership…assuring me that we have all had chicken pox and don’t be so silly after I attempted to eject toddler from the house.
The chest infection…a week before the wedding and the Doctor arriving to administer some magical shot that instantly made it go away (I must remember to ask what this was someday).
The S.O held me down as I tried to reach across the oceans to grab the cute little honeymoon wrecker by the throat and…ok hang on…
I looked around. This place was bloody amazing. We had been moved from an average room to (as we were told my Abdul our private concierge, who literally popped out of a cupboard whenever I needed him and used to crawl under the TV so as not to disturb my line of vision; I miss him) a private enclosed villa, with private pool where Mr. Tiger Woods stays when he is here.
Well Tiger, we have now slept in the same bed and you have sat on a couch where my chicken pox have been. HA!
The Villa was HUGE. It had a pool with flowers and candles floating in it, the biggest bed I have ever seen and a bath that would finish off the immersion.
I filled the bath, (1st mistake, as apparently this can rapidly spread the pox) Abdul brought dinner, we ate beside the pool and exhausted headed to the giant bed, maybe this was going to ok.
Until it wasn’t.
Next morning I awoke, glanced over at the mirror and…
Staring back at me was a person made of Corned Beef, you know the cheap packet type that’s all spotty.
I was covered, covered in great big welts, roaring red and I was itchy as hell. I pulled up my top, OH MY GOD, pulled my legs out from the covers, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD.
The doctor was called again. A man this time accompanied by a female bodyguard. These people, what did they think I was going to do? Lick him?
He could hardly bring himself to look at me. I tried to show him my tummy which was the best Corned Beef example but he quickly looked away disgusted with my mottled form. He gave NO advice except to stay in bed. I later discovered that his lack of interest was not disgust but a cultural thing so I sort of forgave him.
And that itch, I could never find the words to describe it. Pure torture.
The S.O apart from the initial shock of realising that he had exchanged vows with Corned Beef never even flinched. He never commented when I would randomly chuck a spun gold cushion across the room with sheer frustration and he would painstakingly apply calamine lotion with a Q tip to each and every pock (approximately 1,2458) twice daily. In between the poor sod would go for walks, head to water parks, lament his old life, while I stayed home to watch comedy central with Abdul and when Abdul wasn’t looking to have a little scratch. (I still wonder what ever became of him, had he had chickenpox? Did we leave Abdul with a great big tip for pulling the short straw and a nasty dose of Varicella Zoster?)
After 12 itchy nights and an extra bill of €5,992, not including food or mini bar (I’m sorry I didn’t know it was extra) but to be fair they didn’t charge us the Tiger room rate of €1,388 a night which would have amounted to €16,656 (In your face Tiger). And apparently since I had not been hospitalised the insurance didn’t cover it,
We left Dubai.
There were no honeymoon snaps laughing atop a camel, taking a puff from a shisha pipe, at the Souk, in one of the many shopping centres. NOTHING! I saw nothing. The highlight of the trip was the ride on the golf buggy.
We had tested every single vow by the time we set foot back on the plane, we were worse, we had sickness, we were poorer.
Chicken Pox tested our vows.
Chicken Pox left me with a welt the size of a plunge pool right on the end of my nose.
Chicken Pox increased the sales of Bio Oil in Dublin.
Honestly, Chicken Pox nearly broke me.
I was so sick on our return that my father cried when he saw me in the airport, children recoiled and mirrors broke.
I was a mess and to add insult to injury I was left with (one of those things that people snigger at) Post Viral Fatigue. So many people told me to cop on and get on with it but I was so ill. My legs would give way from under me, I would get exhausted walking up stairs, I got so impatient and frustrated and I was so bloody sad. I couldn’t work, I did my best to hide the marks I was left with but it took a full year for them to heal. One by one as the horrible scabs fell off my face I was left with ugly rivets that only Polyfilla would conceal. I remember when the famous nose welt fell off one morning as I carefully washed my face, I have never felt closer to Michael Jackson in my life.
The S.O was at work all the time, to repay the horrid honeymoon and I was at home alone a lot, watching the world go by, feeling more and more down until…one day a Boxer puppy turned up on my doorstep and the rest is history. Buster saved me.
I’ve had ‘Chicken Pox’ many more times over the years, where something comes out of left field to smack me in the face just when everything is going swimmingly, but every bout and every pock I’m left with just makes me a little bit braver and a little bit more…Judy.
Eventually the pock marks faded, except for the nose one which I’m ok with, it’s a reminder. I grew stronger and I pulled myself out of a dark place, all with the love of The S.O and a Boxer named Buster, the original three.
So there you go, on the day of our wedding the tone of our marriage was sealed by the exchange of a kiss between a sweet little boy and an innocent bride.
In the same way, on the day of that same little boys (not so sweet) 16th birthday party, the tone of my very late thirties was set by the exchange of a kiss between that same little shit and a totally cool aunt, but the result was exactly the same…
This blog is dedicated to Max, I wouldn’t change a thing.
To Mal, forever.
(To Pol. My number one fan. Nothing to be ashamed of.)