CRAZY CAT LADY
(Writers note: I wrote this as a sort of ‘Stream of Consciousness’ so there is not a lot of editing or fancy literary images. It’s my feelings and emotions poured forth – although perhaps calling it ‘Stream of Consciousness’ might be stretching it a bit)
I am a woman, in my forties, single, I have no children and live with two cats. Aha – you say – I am a crazy cat lady. A sad, miserable failure who is in all likelihood a loony feminist who hates men and rather than seek the company of men, marriage and children, have chosen the opposite.
Alas, I am a crazy cat lady; I read comments about women in my situation, about how we have ‘wasted’ our lives and our situation is a sign of disappointment and our hard-heartedness. We are most to be pitied, it seems. Crazy cat lady, crazy cat lady. I have been called that.
Am I offended? No - I love cats – I love dogs – I love animals. I volunteer at an Animal Shelter (I work with dogs). Am I hurt? Yes, deeply so, because it makes assumptions about why I am in this situation; it lumps all women into the one box, it paints us with the same brush, it fails to recognise that the path that led me here – alone and with two cats – a path that perhaps I am partly to blame for - is more complex than what people want to believe.
I have been married twice. ‘What, and no children?’ I hear you say. I know, strange right? It’s not like I haven’t been intimate with men. I have been intimate with many men, in fact, but always – always – I wanted the package. The marriage, the house, the husband, the children WITHIN marriage. That’s how I was brought up. I’m a Greek Orthodox Christian right? I must do the right thing. Marriage is holy, it’s a sacrament, my parents and all the generations before married then had children. That’s what people do, right?
People say I’m fussy and perhaps I am. But I won’t be with someone for the sake of being with someone. I need to feel that special bond with a man – be it emotional, spiritual and physical. Nevertheless, I felt desperately lonely and thought – is there something wrong with me? Why haven’t I met the ONE?
To cut a long story short, I married a man I met in Greece when I was in my early thirties. I had never been obsessed with marriage and children in my twenties and simply can’t change that fact. I had other plans – study, travel, career and more travel. Some of my dreams were fulfilled but not all. I did study and travelled, where, as already mentioned, I met Husband Number One.
I brought my husband back to Australia, where we had a civil (wedding) service. It was rushed and very plain but to me, it was the prelude to the BIG day – the church wedding and the festivities to follow. I even bought a wedding dress – paid a lot of money for it. But I never got to wear it.
I longed for a church service but he was not interested. Once we had the civil service that was it; in his eyes we were legally married and we could now proceed with the relevant paperwork to enable him to stay in Australia. In fact, and to be brutal – I was a means to an end for him. I was his green card and he was my Mail Order Husband. Pathetic – yes, I know. But when I met him on a Greek island, prior to my coming back to Australia after having spent a year in Greece – I fell so in love it was as if I was bewitched.
Did I really know him before we got married? Of course not. Do you ever really know anyone? You could be married to someone for ten years and discover the most horrifying things about them. But once you’re married – you have to make it work. Even if the person changes straight after the wedding day – revealing their true colours and their real intentions. You must make this union with this complete stranger work – to be with them for the REST OF YOUR LIFE – in this institution called marriage because – well – that’s what society says.
And I wanted to do the right thing. I was in love – he loved me – or so I thought. Our marriage would be forever, we would have children. There was a reason why I was on that Greek island at that time – it was destiny – fate – we were predestined to be together.
My husband, as I learned in time, was a pathological liar of the most shocking kind. I can’t hate him for this – it reveals a sickness and upon reflection – also reveals a sickness of a world that forced him to create these lies. He told me he was half Greek, half Serbian. He was neither. In time, I came to realise he was of Albanian descent – a despised Albanian migrant. Oh, how the Greeks hate the Albanians – well – most Greeks. Perhaps he thought that if he had told me he was Albanian from the start, I would not have wanted him. I would have still loved him, but - what if and how come – it was all too late for that. I was married to an Albanian who continued to perpetuate lies about his identity.
It was a bizarre situation I had unwillingly found myself in. Me – the patriotic Greek, the Orthodox Christian – stuck in a civil marriage with a despised immigrant who I thought was half Greek. Who couldn’t produce any baptismal certificates and even told me once that he was a Muslim! What the hell was I supposed to believe?
Greek, Serbian, Albanian, Muslim, Liar…?
Of course, I asked questions because so little made sense. I had never got a chance to meet his parents the two times I had been in Greece with him; there were always excuses. I thought it strange that he had an Albanian passport and when I questioned this, he even created a fanciful story about that!! He was always TEN steps ahead of me. It was crazy and it just didn’t seem logical that this sweet, charming man would lie so blatantly. I was in love – that’s all that mattered. He wouldn’t lie. Why would someone lie about their own identity?!
My husband cheated on me. He was (and is) a sex addict. Again, he was so charming and so manipulative that I believed his stories time and time again. One day, I was having a conversation with an Aboriginal African woman about how she was with my husband the previous day – that his name was in fact Fernando – and that he was from Sweden. And she really liked him. Another time, I read an email from another girlfriend where she declared: ‘Because of you – I have learnt to love again.’ Another woman knocked on my door asking for my husband. ‘Oh, who are you?’ I asked in interest. ‘I’m his girlfriend.’ ‘Oh’ I said in shock, ‘I’m his wife. Nice to meet you.’
He had a lot of pornography on his computer as well, but I guess that’s the norm in this day and age. Somehow or another a wife has to put up with this. But it hurt.
My husband was determined that I was not to fall pregnant. I could not understand it. I always imagined us having a son together; he would have his good looks and my intelligence (lol – just kidding). To this day, I imagine what this son would be like if he had existed, if he was present in my life today. Husband Number One came up with all sorts of excuses: wait till we get more financially stable, wait to we move to a bigger place, wait till I come back from Europe. Excuses, excuses, excuses.
He insisted he wear a condom at all times. There was no way I was going to fall pregnant with him, unless I got him drunk and we had sex without a condom. But that was never to happen. He was adamant about the condom, which again I couldn’t understand.
So again, I was left with the ‘whys’ and the ‘how comes’. Left with trying to put the pieces of this crazy jigsaw puzzle in some sort of order. He hates me, he thinks I’m useless, he plans on leaving me, he doesn’t really love me – these are the reasons why he doesn’t want to have a child with me.
I’ve now come to realise why he didn’t want to have children with me. It was because of the lies he told that had created a false person with a false history. A false history can only lead to a false present and a false future. I was married to a fraud, and this fraud did not want to have children with me because his ‘stories’ would be exposed. The child would need to know his mother’s and father’s nationality, wouldn’t he/she?
Of course, I displayed astonishing naivety but couldn’t fathom someone lying to such an extent. Being from Australia, I was completely ignorant of the notorious methodologies used by foreign men in Greece to snare a woman – especially one from the ‘prosperous’ nation of Australia. When Husband Number One met me, he must have thought – JACKPOT. Sweet, innocent, naive, stupid, no idea of the cunning nature of so many in this country of Greece AND from Australia. I recall the look of glazed disbelief on his face, as if he couldn’t believe his luck.
Me and my Male Order Husband separated. It was a shockingly traumatic separation – I found out he was cheating on me again. He said words that bloodied me; that I was worthless and disgusting and hence, the reason why he did not want children with me. The words stung so badly I still feel the sting to this day – some eight years later.
The pain I went through after was unbelievable. I have always been prone to depression, anxiety and even obsessive-compulsive disorder - but these conditions were magnified one million per cent. I poured my heart and soul into this relationship only to be left with…nothing.
Yes, nothing. No house, no money, no children. Just lies, wounds, and a bleak future.
Husband Number One got married again. In fact, had brought over his ex-Swedish girlfriend right after our separation (he clearly had kept in contact with her and concocted stories to her as well). They got married and guess what? They now have a child.
I did get married again; my second husband was kind and sweet and super religious. He was the exact opposite of my first husband but at the same time – he was the same. I knew he was unable to have children before we married but I was in love and, deep down, feared I would be lonely and that nobody else would want me (after the trauma of my first marriage, I had shocking self-esteem issues). I thought – I can make this sacrifice – of not having children. Perhaps it is not my fate. Perhaps we can have children – there is always hope (thus I told myself). Yet I always imagined the child we could have had together. Again, it was another boy and he would look like his father. Beautiful blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. I could feel him, touch him, I would love him and hold him and take him before his grandparents and beam with joy.
My second marriage failed. Lack of intimacy, indifference, drifting apart, nothing to unite us. It was painful.
So now, here I am, in my forties, with two failed marriages behind me. No children, yet all around me I see happy couples with their children and I see the sense of fulfillment in their lives. It’s hard not to be bitter or feel ostracised from the ‘normal’ world of humanity. That as a woman with no children – I am but half a woman – if that.
I imagine the son – or sons and daughters – that I wanted – that I still want. I can feel them in my womb. And I want to cry as I write this. Because I don’t know if there is another chance for me. According to the world, I am past my use by date – even though I can still have children and I look much younger than my age. It causes me pain and leaves me feeling emotionally fragile. I had always thought I was strong enough to endure being childless, but deep down know I am not. I just suppress my feelings, block them out, try to occupy my time the best way I can. Or avoid people and their ‘normal’ lives.
I have my God, I have my faith, I have my love of writing and my beautiful family. I have my cats – my beautifully fat, furry, annoying, loving and devoted cats. That enable me to do something with this maternal instinct God created me with. Whilst I think about what could have been, and would still could be.
Crazy cat lady? Yeah sure, why not – put a label on me. But know that deep down, our lives are complex and by putting people into a box, you’re not allowing yourself to listen to their unique stories and know their pain and hope.