The Bride Stripped Bare by an Anonymous Writer (Nikki Gemmell)
What do women really want?
The Bride Stripped Bare by an anonymous writer (Nikki Gemmell)
‘In the end, when we meet death
and the light being
takes us to the station of our life,
it doesn’t judge,
whether we did right or wrong.
It will only ask:
“Did you love enough?”
This alone is the measure.’ (Elke)
An anonymous woman
in the 1600s,
a dusty and rare manuscript.
A cry from the heart
to live and LOVE freely.
‘The honesty is the most shocking thing of all.’
reads from the book
a 21 century housewife
a good wife and a good mother,
quiet and self contained.
She is the woman
in her mid thirties,
who has lived
a marriage of capitulation.
All the sparks and loudness
of her youth
is being rubbed out.
She is the everyday woman,
you meet on a street
and don’t give
a second glance.
‘Why are women so constrained about pleasing themselves?’
she writes in her own secret diary
under the nose of her husband:
Why are they so focused on everyone else’s pleasure
at the expense of their own?’
Asking all those things,
she may think but never say,
even in this sexually liberated age and day.
Feeling like a leaf,
left too long in the water,
bleached of colour and life,
powerless to change,
she looks back
and starts to reflect on:
In the beginning there was only Love,
clear and clean as a fall
of Christmas snow.
It was simple,
all that mattered was
that your heart was open.
the innocence of it all.
He likes to direct her life,
to guide it.
She let him think he is.
She never loved calmly before,
but she is old enough now to know,
you can not demand perfection from the gift of love.
There are some things, she suspects,
he prefers, to making love.
‘A woman not only experiences longer and deeper orgasms than a man,
but they so overwhelm her nervous system
that they leave her temporarily impervious to pain,’ she reads in a paper.
A strong desire
deep inside her,
that is slow, intriguing and unique,
takes her breath away.
“What are you thinking?”
Her husband asks.
“Nothing,” she murmurs.
‘About one woman in seven never experiences an orgasm.’
She looks up from the paper at a passing man.
A stranger wears the sun in his face and he smiles right into her eyes.
She feels something she hasn’t felt for years
and kisses his husband fully on the mouth.
He kisses her back, his way,
never giving her an orgasm,
just assuming he has.
She wanted so much,
but life kept on getting in the way.
Then there was Betrayal.
She is very still.
Heartbreak is physical,
makes her heart stops
like a sickness enters their marriage,
she craves for a man,
to be tender with, to touch.
the thrill of the chase.
Revenge as well.
The desire to learn,
to open up her life.
There is a glamour to his existence,
because he doesn’t see her every day:
wanting to know what she thinks
and giving her space,
making her feel beautiful,
confident and young again.
It’s always been enough,
sleeping with almost every man,
but not anymore.
She walks down the street,
propelled by a singing high,
it’s as if she could leap and brush the sky.
Possibility is wide open
before her eyes,
to create a pleasure man,
every woman dreams of…
She plunges in,
into an obsessive love.
that’s almost like a drug.
He is not afraid of her sexuality.
Her pleasure is giving him pleasure,
shaken awake after years of apathy.
For the first time in her life,
seeing a man completely satisfied,
by her hands, lips and tongue.
It’s as if she has never felt pleasure
never been in control,
never before had exactly
what she wants.
That everything she wants,
has been for so long,
in her head,
that she has never spoken out.
Her dream lover has woken her up
a woman inside her,
demanding, selfish and in control.
He made her feel
accomplished as a lover.
Then comes his turn
to ask something in return.
She stands up,
her lover is completely at her mercy.
She can do what she wants
and with that knowledge
She steps back,
her lover has fallen in love -
insisting on exclusivity,
and demanding nights.
Learning everything about love
as she watches him from the other side.
He imagines her leaving her cosy world
for a dreamer who has no real job -
who still travels on buses
and has never found a firm footing in his life.
She would have fallen for it once,
but she is too old now.
She can see her lover
suddenly hijacking her life.
Complication, burden and mess,
that is not what she expects.
She dresses, she leaves,
feeling a sliver of ice in her heart.
HER ANONYMOUS LOVERS WITHOUT FACES OR NAMES
Conventions and assumptions
drop away on all sides
and the words
just slip from her,
for she has rehearsed
for so long,
at night in her head.
There are three of them.
She tells them to do anything,
laughing at their surprise -
at no connection being made.
Never seeing them again.
They don’t respect her -
she is nothing but a vessel,
passive and compliant,
ready to erase her lover and start fresh.
But it doesn’t wipe him out.
“Go, please, get out!”
She finally shouts.
Two men this time and a woman,
as soon as she sees her, it’s wrong.
The woman stands back,
assessing her, reading her, knowing her in a way,
the men never will.
She feels her body shutting down
and pushes the men off.
They don’t want to leave.
She runs to the bathroom and locks herself in.
The door outside clicks.
They are gone but also her clothes and her handbag,
with her wallet, her name and address…
She can not report it.
She want her husband, suddenly, very much….his calm, his dependability, his quiet…
He strides into the room and she walks into his arms and the tears come.
“Why is he so good to me at times like this?”
Her heart is blown open by his kindness like a window by a sudden gust.
“I love you,” she says in thanks. She used to say it, every day, once.
The more sex she has,
the more she wants.
Languid with laziness,
dust dancing in the light.
Her husband comes in.
She is already arching her lower back
in soft ways and he comes quickly,
too quickly he thinks,
but it is perfect for her.
She smiles a Cheshire smile
in that lovely lemony light,
for her husband satisfied her,
fully satisfied her,
for the first time in her life.
He is not like her lover,
doesn’t listen and is not polite,
but she doesn’t check his disobedience
because it doesn’t matter enough.
So much sex is in her head.
When he is in her,
she is thinking of someone else
who would do
exactly what she wanted,
but who is not allowed back.
That night her husband holds her tight,
as if he is clinging on to a lifebuoy
in a vast ocean of the unknown. His body is deeply familiar. There is a volume of experience behind the holding.
Now there is Love, so complex, changing, alive.
The love ebbs and flows,
it springs from nothing,
a barren place.
at bleak moments,
it seems to retreat to it.
But then it’s back,
and then slowing down again…
Then there is Betrayal.
The anger comes back,
at all times,
she has said: “I love you,”
and felt stripped.
All the times they never rang back,
drowned her out,
drained her energy, her confidence,
stood her up, walked out, wanted someone else…
Learning everything about love,
the vulnerability of love,
perhaps enduring is the only way out.
Her husband comes home and she is still curled on the bed.
She can not turn her head, can not speak, her head is filled up.
He will not know what she knows about him,
now is not the time.
Perhaps it will never be the time.
She wants a child,
it’s the only desire at the moment,
that is clear-cut.
She is thirty-six and needs to start,
to have someone to love,
consumingly in her life, to fill it up.
Five weeks after she and her husband made love,
more tenderly than ever before, her wish is confirmed.
She sprawls on the couch in the living room,
as the child brews inside her.
She is thrumming with life and want.
Her husband is repulsed by that thought.
She plunges back into her fantasy world.
It is her,
not any more some fantastical experience that
she would never want dragged into real life.
It is what she has done.
“What are you thinking?”
Her husband enters the room.
“Nothing,” she murmurs,
at the thought
of him stumbling upon her secret life.
Then Giving Birth,
just like dying,
needing time and space.
Like every living process,
they have rhythm that goes in waves of contractions,
tears and laughter.
She respects that pace,
surrendering to the waves that carry her ashore. Her husband is all wonder and love and shock at the little hand that reaches up from the blanket and hooks on to his thumb and holds it tight.
She leans and strokes him,
he smiles but does not look up.
He kisses his son’s fingernail.
Learning everything about love.
Her son’s skin is her new terrain,
she aches for it,
he fills every corner of her life.
He is soaked into her fingers, nails, clothes, sheets and hair.
She is overwhelmed by the crush of love surrounding him.
She feels drugged within this wondrous little world,
in which nothing,
for the moment,
is allowed to intrude.
Where does that cruelty spring from?
Telling her husband that he’s a failure.
Her lover, that his passion is bullying and weak.
Telling her mother that she may love her,
but does not like her?
Her mother’s house seems to collect the warmth and contains it.
She has always craved the heat.
Her mother has been alone too long,
but it doesn’t matter, she wants this to work.
After a few days, her mother makes it known
that she loves ‘her alone’ too much.
It’s always the pattern -
the sudden tightness in her voice then
the explosion from them both.
There is still so much
bottled-up bitterness over her father.
After all these years,
and she can only guess,
they were once,
him and her mother,
they were once,
“You have no idea what it’s like to live in the real world.” The viciousness in her mother’s voice, the jab of her finger in the air, the fury in her face. She walks out of the front door.
Leaves without saying goodbye -
it’s not the first time she has done this.
One would think that being pregnant would represent a huge, healing time in every aspect of her life. She rings her mother: “I just can’t wait for this baby, I feel like will never be lonely again in my life.”
Her mother sighs from the other side:
“Ah, but you could be more lonely as a mother than you are ever been, especially if the child rejects you.” She is ready to hang up when her mother starts to sing to her just like when she was a little girl:
“ If you will be lucky, you will have sturdy legs and a folding umbrella for your childhood.
If you will be lucky, you will find enough crumbs. If you will be lucky, you will meet your first love, who gives you a candle which will burn longer than a straw fire. If you will be lucky, one day your husband’s face will rise over your life.”
Her mother calls. Her heart cracks. For with motherhood almost upon her now, an understanding of something of her own mother’s life, is at last being unlocked.
Learning everything about love - pain and love, not angry pain, not reproachful, not desperate.
Pain and love. Pain and bliss. As in birth. As in death.
In the beginning and at the end there is only love.