Fast-forward to marital bliss
Spare a thought for me tomorrow. On Christmas Eve, 25 years ago, I married a man I'd known for only eight weeks. That's pretty impressive going; some of our new controlled assessments drag on for longer than that. Even those foot-to-the-floor romantics Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes took a leisurely four months to get to the altar.
Whenever I tell this story to broody, 30-something female colleagues, who are hoping to trap Mr Right before their egg-production line grinds to a halt, their faces light up expectantly. Suddenly I've introduced the possibility of marital speedy boarding. What's that, you say? No more hanging around at the check-in, stuck behind a dithering 30-year-old bloke in North Face, with personal issues, too much baggage and no real sense of direction? Their rapt expressions betray the fact that they too would swap the long engagement, the joint savings account and the Cath Kidston towels for a man with some oomph in his balls. Women love the idea of express courtships because, biologically speaking, it extends the shelf-life of their tired ovaries; if you can meet, marry and mate within eight weeks then you are in effect turning your biological clock back to the start of British Summer Time.
There's a reason I married so quickly. My recklessness was mitigated by a series of unfortunate events: my mum's suicide knocked me for six; when she'd been depressed I was a tower of strength, when she died I collapsed to Ground Zero. Following her funeral, I resigned from a tenured university post so I could channel my professional skills into staring out of the window and listening to the Smiths. Each day fell into the same routine: I smoked dope and drank wine and, like Macbeth, watched my way of life falling into the sere. So when my future husband bulldozed his way through, fuelled by pork pies and testosterone and singing the Welsh national anthem, my lacklustre days were numbered. On our third date he uttered the abracadabra words: "I want you to have my baby." Suddenly, my dark cave dissolved and in its place arose a new Jerusalem, surrounded by wall-to-wall Mothercare outlets, and bursting to the strains of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau belted out by the boys from the valleys.
Never underestimate the power of asking a woman to have your baby. It's more seductive than a diamond ring. If you're a bloke, try it out. Next time it's your turn to cook dinner, just repeat the magic words and hey presto, instead of making lasagne, you'll be making love on the kitchen table, grunting your affirmative "yes, yes, yes" to that mysterious unasked question.
The fact that my relationship has survived this long is a triumph of will over adversity. I know, from an outsider's point of view, my marriage might seem as rocky as an IKEA bookcase assembled by a store assistant with no opposing thumbs, but it has withstood some serious knocks. Like when he sloped off for six months in his black leather jacket to have another go at being 30, leaving me to cry myself to sleep in our king- sized bed, vulnerable and middle-aged. Of course, I forgave him because it wasn't entirely his fault; the sight of teenagers fleeing the nest reminds men that they once had wings. And I'm a teacher and forgiveness is part of my job.
Here's to a happy anniversary. Let's hope he's kept the gift receipt.
Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.