Apr/May 2004  •   Spotlight

What I think about making love

by Katherine Pirnie

The counselor asked what I thought about making love. So I asked her exactly what she meant by "making love." I mean, does lying on his bed, mid-afternoon, the valley outside soft in the summer sun, lying close but not touching, both FULLY CLOTHED, and I watch the muscles in his hands as he turns the pages of the book—photographs, black and white—do you call that making love?

And if it's not making love, does that mean I am not betraying my husband by doing this? Because, though I tell myself I'm not—just friends, sharing a love of art—why, when he closes the book, and we're lying there, both of us, stretched on the bed, and he turns to me, why do I slip to the floor and sit, knees hugged to my chest, head bowed, hands behind my neck, saying no, no, no, I've got to go now.

OK. So that's not "making love," but it is, or it might be, a betrayal. If I were not married, would it be like this? Not touching, not holding. Not kissing. Come on, we'd have whipped our clothes off and be having rampant sex under the bed clothes by now. Sorry. Making love.

So at what point does it become real? It's OK to look at books together. You can go to art galleries, do lunch (your husband never did understand modern art). Talking's allowed, feelings, the deep stuff. Maybe you can even hold each other, when it gets tough and you're getting down to the scary bits.

So now you miss him if you don't speak each day. When he's away, or you are, you text. Weekends are tough. Your family doesn't want him hanging around all the time. Your husband tolerates your friends, but hey, we never get any time to ourselves these days, hon.

But all this is OK. It's allowed. It's in the code. So you plan a weekend away, in London. And yes, he happens to be there, meeting his agent, whatever. You've borrowed a flat from a friend. Dinner, a Greek restaurant that he knows—amazing, it's always been one of your haunts. A bottle of wine. Each. Then back to the flat. And you sit up late, late, into the small hours until there's no point him getting a taxi back to his mate's and you make up the sofabed together, suddenly serious.

But no, hang on, remember—you're married. So you say goodnight, feel his disappointment, go to your room. Change. And creep back down the hall. Into his bed. "Don't move," you say. "Just hold me." And he does.

Making love?


So, cut to the chase. Yes, you get your clothes off (but later, weeks, months, later). Yes, it's good. Better than good. It's like you always knew that you were waiting for this, like somehow you had never been quite complete, that the God who made you, whoever he was, had missed off half of you, and now you had found that other half.

So that's it. You did it. You broke your marriage vows. But when? At what point? When you took off that first item of clothing? When flesh touched flesh? At penetration? (Such a lovely word.)

Or that very first time that he walked in the door, sat over a cup of Chilean coffee and said, "Do you know, when I talk to you, somehow, I feel as if I am talking to myself."