A couple of years ago, about four pints into a beer-fuelled girls’ night out, we started discussing past loves. It was just a breezy, rambling conversation, until one friend described her most significant ex as her ‘hidden sadness’. "You know", she explained, "the one that makes your heart ache just a little when you think about him". Everyone went silent, and then nodded. After further discussion, and further pints, we came to the conclusion that nearly every one has a ‘hidden sadness’. We came up with certain criteria for h.s. status - no current involvement, no dramatic end to the relationship, and no endless yearning to re-unite. It’s more a wistful wondering, a gentle pang when you think about them, and a slight curiosity about where they are and whether it might have worked out, in another time or place.
My hidden sadness was a guy I met in a bar when I was 22 and playing the field. He flashed a smile at me, came over to chat, and we flirted for a while. I thought he was gorgeous, smart and funny, but when a newly-single friend whispered in my ear "he’s hot, can I have him?", and then asked him (IN FRONT OF ME) which of us he liked better, I bowed out and made a swift exit to the dance floor. They dated once or twice but it didn’t work out. I then spent the next couple of years bumping into him around town, and he would ask me out each time. I continually said no, because he had dated this particular girl, who was a…complicated friend. Then she and I drifted apart, and one night I was dancing on a podium in a gay bar, - long story for another time – and I saw him dancing with his shirt off, on another podium with two very gay men. He was hammered and laughing it up, and when he followed me into the street and asked me out again, I said yes. Straight men who are comfy with gay men are hot! We went out a few times and I fell hard. As did he. We spoke of marriage and kids and houses and had a connection like nothing I’d ever imagined Small catch – I had an open-ended ticket booked to leave the country for a big adventure. After a bit of heart-searching, we decided to be together until I left. But while absence does makes the heart grow fonder, indefinite absence makes a relationship hard. Really, really, hard. And so when I came home for a brief trip, we broke up. I flew away again, and had some more adventures. I needed to do it for myself, and in hindsight, if I hadn’t left literally, I would have left emotionally, eventually. Or he would have. So we fell out of contact, but he always had a little corner in my heart. We had very sporadic contact, over a few years, and each time I saw him my heart would speed up a little, poignantly wishful amidst a certainty that it would never work out for us.
My hidden sadness.
Hidden no more – at the beginning of last year we randomly caught up (as I was about to leave the country again), had dinner, had months of angst-filled agonising, and then got back together. And now we’re engaged, building a house, having a baby and living a very real, frustrating, tense, laughter-filled life together. He may be infuriating, but he’s always been in my heart.