In my final year of high school I ended up taking a textiles GCSE as the school required one of the ten qualifications to be technology and textiles was the lesser of the six (technology) evils.
As part of the brain storming/thought shower/what’s the PC phrase now process of designing our products we were taken to a textiles fair which happened to have a special exhibition of wedding dresses from the movies.
Cue 20-odd teenage girls chattering excitedly about their dream weddings.
The conversations stopped rather abruptly when I said that I’d never really thought about my wedding and that I might not even get married.
Cue 20-odd teenage girls staring blankly in my direction.
I wouldn’t have said anything but in the midst of the various discussions about white dresses, roses and the rather questionable release of doves/butterflies/other pretty creatures someone noticed that I was rather quiet and asked me what my dream wedding involved.
I had honestly never really thought about it.
I have a vague memory of being about ten and looking at a wedding magazine at the hairdressers but that was more because I thought the dresses were pretty and a lot of the models had lovely long hair.
I knew that one day I would quite like to get married because that would mean I’d found the person that I loved with all my heart and wanted to spend the rest of my life with but I also knew that I wouldn’t necessarily find that one person. My aunt would have loved to have married and had a family but despite several serious relationships it just never happened for her.
All around me girls my age had boyfriends and I’d never been kissed and I was seriously wondering if I would every find anyone who found me attractive, never mind be in a position to marry them.
I was considered rather odd because I didn’t throw myself at the first boy who showed an interest (apparently I should have been grateful for any interest at all), being far more invested in my exam results than attracting boys and trouncing all the other girls (and a lot of the boys) in any sport that involved running.
While the other girls were spending their weekends trying to get into clubs I was competing with my local cross-country/athletics club and spent most weekends, whatever the weather in shorts, covered in mud and sporting a pair of knee high stripy socks in club colours.
But in spite of this I still remember welling up at the fruit and veg counter in supermarket whilst on holiday whilst visiting another aunt (married) because I went through a stage where I was utterly convinced that I’d never find anyone who loved me.
The girls in my textiles class decided to interpret my not having planning my theoretical future wedding and being aware of the fact that being married might just not end up being part of my life to mean that I absolutely didn’t want to get married ever.
This then escalated and spread so by the time we finished high school in the summer most of my year were convinced I was gay.
I wouldn’t have minded apart from the fact that it simply wasn’t true.
I went to a different school for sixth form and on my first day I met the Northern One on the bus. We were together a year later, got engaged after four years together and have now been married for four years.
We had a wonderful, relaxed wedding in one of my favourite places with all the people that we loved.
I wore a white dress with a surprisingly long train and a pair of high-heeled shoes because my mum said, and I quote “If I’m going to go to all the effort of making your dress, you are going to walk like a lady!” This was in response to me wanting to wear a pair of white, satin wedding trainers and have the three bridesmaids wear similar ones dyed to match their dresses.
The Northern One didn’t have a lot of input into the planning but at his own request. There were a few things he had strong feelings about but, as me and the florist both found out flowers was not one of them.
The florist was clearly cautious about including the prospective groom in the details of the wedding planning, judging by the panicked look she shot me when she asked the Northern One if he had any preference regarding flowers. The expression on her face suggested that she was preparing for me to explode into a rage of “I’m the bride” and “It’s my special day.”
Instead I giggled while the Northern One explained that the only flowers he could identify were roses and daffodils and then scarpered before she asked him any more floral questions.
As a result of not having planned my wedding before I’d even met the Northern One we both had the day that we wanted and not just the day that I wanted.
We also had a day where the focus was upon the marriage as opposed to the wedding, although the party at the reception was brilliant fun and everyone got rather sozzled.
When I asked the girls in my textiles class whether they had put as much thought into their potential husband and they had into their imaginary weddings the over-riding requirement was that he was rich. I was completely shocked by the number of girls who openly admitted that they had no aspirations in life beyond having a huge white wedding, not having to work and being showered with gifts by their adoring but otherwise faceless husbands.
I realise that a lot of what I’ve written makes me sound horribly condescending and superior but I just couldn’t understand not having dreams, even if you didn’t achieve them.
At the time my ultimate dream was to become a doctor in the army, travelling the world and saving lives.
What actually happened was that my A-level results weren’t quite good enough to take up my provisional place at medical school. Once I realised that me and the Northern One were together for the long haul I decided not to pursue a career in the army because I didn’t want to spend six months at a time apart while I went on tour.
Ten years later I’m a neonatal nurse, saving lives maybe but not in the way that I’d imagined. I’m a married mother of one and the majority of my travelling has been within the UK.
But I’ve still done some amazing things.
I’m privileged to work with my patients and their families and I care for babies born on the very fringes of life.
I’ve been involved in life and death situations and there have been a few occasions where I can honestly say my actions have made all the difference.
I’ve used equipment so cutting edge and advanced that fewer than ten people in the whole world had used it before I did.
My life has turned out nothing like the way I thought it would; in some ways that I’m sad about but mostly not.
I do sometimes wonder how the lives of those girls turned out and whether their dreams and priorities changed as they got older.
I really hope they did.