I thought it was terrifying, pressurising, alarming, and I told him as much. I told him, too, that I was having mental visions of him ditching me for Paris. He sent me a bunch of reassurances--how there was a website (which turned out to be a really lame one) with job options for people who live in France but don't speak French, how this potential job offer was not even in its early days of conception so nothing might come out of it, how if something did come out of it, there was a high chance that he could set his terms and get something for me, too--but I reacted negatively to everything. Later in the evening, when it was about 3pm in the UK, he called me as I asked him to do and we talked about it.
He was right to say that I did mention that I would like to live in Paris at some point in my life; and he was right to say this because it is true, I said this while I was over at his one night, and he mentioned a possible job in Paris. Still, I said that in a manner that I didn't think would eventually be potentially binding. Having fantasies of living in a city that I have very much enjoyed visiting doesn't exactly translate to a genuine desire to live there, semi-permanently, especially because my voice will be drowned out in a cacophony of a foreign language. Granted, one that I really like and which I have a very, very basic command of; but a foreign language all the same.
All that being said, the issue wasn't Paris per se. It wasn't even what I felt to be the indignity of my getting a job because of my boyfriend/husband/man that I'm dating (though I would definitely take issue with me doing some shitty job that does not require a Cambridge PhD while he's off having the academic career that, ceteris paribus, I want as well). In the final analysis, the issue wasn't even the dread that crept up on me, painful memories of my failure to find a job in London after the LSE, a period of time that I couldn't ever forget.
The issue was the finality of it all.
He wasn't thinking of ditching me, he said. Quite the opposite.
I thought he'd meant that he was wondering if I would ditch him, a possibility that I'd given him ample warnings of when we first started dating. But no, that wasn't what he'd meant.
It's probably a bit too soon now, he said, but I'm thinking of marrying you.
Well. That wasn't an entirely terrible thought, for I wouldn't mind that terribly, and I have been toying with the idea, too.
And so the finality. Long distance would no longer be an excuse and/or reason to break up. I would have to seriously consider another person when I make decisions on what I want to do, and more importantly, where I want to do it. Soon enough--perhaps sooner than I think (though he still needs some time to save up for my Tiffany & Co engagement ring...I joke. Maybe)--I would no longer be adrift in the world, all by myself but for my family and a few close friends. I would have, in his words, an anchor, someone to rely on, to share my life with.
That was the issue. In a way, it still is; though in another way, in an indecipherable and knotted up way, I feel ready for this and utterly unprepared all at once. In the same vein, I was waiting for this at the same time as I was actively not looking for it. It crept up on me slowly, first some wispy notions of a possibility and a bewildering attraction at the shitty law dinner at the Hilton, at which he was my platonic date after things went permanently south with Never Again, which I pushed aside; then a futile denial of a burgeoning attraction in France, then Brussels, culminating in a kiss that he stole one Saturday morning when I entered his room wrapped in a towel post-shower to get my clothes, and he sat up in bed, pulled me towards him and kissed me with no warning, no precursor, just a movement as natural and fluid as the waves of the sea.
So far, he's fit seamlessly into my life. By this I mean that I feel completely at ease with him, as if I've known him for all my life, as if he were a family member. I mean, too, that he has the temperament to put up with my lack of it, to tolerate it when I'm impatient, when I'm complaining (which, as I told him a few times, is what I do 50% of the time when we talk). I mean, also, that he has the maturity to let me have my own space and not demand things of me that don't come naturally--such as engaging in a back-and-forth text conversation, or not taking a couple of hours to reply to his messages. He knows the worst parts of me: my selfishness, my self-centredness, my romantic misadventures. At the same time, he knows the best parts of me, too.
He sees me for who I am. Despite that, despite the fact that I'm actually half-serious about wanting a Tiffany & Co solitaire diamond engagement ring, he's still thinking of marrying me.
It's precisely because I know, at some level, that this is it that Paris became an issue when it wasn't about Paris. I took a dump on the idea of Paris despite genuinely wanting to live there at some point in my life not because I'm really afraid of being killed by a terrorist or by a yellow vest protestor. It was because of the finality of it all, of him being it, of finally having the sort of relationship for which I searched fruitlessly and painfully over the past few years--and with all that comes certain losses. The loss of my freedom, and by that I mean my near-absolute individual freedom, the freedom to roam the world as a single unit, not a part of one. The freedom, too, to abandon the ship, to change boyfriends like seasonal fashion; the freedom not to settle down, not to be tied down, to dream and fantasise about the romance that I've been dreaming and fantasising about, so often and in so many variations now that I have forgotten what it was all about.
I would be lying if I didn't say that, in a way, I am settling for him. There are things about him that don't fit the perfect person that I've had in my head: his English is quite dire, he's not vegetarian, I don't like what he does for a living, his job pays practically nothing, and he has two kids from a previous long-term relationship. But then again, have I not learned anything from my romantic misadventures in Cambridge? Namely: it's not the quantitative items on the arbitrary checklist that count. On the contrary, the ideal person has always been someone like him, someone who treats me the way he does, someone who is capable of loving without questioning what it means to love, someone who accepts me for the amazing and deeply flawed person that I am.
Now do you see why this is scary? I am resistant to change. Now that I finally like being by myself, I am quite wont to give it up...but I suppose I already have. More importantly, I haven't really lost anything at all, but gained something--someone--invaluable and precious.