This is the effect of love: that the true lover can not be corrupted by avarice; love makes an ugly and rude person shine with all beauty, knows how to endow with nobility even one of humble birth, can even lend humility to the proud; he who loves is accustomed humbly to serve others. Oh, what a marvelous thing is love, which makes a man shine with so many virtues and which teaches everyone to abound in good customs. . . .
Love, as Andreas Capellanus noted in his handbook on love De Amore, has a transforming power – it makes the beloved lovely and the ardent lover virtuous.
Instead of a glass slipper, this beautiful girl wore soccer boots and discovered that in them a self-proclaimed knight in shining armour was really a toad.
I love throwing things away. It’s so therapeutic. If there’s something I haven’t used for a year it gets chucked with the next seasonal cleanout.
But every year I come across these boots. And I pause.
I can’t throw these boots away. I can’t give them to St Vinny’s or pass them on to a friend. I can’t even “hide” them in the garage.
This is partly because they’re still in perfect condition. They’re comfortable and fit me well… and my wobbly bits would greatly benefit from some quality time spent in these boots.
But more so, I can’t get rid of these boots because they taught me a valuable lesson.
Five years ago I was married to a lovely man who wanted to be an actor slash writer. During the day while I was at work he would drink coffee and write scripts that starred himself. Then he did housework… before heading to the beach.
At night he attended plays, auditioned, read scripts, volunteered at theatres and galleries. I tried to see his plays regularly, but they bored me to death.
One day I noticed a sign for a twelve week challenge at my work gym. I thought it would give me something to focus on when my husband wasn’t around.
I found these boots at an Adidas outlet store, in exactly my size. I drafted an action plan and started going to the gym religiously.
Eventually I became “mates” with the guys at the gym. They asked me for suggestions with their diets and corrections for their techniques… and they invited me to play social soccer.
I’ve got no natural sporting ability, but my boots served me well. I tried hard and kicked quite a few goals using beginners luck and “show off” adrenaline. I also scored kudos through the easy bruising of my knees with the chronic purpling making me look tough.
One day, a guy I was marking said to me:
My wife isn’t home during the day, do you want to come to my place at lunch time tomorrow?
I literally ran away from him backwards across the field, stammering:
No! I’m not like that!”
I was horrified and disgusted. Disgusted that he thought I was interested in having sex with him, disgusted that he thought I’d cheat on my husband… and disgusted that HE would cheat on his wife in his own home. I just couldn’t believe that anyone could be so vile.
But I also felt flattered enough to mention it to other members of the soccer team – who vowed to “protect” me from the offending party.
The star Striker took his duty of protecting me quite seriously. He started sending emails planning our gym meeting times and offering to walk me home “safely”.
The emails got longer and became personal.
To begin with I felt I was doing nothing wrong. I reasoned that the Striker was just playing a role to assuage my loneliness. He took me to movies and footy games. He took me to all the nice restaurants and bars in town. It was like a close unconsummated friendship. I felt like a seventeen year old virgin, again.
Six months after I bought my shoes, we started having sex. I thought we were in love, and we were definitely in lust.
Not even a month after our “first time” my husband came home early and busted me at our home, in our bedroom, with the Striker. I lied and said that the Striker and I were just friends and he was just massaging my soccer bruises. Later I “confided” that the poor Striker was a virgin, debilitatingly shy around women (which rendered him impotent)… and he was most probably about to “come out” as a closet gay.
My husband asked me to change jobs, stop going to the gym, stop seeing the Striker. But I made all of the excuses in the world. I assured my husband that the Striker was no threat to our relationship.
Over the next year I told so many despicable lies that, to this day, I can hardly bear to hear myself speak. Today, even if I say in complete honesty I’m “working late” or going to a “girls only night” – it sounds like a lie to my own ears and I feel terribly guilty.
I have no idea if my husband believed my lies… but we stayed together for another year and a half, long after my “fling” had ended… leaving me broken hearted.
The Striker turned out to be a serial trophy collector, having multiple girlfriends at once – with all of them thinking they were the “only one”. His speciality was using the same love letter emails to woo the “hard to get” girls. He even ensnared my best friend and managed to keep it secret.
I stopped going to the gym and stopped wearing my soccer boots… and I found ways to stop myself from thinking or feeling.
But I still have the boots.
And every time I see them, I say out loud to myself:
Never make the same mistake twice.
It’s the most important lesson I’ve learned in life so far.