The picture Youngest Son had found was E’s updated WhatsApp profile picture.
It was a wedding photograph. It’s a sideways on shot of P (in one of her two wedding dresses), puckering up to E in some sort of tropical cabana. You can’t really see their faces, it’s all soft focus and gentle waves and fading sunlight. She looks beautiful, and he looks slightly rotund, and very obviously (and rather creepily), older than her.
As Youngest Son brandished his phone at me, I stared and stared at the picture and couldn’t quite get my head round it. Initially I laughed, but then I saw Youngest Son’s stricken face and I began to wonder why, after everything that had happened with Youngest Daughter and after what had occurred just a couple of nights before, did he post this picture now ? I assume he hadn’t put it on his Facebook profile because he hasn’t actually told his parents, his sister or his wider family (all of whom are on there) that he’s married yet – so putting up a wedding picture might not go down too well. But why now, and why on WhatsApp?
E must have known that changing his WhatsApp profile picture would mean it would be seen by his children. He must have seen Youngest Daughter’s video and he definitely knew what had happened to her subsequently, so surely he must have had some idea of the pain it might cause? On top of that, as Youngest Son has no social media accounts other than WhatsApp, this was the only place that he could guarantee that Youngest Son would see it.
Maybe the photo was put up to mark their upcoming wedding anniversary? But even so, especially so, I still couldn’t work out what on earth he was thinking. I wondered if, maybe, after C pointed out the name of this blog to E and P, that one or both of them had found it and read it and posting the picture was a two-fingered salute to the blog and a reaction to what had happened on Thursday – a kind of childishly defiant attempt to try to say: ‘LOOK at US, we’re still in love, despite what C told P? But why? To who? Me? C and M? The kids? He must have known that Oldest Daughter, and therefore I, would know about his brief encounter (ha!) with C and M fairly quickly, but it must also have been fairly obvious from our lack of communication with him afterwards that we had no intention of reacting to it.
I don’t know what his thought process was (no change there), but after an encounter like that, I think any normal parent’s first instinct would have been to think of their children and how it would appear to them. My private response to hearing about the Florida wedding and E and P’s remarks to C, was to cry a little bit and to feel fresh anger, hurt and frustration, however, as a parent, my response to hearing about what had happened was to try to calm things down, so I kept my feelings to myself. I consoled Oldest Daughter as best I could and I didn’t mention it to the other children.
It was just bizarre, he’d hidden the wedding for months (it only came to light when P changed her surname on LinkedIn, some three months later, an act which is looking more and more deliberate). He’d taken off his wedding ring before he saw the boys, and he refused to answer any texts asking him if he was married. Even when he finally confessed to being married (in what world is a wedding something that needs to be ‘confessed’ to?), a confession that was also followed by the WhatsApp picture update that caused Youngest Daughter so much pain, he still didn’t talk about it to the boys when he saw them. As far as I know he’s still never broached the subject with any of the children, and yet now, he was posting his wedding picture, knowing that they would see it. What was he thinking? Is it too much to ask for him to at least talk to the kids before he posts stuff like this? The first thing I did before even writing a word of this blog was to talk to the children and ask them if it was ok. This blog wouldn’t exist if they weren’t ok with it.
As for the photograph itself? I think it is supposed to be really romantic. I guess it would be – if it featured a young loved up couple (or even an old loved up couple) – but his age and girth, compared to her youth and slenderness just makes it look odd. It’s not helped by the fact that he’s wearing a white suit. Maybe it’s my age, but I associate white suits with sweaty, slightly greasy, unsavoury men, circa 1977, aiming for Tony Manero, but achieving Disco Stu, and paunchy, middle-aged men aiming for a Robert Redford, Great Gatsby-esque, panache, but just looking crumpled and a bit sad (more Primark than Armani).
I suspect that he’s gradually putting pictures of them as a couple ‘out there’ hoping that he never has to explain or confront anything that he’s done and that, when enough time has passed, it will all be normalised and everyone will just accept his new life without asking for an explanation. He’s a coward and he doesn’t want to face the unpleasantness caused by his actions. If he’d had any courage at all, he would have told me he was in love with E, or Forum Woman, or O,, or P and had the guts to end the relationship. Instead, he took the easy path, he strung, E and Forum Woman, and O and P along, telling them all that they were the loves of his life and that his partner didn’t understand him or need him, whilst coming home to me and our children every night and living a normal, usually happy, family life.
I think E hopes that a few years will blur what’s happened and make it acceptable. Whilst it’s true that time is a great healer (18 months on and my hurt has faded from a desperately sharp pain to a persistent dull ache) and whilst I don’t doubt that most people will just accept him/them as a couple, I think a lot of people’s basic understanding of who E is has changed forever.
The thing is that all the soft focus in the world can’t change the grotesque selfishness at the heart of this picture. It can’t blur out the pain that these two people have caused, it can’t hide the fact that what should have been a precious and special day was in fact something that was sneaky and underhand, a day that was lied about and denied. The softly blurred edges can’t conceal the razor-sharp pain that E has created and it can’t wash over the very real confusion and hurt that his kids felt when they saw a picture from a wedding from which they were totally excluded. As I mentioned in another blog post – photographs are powerful. This photograph had a huge impact on me and my children and, as a result, its effect was probably the opposite of what the photographer intended. Sadly, no amount of romantic soft focus can hide the selfish reality of this picture. I wonder if E and P will ever understand that?