photo (c) J. Harrison
On my first trip to the United Kingdom, I met a charming Englishman in Wales, and after almost two years of intense correspondence, I became convinced he was “the one.” This was new for me because I am not the type to run around hoping a particular man is “the one”. Beginning the day after I met “the Englishman”, we spoke on the phone regularly, sent beautiful love letters back and forth, and he painted gorgeous pictures (literally and figuratively) of our future together. After months of pleas from this man, I decided to go for it and moved from America to Britain.
I could not imagine moving straight into the bizarre little world in Wales where he had lived almost all of his life, surrounded by family and friends and a twin brother who massively approved of our relationship. But since we had only spent a total of seven days together, I moved to Oxford, the home of books, about an hour and a half away. My cross-continental move would never have happened were it not for the near-sighted romantic stars in my eyes. I had one mission: an epic, international love affair with the handsome Englishman in Wales. He was smart and convincing, and exactly two days after settling into my rented flat full of strangers in Oxford, he came to see me. After one overnight together, I realized I had made a massive mistake.
Writing a diary was a way for me to cope with the fact that not only had I chosen the wrong man (a man who, turned out, had a girlfriend), but I had flipped my life completely upside down for him. I was stubborn enough not to project the reality of my idiocy on others by crawling back to America defeated by love. Heartbreak and all, I was determined not to let him ruin my summer. But no matter how many eccentric residents surrounded me with their British accents, I was truly alone in a foreign country without a clue how to move forward.
Except ‘alone’ was overstating it . . .
As I entrenched myself in quirky Oxford, the home of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, my biggest obstacles to getting over the duplicitous Englishman were the self-critiques. The loudest criticism came from the contrary, obstinate parts of myself—my heart, my mind, and my sex life.
My heart absconded early on to stow away in Wales, pitifully attached to the unworthy man who promised a grand romance. I could have followed her, let my heart lead the way, but my mind stood firm that this Englishman was not the man for us. My mind thought I was a moron and judged me mercilessly for relocating 3,000 miles away to be with a man we knew too little about. My sex life was angry I had relegated her to hibernation after the British tryst gone terribly wrong. Her pouting silence turned into dramatic funeral speeches, which grew tiresome.
I took their wrath, which was in reality . . . the wrath I directed at myself for my stupid romantic fantasies. Through all of the worst they threw at me, it was preferable to being pulled around by any one of them in particular. My heart might have eventually gotten the Englishman she wanted, but it would have come at the cost of breaking up his relationship, my independence, and a better love story around the corner with a sincere Irishman. I was right not to let my heart take over entirely. But without the reckless dominance of my heart, my mind would have never made that inter-continental move in the first place, and I would have missed out on what became one of the best times of my life.
So, it’s always been a balance . . . And if my move to Great Britain made anything clear, it’s that I am not very skilled at balancing my expectations when it comes to romantic love. Are any of us?
“To live in joys that once have been,
To put the cold world out of sight . . .”
Adapted from the novel Perverse Wonderland, published by Incanto Media.
In addition to this adult novel, Jennifer Harrison is the published author of the children’s book Lady Emma In Her Land of Wonder and the photographic memoir Elvis As We Knew Him. Jennifer’s books and the “Petticoat Rule” blog can be found at www.jenniferharrisongenx.com.