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Writer and journalist Rosemary Mac Cabe has always been a serial monogamist – never happier than when she is in a relationship or, at the very least, on the way to being in one.
This is a memoir that follows a love life as it moves through first love to first lust, first heartbreak to a series of disappointments and beyond. It’s a tale of a woman trying to find herself but, instead of looking inward, looking to other people for self-discovery.
This Is Not About You is a life story in a series of love stories. About Henry, with the big nose and the lovely mum, with whom sex was like having a verruca frozen off in the doctor's surgery: "uncomfortable, but I had entered into this willingly". About Dan, with the goatee. About Luke, who gave her a split condom and a talking bear who said, “I love you so much, Rosemary. I will never, ever leave you." About Francis, who was married...
In a society that teaches us to look for the fairytale, this is a story without a beginning, middle and end. It’s a story of repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results, of taking circuitous routes to disappointing destinations and of dedicating far too much time, effort and energy to prioritising the needs and desires of others.
Pledge to support this book if you have ever loved someone, lost someone, or looked for a partner when you were really trying to find yourself.
ABOUT THE BOOK
- Demy hardback - 14.4 x 22.2 cm
- 256 pages
- By the Irish journalist and podcaster Rosemary Mac Cabe
- For fans of Dolly Alderton, Daisy Buchanan and Holly Bourne
- New pledge levels and stretch goals to be revealed
The cover design is for illustrative purposes only and is subject to change
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Rosemary Mac Cabe
Rosemary Mac Cabe is a journalist and writer from Dublin, Ireland. She has written for publications including The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Irish Tatler, IMAGE magazine, Irish Country Magazine, STELLAR and more. Her work has previously featured in a mental health anthology, You, Me & Everyone We Know, published by the mental health organisation Inspire Ireland.
At the age of 26, I had a six-month affair with a married man.
As an aside: I’ve always wondered if the “other woman” is having the affair, per se, or if it is just the man. If I am single, can it be an affair? Is one person having the affair and the other person having a relationship? Perhaps that answers my question; it definitely wasn’t a relationship.
We met at work and became close friends. It’s hard to look back and see the truth of why that was, what we had in common. It would be easier to say we became friends because we were falling for one another, and friendship was the door that led me to the best — and worst — six months of my life. But that wasn’t it.
Before the first night we kissed and went home together and had terrible drunk sex — sex that was not worth the strife or the guilt or the embarrassment — I can say, hand on heart, I had never thought about being with him. He was married, more or less happily, as far as I knew, and I was not the type of girl to sleep with a married man.
In a way, the affair marked a split in my sense of self — or, at the very least, in how I viewed the world. Before, I thought there were two types of women: those who had affairs — desperate, lonely, pathetic women — and those who didn’t. I placed myself firmly in the second category.
For the six months we were seeing each other, I believed in pretty much the same basic structure, but with one significant difference: I had moved from the second category to the first and was, therefore, desperate, lonely, and pathetic. But I now know that women who have affairs can be pathetic and desperate, self-respecting, careless with their bodies and feelings, or all (or none) of the above. There is no common denominator.
No relationship in my life has made me feel more alone than this one. It took over my life. It eclipsed all others.
I became, for the first time, a liar. It wasn’t so much compulsive as necessary. I lied to everyone about everything — about who I’d had lunch with, about where I was going that evening, about whether I was single (was I?), about what I’d be doing this weekend or the next.
He would come over and I would put my phone on flight mode and tell my friends I was out with other friends or at the movies or a concert (and hope they’d never ask for details). We’d eat takeout and have sex, and later — but never too late — he’d get up and get dressed and go home. I would tidy up, removing the takeout containers and the condoms and folding the blanket we’d been lying under while on the couch. I’d reactivate my network and wait for a flurry of texts. The silence would always be ever-so-slightly disappointing. I’d told them I was busy, but it still rankled. I felt like Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, escaping my everyday life and stepping into a kind of fairy tale, but I had no one to confide in.
The lying, aside from being an isolating experience, added to my sense of being split. I had never been someone who lied. I had never been someone who could lie. I told the truth, for better or worse. I was — I am — an excessive oversharer.
I was someone who would call friends and give them a blow-by-blow account of my day or night. I would tell them the details of my other friendships and my work relationships and talk about what book I was reading and what film I had seen. I spared no details in my confessional chats.
During the affair, there was no point in calling anyone. I couldn’t tell them about my life. What would I have to talk about? Discussing made-up events is incredibly boring for everyone involved. If I couldn’t talk about him, I had nothing to talk about. He was all I wanted to talk about, so he became the only person I spoke to.
It didn’t occur to me at the time, because it felt like we were both in this relationship we’d made in my house, but I was the only one who was truly alone. He had his family and his friends and a life with his wife. I had pulled away from friends and family so that I could protect my secret, while he had to stay close to his for the exact same reason. In my isolation, I needed him. I think he liked it that way.
I tried to end it a couple of times, halfheartedly, like I tried to quit smoking. I knew it was bad for me. I knew it wouldn’t end well. I knew I’d be better off without him and that he needed space to deal with was going on in his life. He wasn’t sleeping; he had chronic back pain; he’d had a headache for weeks. His body was, I thought, manifesting the symptoms of his guilt.
I wasn’t feeling guilty. I’ve always thought the married party should feel the guilt, and any shame is theirs alone. I do feel ashamed, now — less because he was married and more because, with the benefit of hindsight, my motivations are so transparent. I was incredibly flattered that someone like him — someone older, smarter, someone more popular and better known and more sociable and ultimately better than me — would risk disrupting his life. For me. At the time, it felt like a compliment. I drank it up.
When things finally did end, I had spent six months avoiding my friends. I had spent six months lying to my parents and my sister about what I was doing. I had spent six months hiding away with this man who told me something had to change; he didn’t want the life he had built for himself and he wanted something else. Something more. I thought that included me.
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Sarah Jane Phelan