It was a comment of my daughter’s while I was in town with her and my husband – “Why do we walk (outside) as if we don’t know each other?” – that set up a long fuse, a question that wanted an answer.
I used to think of my walking stance as broad and roughly triangular, taking up a lot of room on pavements and walkways. These days, with two walking aids, I am even broader in my stance, though I do manage to be a bit faster and more confident. However, because of the extra space I take up on the pavement, it is a brave person who can stay abreast of me and ignore the hurried accelerations of others as they overtake.
Most pavements are rather narrow; and those pavements that are broader, also tend to carry a lot of street furniture. So my husband has evolved a habit of either forging ahead of me, or walking behind me in single-file mode. And that has always been that.
But why? Because, he says, he doesn’t wish to impede others. He doesn’t want to get in the way. This is the expected politeness that of course makes plenty of sense and which my daughter would probably agree with, if asked.
I do rather rebel at the assumption that I, or we, will be in the way, even if it is sometimes true. Unless I rather forcefully insist that I like his company and would welcome conversation, outdoors, I will otherwise be doomed to spend the rest of my life walking with Eddie in single file, to spare his blushes and for the convenience of others.
In single-file mode, I feel either self-conscious – if he walks behind – or rather as if I am being pulled along on a lead, if he walks ahead. I just want to walk beside him, and I think that joy is worth the possible inconvenience to others, who will simply pass by and continue their conversations anyhow.
So I now ask my husband to walk alongside me, and perhaps he may stop worrying what other people think, and oblige me. Not because I am selfish, but because I do wish to inhabit my life fully. Now I do believe that a little inconvenience to others is worth the pleasure I gain from being able to converse out of doors at my leisure. And since I rarely do walk outdoors with my husband, it seems a small privilege to claim.
Thanks for reading.