Reintegration

Published in Observant, Maastricht

So my PhD is done and I’ve emerged from my dungeon, blinking, into the light. Reintegration into society is underway.

Step 1: join the local squash club. It’s far, far away – a good twenty minutes on bike – so by the time I arrive I’ve done more exercise than in the last four years combined. After the first training session, I sleep for twelve hours then have to learn to walk again. At the second session, I experience a humiliating defeat at the hands of a woman in her 70s.

That being so much fun, I join the tennis club too. My coach is youthful; about my age, I figure. It turns out he’s 26, four years younger than me. The amount of time I’ve spent down the PhD hole; it’s as though time froze while I was down there.

The other thing I now have time for is a wedding. My own is happening in under a month, I’ve been informed. I’m to show up in Utrecht at 3 pm on a Saturday. I’ve re-entered the world at a stage when almost everything is already planned, which I highly recommend. Thanks to my fiancé’s mother, things seem to be humming along nicely. (Note to Dutch readers: in English, the word fiancé is purely factual, not wanky like verloofde is in Dutch.) This could have been awkward, but isn’t, since she has exactly my style. If my style was much, much better, of course.

Then there’s that remarkable Dutch invention whereby two ceremoniemeesters (‘masters of ceremony’) – friends of my fiancé’s – are responsible for organising anything my mother-in-law hasn’t dealt with. Need a bus to ferry guests around in? The CMs have already booked a red London-style double-decker.

I did manage to pick out my own dress. Well, sort of. Initially I was thinking of choosing something totally radical. At the very least, something short and colourful. Then I asked my fiancé what he’d like to see me in. He thought carefully. ‘Something … long’, he said. ‘And white.’

So, a proper wedding dress it is. But I did manage one subversive act: I got one with pockets.

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