I was 19 the first time marriage was mentioned. My mother told me about a young man whose family had expressed an interest in me, and then she promptly left the house. The realisation that I was of marriageable age was clearly as difficult for her as it was surprising to me. I was a geeky young woman who had never even shaken hands with a man, let alone had a boyfriend. I’d attended an all-girls Catholic school before opting to study science at university. My life was Malcolm X and Maya Angelou, X-Men and Spider-Man; summers were spent at my house in and winters trudging through Yorkshire snow. Bespectacled before it was cool, I was short-sighted in more ways than one, young enough to believe that good things happened to good people.
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My first husband was 11 years older than me. We met only once before the wedding, but spent the year leading up to the big day talking on the phone. I was in my final year at university. He was a doctor – the ideal profession for a son-in-law – and the eldest of two sons, who had moved to the US from after finishing medical school. We married on 6 September 1996, and flew to Mississippi, where we were to live in a pretty white doll’s house of an American home.