In a leafy suburb of South London there was disappointment and anger after two men in their late thirties, who had been living together for over a year, were discovered to be just friends.
‘I assumed they were a nice gay couple,’ one dismayed neighbour said. ‘I used to casually mention they lived above me to people who’d visit. But two straight men living together at their age?’
‘It’s not what you want to think,’ she continued angrily, ‘there’s something off about it, isn’t there? We were misled at best; at worst lied to. I feel foolish. I used to cut flowers from my garden to give them’.
The ‘betrayal’ was furthered, say the neighbours, by two young children staying at the men’s flat every other weekend. However, these children were not potential foster kids or kids getting used to their Dads’ new situation as it was assumed; rather it’s been revealed the two girls are the daughters of one of the men from a previous heterosexual relationship.
‘We used to see all four of them walking down the road. The girls used to take turns in being swung between the two men,’ number 33d recalled. ‘It was lovely. This news? It’s tarnished the memory. They fooled us’.
In their flat, the men explained: ‘I split with my wife. Which was awful obviously. And I needed a place quickly. But what with London rent being so expensive, it was impossible to find somewhere big enough for me and the girls. But then luckily John [not his real name], who I’ve known for years, and who gets on with the girls great, his circumstances changed, and we decided it made sense’.
They admitted some responsibility for the current situation; that they did nothing to counter the assumptions: ‘No, but we never said we weren’t just friends. Maybe we were naïve. Thing was, everyone was so kind. You did get the feeling they’d be disappointed when they found out, but’, he said staring out the window, ‘the reaction has been more extreme’.
John continued: ‘We try and put a brave face on it. I joke if I did date men, I’d hope to do better than him. But it has been difficult. I feel for the girls. They used to love the freshly cut flowers, preparing them, putting them in a vase. Made a change from baking. And they looked great on the mantelpiece next to our World Cup wall chart’.