Friday, November 6, 2015

Some Men Are Dogs, and the Law Is An Ass

by Jean Roberta

We were introduced by a mutual friend who told me he was married. He never lied to me about that. He seemed to be living in a cheap, sparsely-furnished apartment in the “city” while his wife and three daughters lived in the colourfully-named satellite town of Moose Jaw. Clearly, I thought, he was separated.

The first time we were alone together, he told me that he and his wife had agreed not to get a divorce while their daughters were still living at home. I thought this sounded sensible. I knew he was a pillar of the NDP, the furthest-left of the mainstream Canadian political parties. He had written a groundbreaking book about a controversial period of local history.

On a physical level, he didn’t thrill me, but I thought we had a mellow friendship based on shared humanitarian values. Sex with him felt comforting. I began to wonder what he would be like as a stepfather to my daughter.

There were clues, of course. He kept telling me that I was completely different from his wife. (Your ex-wife, I corrected him.)

Different how? I asked him. He told me numerous times that she was French-Canadian, raised Catholic. But since she was married to you for years, I responded, she can’t be very conservative. He replied that she was a real wife and mother. Apparently she had qualities that I couldn't understand.

Then came the day when I asked him how he would feel about living with me and my daughter, just temporarily, so that I could move out of my parents’ house. He told me that his wife wouldn’t accept that. But surely, I told him, she’s just as free as you are to form other attachments?

No, he said, you don't understand. She's French, and Catholic. She believes in marriage. She would never cheat on me.
I was stunned.

I moved myself and my three-year-old daughter into a housing co-op for low-income single parents. He came to visit me there, and he ignored my daughter as much as possible. I noticed that he couldn’t bring himself to call me a “mother.” He seemed amused by the concept of a community of “single parents,” which he seemed to regard as a euphemism for something much raunchier.

He had known me when I was married, and he knew my daughter had my ex-husband’s family name. I failed to see what was so funny about my current situation: living on a shoestring on whatever I could earn while my daughter’s father had legal visiting rights but no serious legal obligation to pay child support.

I also failed to see how I was vastly different from his wife, especially if he was already living separately from her. If he and she got divorced, she would be a single parent herself.

She phoned him in his cheap apartment when I was there. After some conversation (not whispered), he said, “I love you too, honey.” After hanging up, he gave me a big smile. “That was my wife,” he explained.

He went on to tell me that he would be giving up his apartment in the spring, after the ice had melted. He told me his real, loving wife had advised him to rent a cheap apartment over the winter so he wouldn’t have to commute to work on icy roads every day. Of course, he went home to Moose Jaw every weekend.

In that case, I told him, our relationship is over – if it could even be called a relationship. He accused me of suddenly trying to become “bourgeois.” He reminded me that I had always known he was married. He implied that women like me have no right to say no, especially after having said yes.

To my amazement, he seemed to believe that he was a good family man, and that I was the breaker of promises, since I had made myself available to him. I was raising a child with no man in sight, so of course I didn’t have the moral fibre of a good French Catholic wife. Never mind how I had arrived at this place. For him, our affair had been shady, and that was because I was the kind of woman who lured married men into the path of wickedness.

No matter what I said, he was adamant that we didn’t have to stop seeing each other. After the time he arrived at my door late at night (claiming he couldn’t afford to sleep anywhere else), I refused to let him into my apartment. I could easily imagine the kind of welcome I would have received had I showed up after midnight at his family home in Moose Jaw.

After several months, and various ruses on his part, he stopped phoning.

To this day, I am stunned by his conception of what is, and is not, “cheating.”

I’ve always wished I could sue him for conning me out of an emotional investment in bogus stock. For me, sex was not the point of it all; he was less satisfying than my own fantasies and my own fingers. What I valued was our shared “honesty,” a fantasy in itself.

Legal definitions of “infidelity” focus on sex because it is tangible and provable. The law has never found a way to rule on deliberate miscommunication, or disillusionment.

10 comments:

  1. A good argument here for legalized prostitution. All this guy wanted was a piece of ass, and he coulda just paid for that without strings. Instead, he indulged in games with somebody's emotional life using lies and manipulation.

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  2. What a textbook case of double standards!

    It appears that some men really believe women are some kind of different species, subject to entirely different rules.

    I'm fortunate that I've never had a relationship with one of them.

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    1. Did you ever consider making your affair public as a way to "embarrass" him? But that would probably have backfired, as revenge often does. He had the power in this situation, and you had almost none. I'm glad to hear you exercised what power you had, and shut him out of your life.

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  3. As many women learned in the movements of the sixties and seventies and beyond, leftist politics and misogyny can live quite comfortably together, and Free Love didn't mean that there weren't still the Good Girls and the Bad Girls--it just meant that the Bad Girls were supposed to give it away for free.

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  4. This was very moving. That last thought about what infidelity is and how it is defined especially caught my attention, lately I've been hearing about emotional infidelity m which to me I
    is a new concept. It refers to being emotionally intimate with someone without especially having any kind of physical relationship. If that became the standard we might all be guilty.

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  5. Thanks for your comments, all. You are a collective source of intelligent critique. I was afraid that if I posted my depressing tale of old-fashioned infidelity (involving deception and a moral double standard rather than irresistible lust or experiments in polyamory), I might be accused of approaching the topic from an anti-sex viewpoint. However, I felt like telling this true tale, which prob. would not seem anachronistic in a story set in the Victorian Age. some men don't change because it seems to be in their interests not to.

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    1. I appreciate this story as usual. Something I really feel like we have to defend as erotica writers is the right to write about sex, good or bad, complicated or simple. We're not writing honestly if we can't tell the truth, and the truth as I know it is that sometimes sex is dishonest or manipulative or not very good or does end badly. I'm so glad when I see that alongside the good things about sex—it's the only way to a real view, I think.

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  6. Re "outing" this man, I was very tempted, but as you said, Lisabet, I was afraid this might backfire. I was a grad student at the university, writing a Master's thesis (and having problems with a male thesis advisor who sat on each chapter for months). I was afraid of getting kicked out of the Master's program if I became notorious. And of course, I was afraid that many bystanders would side with Mr. NDP because of his political stance.

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  7. And there's always the old, "men have to spread their seed...it's genetic," saw that men trot out whenever they get caught being hypocrites. Of course, women, being the "receptacle", are supposed to just take it...but ONLY from their legal husbands, so the man knows which kids are really his. Sigh. What a load of misogynistic crap! Blah to all of them. We won't achieve real equality until men and women are both encouraged to enjoy good sex whenever and where-ever they want to. But alas, I don't think that will occur for many lifetimes yet.

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