By Remittance Girl (Guest Blogger)
Lisabet Sarai invited me to do a blog post on infidelity. I have to wonder if she did this to torture me. Not because I have a problem with it, but because I don't really know what it is.
Of course, I know what people mean by it when they use the word. I know what it means to literally cheat on a spouse or a partner. But I've never yearned for the promise of fidelity, nor have I been asked for it. Certainly there have been times in my life I've been monogamous, but not because of any promise I'd made. I've been faithful simply because the strength of my attraction for the person seemed to eclipse my ability to be interested in anyone else. And is that faithfulness? I always feel that the undertext of the fidelity was redolent a certain odor of sacrifice, of self-denial.
The irony is, that until recently, I've never felt informed enough to write about fidelity or the lack of it. What changed was a book I read recently, which rather turned the topic on its head.
The Act of Love is a novel by Howard Jacobson. Like his other novels, it's a feast for the mind's tongue. Jacobson loves and uses language like few other writers. His descriptions have the quality of good dark chocolate; they feel like they're going straight to your thighs the moment you read them. In some ways he's a very old fashioned writer. He has a exceptional and brutal talent for inviting the reader under the skin of a certain species of extremely self-reflective man.
The protagonist, Felix Quinn, is an eccentric husband:
"No man has ever loved a woman, and not imagined her in the arms of someone else...No husband is ever happy - truly, genitally happy, happy at the very heart of himself as a husband - until he has proof positive that another man is fucking her."
Often the perversity of the cuckold fetishist is represented as a submissive and rather effeminate trait, but not in Jacobson's novel. Quinn is a unique sort of masochist - not physical but emotional - who craves the pain of being betrayed more than anything else, including the love of his wife.
It is said that one never really knows the depth of one's affection for a person until that person is no longer theirs. And in a way, that's what Jacobson explores. Beyond the glorious, enveloping emotional satisfaction of mutual belonging, there is a deeper state: the one of knowing what love is in its absence. And that is what Quinn edges towards with the slow, strategic engineering of his wife's voyage into other men's arms.
It was surprising to me - a person who has never asked for or expected monogamy from my partners - that the book got under my skin. I began to recognize echoes, faint ghosts of Quinn's proclivity for that sort of pain in some of my own behaviour.
Haven't you ever killed a love affair before it was dead? Have you never imagined, with a sort of delicious and terrifying vertigo, what it would be like to be left high and dry by a person you were deeply in love with? Touching that pain with your tongue, over and over like a sore tooth? I admit to practicing the reality before it occurred on myriad occasions and, truth be told, I suppose I found it sort of addictive.
And if one can only feel that extremity of what love is in the vacuum of its departure, then perhaps we can extrapolate: that we get a singular and insightful view of ourselves only when we see ourselves discarded, or passed over for another.
I have a fetish for seeing a lover in flagrante delicto with another. I used to tell myself this was simply because it was sexually and aesthetically pleasing to witness, but as I've grown more honest in age, I realize this isn't true. What really turns me on is the sensation of growing a scarred carapace of disinterest as it proceeds. There is a delicious sensation of feeling the liquor of hurt turn brittle and frosted as I use my rational mind to smother the feelings. It makes me feel strong, indestructible, I see myself as marble. I feel a sense of existential independence that is so acute, it's actually sexual.
But of course, one has to feel the pain of jealousy in order to grow the scar tissue. Perhaps I understand infidelity after all.
Remittance Girl lives and writes in exile in a small Southeast Asian country, where she teaches and grows orchids in a house with a large mango tree and a cat called Seven. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing.
Driven by the conviction that eroticism is an overlooked but essential part of human nature, Remittance Girl believes that examining this important part of our lives is essential to gaining insight into what motivates us, frames our social interactions and forms our interior sense of self. Erotic fantasies, even very dark ones, give us clues with which we can decipher the symbolic language we use to express who we are and how we fit into our society.
Her novellas and short stories have appeared in electronic format on her own website, at Clean Sheets and in the Erotica Readers and Writers online gallery. A number of short stories have appeared in print anthologies.
Her book altruistic erotica volume Coming Together Presents Remittance Girl benefits the ACLU.