When spurned mistress LaVaughnie Wilkins put up billboards around Manhattan to embarrass her former lover, Charles Phillips, the only thing that surprised me about it was how publicly she chose to do it. But “getting revenge” didn’t surprise me at all. Spurned mistresses want revenge. Spurned mistresses go for the jugular. Spurned mistresses do crazy things because they are hurt.
Last year I fooled around with a guy who had a girlfriend. While we were cheating, he repeatedly told me he wanted to break up with his girlfriend to be with me and, like an idiot, I believed him. Lots of bad stuff happened and I lost my temper, big time: I wrote a long email to this guy’s girlfriend explaining everything about how he’d been two-timing her with me and sent it to her work email.
I’m not particularly proud of this story, but I’m going to tell it to you anyway.
I had known Ben* and his girlfriend Rachel* for years through my best friend (and surrogate brother) James*.
A little background: James and I grew up together in Connecticut; he and his family took me in for a while in high school when some bad stuff was going on in my home. I really consider James to be my brother, not just my friend. James and Ben became really good friends when they worked together in college. Ben and Rachel had been dating since their freshman or sophomore year of college and James had been dating his girlfriend, Anna*, for approximately the same length of time.
For the first few years that James knew Ben, I only hung out with Ben and Rachel when we were with James; eventually I saw the two of them so much that we became friendly acquaintances on our own. Rachel was interested in a journalism career, and a little younger than me, so I tried to help her out with internships; one time, Anna, Rachel and I went to see a girly movie together. Ben, meanwhile, helped me, James and my father move all my stuff into my first New York City apartment. I considered James’ friends to be my friends, too.
Ben and I used to talk over IM, usually just about making plans involving James. (James, bless him, is terrible at coordinating anything or showing up anywhere on time.) But at some point talking over IM—it’s hard to say when—Ben and I switched from being platonic friends to being flirty with each other. I’d call Ben about coordinating movie times with him and James and we would end up talking on the phone for an hour. During the summer of 2008, I worked near Ben’s apartment, so one time we grabbed lunch together.
This, of course, is how it all starts: innocently.
The more Ben and I talked or hung out alone, the more I started to have a crush on him. I mean, who wouldn’t? He was smart, attractive, cultured, hard-working, funny, all those good things. Then I made the mistake of telling James that I had a crush on Ben — and James reacted in a way I didn’t expect: He got really angry at me for flirting with Ben and told me to stop. Well, guilty as charged. But it wasn’t just me doing the flirting! The “bros before hos” vibe I was getting from James — especially since we go way back — really pissed me off. It felt like James was being a traitor to me, so I pushed him away. By pushing James away, I kept him in the dark about everything that went on between Ben and me in the months to come.
And what was going on was just … bad. Throughout the fall of 2008, Ben and I flirted shamelessly over IM, eventually starting to have really dirty, sexy conversations. Did I care that he had a girlfriend at first? Yes and no. I had a crush on Ben, but I assumed he wasn’t going to break up with his girlfriend for me. He never mentioned anything about it. I thought we were just having fairly innocent fun.
But by January, our relationship escalated to something more serious for me — both romantically and sexually. The more sexy and fun our IM chats became, the more frequent they became; eventually we had them every day. Slowly, we began to reveal to each other fantasies that we had never acted upon — fantasies that I, at least, had never dared to mention to another person. And guess what? He fantasized about the same sexual stuff that I did. Sharing such deep, intimate fantasies with him really bonded me to him; Ben not only didn’t judge me, but he shared the exact same desires. I felt like I’d discovered a unicorn or something.
But our bond wasn’t just sexual, at least on my end. I fretted about work stuff a lot (as is my nature) and then my older brother, who is a drug addict, relapsed after four years of sobriety and checked himself back into rehab. I really felt anxious and frustrated about painful stuff I couldn’t control. But Ben is a completely cool-headed person and he helped me keep things in perspective — “That’s XYZ’s problem; it has nothing to do with you.” I could be wrong about this, but I thought Ben had an emotional connection with me, too. He spoke to me often about his relationship with Rachel and the ways it didn’t fulfill him.
By the end of January, we started having phone sex. We only did it a couple times, but we happened to do it once on a weekend when Rachel threw Ben a birthday party. I could clearly see how f**ked up it was that Ben was having phone sex with me while Rachel was doing something like that for him. And I could tell Ben wasn’t just some guy I was having fun with—he was somebody who I had feelings for who was still very involved with Rachel. So I sent Ben an email and told him we had to stop.
“I don’t like sneaking around behind your girlfriend’s back. She’s a good person and you clearly still love her. I feel so guilty about what I’m doing to her,” I wrote him. “And I don’t want to be the girl on the side.” Ben wrote me back and told me that he didn’t like sneaking around and he didn’t want me to be the girl on the side either. He said he “didn’t know if it’d be anything more than sex” with me and so he wasn’t ready to leave Rachel; he told me that he thought we shouldn’t talk or see each other while he figured things out.
OK. Fine. I cried when I read Ben’s email, but I understood. Rachel was his girlfriend. I was not. Those were the facts.
For the next two weeks, Ben and I didn’t talk, didn’t hang out, and we ignored each other online. Then, the day after Valentine’s Day, he reached out to me and told me he was ready to leave Rachel.
Oh, s**t, I thought.
I should have run screaming in the other direction, but of course I didn’t. “I realize I want to be with you!” is the stuff Hollywood romantic comedies are made of. Ben and I picked up right where we left off — phone calls, talking over IM, and now meeting up at lounges at night. Believe it or not, he only physically cheated on Rachel with me once. We met up at a hotel bar, kissed, and then went back to his place, where we rolled around on his couch, bed and floor. I could tell the entire time he felt guilty about cheating on Rachel and I took a taxi cab home to my own apartment that night.
But as sick and as messed-up as it sounds, a lot of what Ben and I discussed together was when he was going to break up with Rachel. Today? Tomorrow? This weekend? Soon? Ben was adamant about not just chucking her off to the side; he and Rachel had dated for three or so years, so he said it would not be a one-conversation kind of breakup.
I could get behind that, of course. Even if Rachel was not my close friend, she was close friends with James and had even moved in with James’ girlfriend, Anna, as a roommate. I believed that Ben could slowly exit out of his relationship with Rachel and slowly ease into a relationship with me. He wasn’t fulfilled with her, but he didn’t want to hurt her.
But it just didn’t happen that way. Instead of slowing easing out with Rachel, Ben just did nothing. Nothing at all. He continued to hang out with Rachel, which made me crazy jealous, of course, while talking with me online all day and on the phone every night. We’d talk about what our relationship would be like when we were finally together — like him telling me “I want to take you to this restaurant” kind of stuff — and make plans for the future. I wanted all that to start. And Ben’s inaction just made it even more clear to me that I was just a girl on the side. I felt cheap and I felt dirty and I felt bad about myself.
So I pretty much gave Ben an ultimatum during the weekend of the Academy Awards: end his relationship with Rachel this weekend. Sometime. Anytime. Just do it. Friday passed. Saturday passed. Nothing. Sunday morning he told me he was going over to Rachel’s place to watch the Oscars and he would do it then.
“I have good news for you!” That’s the first thing he said when he called me on Sunday night—verbatim. “Rachel and I went on a break.”
I paused. On a break? So, not broken up? Just on a break? What kind of nonsense was this?
I was so over Ben’s hesitation to end things with Rachel; we fought about it that night, I went to bed, and then I ended things with Ben that morning. Clearly, he still cared enough about Rachel to not end their relationship. At long last, I realized I should just cut my losses and exit the situation.
At this point, I should probably mention that all my closest girlfriends were being kept up on a daily basis about what was happening with Ben, but James, of course, was not. That felt dishonest as all hell; I had never kept anything from James before. I might have kept the whole Ben thing from James entirely, though, but a week later, James made that impossible.
James went to go see a comedy show and planned to go out to a bar afterward. He had mentioned inviting Ben along, so I contacted Ben for the first time in a week and told him over IM to decline if James invited him out that night at the show. Ben agreed to do that, but then that night, James was texting on his phone and he told me Ben planned to meet up with us at the bar. Ben? What? Oh, God. I told James that I didn’t want Ben to come out and of course, James wanted to know why.
I told James everything that had been happening between Ben and me and he was totally appalled. Not only was he disappointed that Ben would cheat on his girlfriend, but he was disappointed that Ben had been jerking me around for so long. But he wasn’t angry, exactly, about the cheating; instead, he felt really guilty that he knew about it and didn’t know how he could keep something like that from Rachel, whom he considered a friend. Besides, his girlfriend was Rachel’s roommate — was he supposed to hide this from his girlfriend, too? James kept repeating again and again that he wished Ben and I had never done what we did and he wished I had never told him. “If you had told me, I could have told you Ben never would have broken up with Rachel for you. He just won’t do it, ever,” James said. Of course it was too late for that.
The next day, James and Ben hung out and James confronted him about the cheating. It’s my understanding that James told Ben he had to come clean about the relationship with me, but James also took a “big brother” stance and got angry at Ben for stringing me along all this time.
When James returned home that night, he called me, and the tone of his voice made it clear that he was extremely irritated at being involved in this drama. Maybe because James was irritated, he didn’t think through whether it was a good idea to do the next thing he did. But James told me that Ben and Rachel had never gone on a break with each other, that Ben had only mentioned going on a break with her and she said no and he agreed no. And then James told me that when he confronted Ben, Ben had said I mostly made up this relationship in my head, and quote, “Jessie will believe whatever she wants to believe.”
Oh. No. He. Didn’t.
James didn’t believe Ben, of course, but that part didn’t matter. Ben lying about me was enough to make me lose my self-control and become a woman possessed. I hung up the phone with James, screamed into my pillow, sobbed, and punched the mattress.
So I did what many a spurned mistress would love to do (but only people like LaVaughnie Wilkins and me, apparently, act on): I pulled my computer onto my lap and tapped out a long email to Rachel.
I purposely put lots of detail in it. If Ben would lie to his good friend James, he would surely lie twice as much to his girlfriend. So I gave Rachel details that were facts — dates, times, places, things Ben had said to me about conversations he had had with Rachel. I considered cutting-and-pasting sexy IM conversations where Ben made promises to me about our relationship, but for some reason, never got around to it.
I hit send to her work email. I felt like a major a**hole. But I also felt, at that point, like Ben had it coming and I would sleep like a baby. The next morning when Ben IMed me in a panic to ask what the hell I had written in my email to Rachel, I felt smugly satisfied. “I’m not sorry,” I wrote. “F**k you.” And, thankfully for me, Ben has not contacted me since.
I’m going to end the story here, because, honestly, I could go on for pages more explaining the fallout in my personal life. All you really need to know is that it was absolutely the wrong thing to do. I’ve heard stories about what happened afterward and I know I really hurt Rachel. I stopped feeling good about exposing Ben as a cheater and a liar very quickly. What I did to Rachel — both the cheating and the emailing her about it — was indefensible and cruel and it was done in a moment of anger that I wholeheartedly regret. If Rachel or one of her friends had found me and punched me in the face, I wouldn’t have blamed them. Eventually, I sent Rachel a long apology email, the contents of which were entirely sincere.
Meanwhile, James was shocked I had the capacity to be so cruel and told me to get out of his life for a while; it was almost like James and my friendship went through a divorce. Only within the past month have James and I been able to talk about what happened, forgive each other, and patch up our friendship. I will never, ever, ever do anything to risk losing my surrogate brother again. It was not worth it. Unfortunately, James’ girlfriend, Anna (Rachel’s roommate), has not spoken to me since. And losing that friendship sucks.
Ben’s well-being? At first I could not have cared less about what happened to him; I just felt so hurt and ashamed of how I let him treat me. I just hope he sorts stuff out in his head. I only know that in the year since this stuff happened, I’ve sorted stuff out in my head. I’ve forgiven him for his involvement in all of this.
Before writing this piece, though, I did check out Rachel’s Facebook page. Her profile photo? A picture of Rachel kissing Ben on the cheek, smiling.
*Names have been changed