You know how the worst kind of parent will be all, “Oh, you couldn’t possibly understand what it means to truly love another human being until you have a child of your own?” And you are all, Oh word, you’re right, I must be the emotionally crippled jerk here because I don’t go around conducting unsolicited evaluations of other people’s personal lives? And then you order another pitcher all to yourself just to rub in the fact that you and your emotionally stunted self are going to stay until bar closes just because you can?
Now that I am an old married lady, I think I understand that awful parent a little bit better, even though the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission still occasionally has to pry that pitcher of beer from my cold, drunk hands. Not because I’m aiming for a Lil’ Grimes any time soon or ever, but because I’m amazed at how different—and touchy, and protective—I feel about partnership now that I’m in a legal one.
Despite a little light cheating in my past—what happens above the waist at the bar with an attractive acquaintance when you’re 23 years old stays at the bar, right?—I’m a pretty big fan of monogamy and fidelity. If you’d asked me before I got married, I’d have said that I’m not so jealous that porn consumption pisses me off, say, but I think people who say vows ought to either keep them or split with their partners before they break them. Super basic. Easy. Common sense.
So imagine my surprise when I recently found myself viscerally angry, nearly to the point of tears with rage, at an adulterous male main character in a new murder mystery novel I’d picked up. (To save a spoiler, I won’t tell you what novel this is; it’s really good for a beach read and I think if you know what I’m talking about you’ll get my drift, anyway.)
There I was, prone in bed with a pile of cats and my perfectly nice, Tiny Night Club-addicted husband jamming away on his iPad next to me, and I wanted to kick through the stupid IKEA night stand, I was so mad at this man who does not exist who is cheating on his wife!
A year ago, I’d have thought, Oh sure, that guy’s an asshole. Last night I thought, “THE VERY FABRIC OF THIS FICTIONAL SOCIETY THAT DOESN’T REALLY EXIST IS FALLING APART EVERY TIME YOU DON’T ACTUALLY KISS THAT NON-EXISTENT NUBILE YOUNG MISTRESS, FAKE SIR!”
Then it occurred to me that after re-watching the first ”Sex and the City” film on a flight recently (I don’t want to hear it; I was desperate; I can stop any time I want!) I also got steaming mad at Miranda’s partner Steve, arguably the sweetest dude in the history of that show. (Aside: why did anyone, ever want to go out with Big, I mean, ever? That dude is a tool from the get-go and he never improves. I digress.)
Before I was married, I was a total fan of the Miranda-and-Steve-get-back-together-on-the-Brooklyn-Bridge-after-he-cheats-on-her-one-time moment, not least because it’s probably the only decently soundtracked 30 seconds in the whole film. But when I rewatched it as a married lady? I still resented Steve. Steve, why did you have to fuck that up!? The slow, sad decline of a once happy marriage spinning into a web of unfaithfulness is no longer an intellectually interesting, emotionally stimulating but distant prospect that happens to people on soap operas or my Facebook friends list. It is a real thing that might happen to me. I mean, I don’t actually think Patrick is going to cheat on me—I sure as hell wouldn’t have married him if I thought either one of us were the wandering eye type—but I have a better imagination for the thing than ever.
Am I destined to be enraged by pop culture cheaters? Will I never enjoy some badly mannered debauchery again?
I think I may be safe, because I definitely do not understand anything about this weird business this week with those people from the “Twilight” movies, who I also learned today are actually together in real life and not just in the vampire show!
Oh, what an emotional roller coaster it was. First, I find out that Bella Swan is named Kristen Stewart and she actually acts in a lot of non-”Twilight” movies, and that she’s dating to the actor I prefer to think of as Cedric Diggory and that she cheated on Cedric with the married, be-childrened director of another far-fetched fantasy tale in which she recently starred! And that she just like, up and apologized for it even though nobody seems to give a shit.
To better understand this celebrity relationship in which I have no investment whatsoever, I tried to find a photo of Stewart and Pattinson together in which they looked even remotely pleased to be either with each other or with what they were doing. But they both always look like someone gave each of them sound wedgie and shot their family pet.
So maybe I’m not an emotionally unstable wreck now that I’m a married lady; maybe I do have the ability to not freak out about every pop culture iteration of adultery—though truly, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s relationship, while actually real, is far less authentic to me than, say, Miranda and Steve’s.
What I do know is this: it’s not the cheating that pisses me off so much as the keeping it a secret and breaking of important related promises that go counter to a person’s fundamental understanding of the relationship agreement. I understand that people become attracted to people other than their partners. We’re human. Of course that’s a possibility.
But how hard is it to just leave your poor sod of a partner before you start yanking them around? Is that so much to ask? Alternately, if you’ve just had a dumb, stupid fling with some person and there’s no real emotional connection, why pull a Steve or a Kristen Stewart and tell your partner (or, uh, the whole media-consuming world) when you can just take your indiscretion to the grave?
Isn’t that the kindest thing? Discuss. I’ve got some screaming at my Kindle to do.