WADING THROUGH THE MUCK
When it occurred to them I had been listening, they asked me if my ex-husband had cheated on me.
I admit I had been at least half listening to their conversation as I pretended to be engrossed in my work. It was unanimous among the five or six men, all of them in some phase of marital or post marital complacency or bliss. Not one ever had or ever would cheat. No matter how tempting. It was all about fear, not so much of eternal damnation but of what their wives might do to them before death could provide some relief.
I have no reason not to believe them. A woman scorned is a notoriously scary thing. And though the statistics should make me skeptical about the unanimity of faithfulness among these men, statistics can be as reliable as, well, a cheating spouse. On the issue of marrying men having affairs, the numbers are staggering in their variability. Two minutes of online research gave me percentages ranging from 21 to 70. More than zero, for sure, but then again six men in one suburb hardly comprise a statistically relevant sample.
There is little that surprises me, notwithstanding the meteoric rise of Donald Trump from sleazy real estate tycoon to sleazy presumptive presidential nominee. I believe that many men have affairs — many being anywhere from 21 to 70 per cent. I believe that some lie about it. And I believe that most would choose eternal damnation over the wrath of their wives. What surprised me, though, was the question they posed to me: did your ex-husband cheat?
It never occurred to any of them that a woman might cheat. I suppose it makes sense that they think that way — that women are either too busy worrying about mundane things like finding flattering premium denim or too self-righteous to even consider the possibility of eternal damnation. I suppose I should have been flattered that it would never occur to these men to doubt my integrity, but for some reason I found it insulting that they assumed women could only be victims.
I didn’t answer the question; it’s a question I truly believe to be beside the point. In the grand scheme of things, people cheat or do not cheat for all sorts of reasons, all of which have some sort of logic at the time, however twisted. Good people do bad things and bad people do good things — even a stopped clock is right twice a day. I have yet to meet someone who is perfect.
Back to Trump. And Hillary. And Bill. I never thought Bill’s dalliances were particularly relevant to his ability to lead a country, and I never thought of Hillary as a victim. And really, who’s to say Hillary never cheated (on Bill, that is). Not necessarily in the stained blue dress kind of way, but surely there are other ways to stray, to keep a secret from the person to whom you have promised, in the presence of God or a guy in some weird cap or Elvis or your family and friends, or all of the above, everlasting devotion. I believe most people mean it when they say it, and sometimes that’s just the best they can do.
If most humans are inherently flawed, politicians often appear to corner the market on defects. Partly because they put themselves out there to be judged and voted upon, but largely because it’s a self-selecting pool. Kind of like pedophiles and the priesthood. Let’s face it; regular folks who just want to keep to themselves and worry more about how their children will remember them at the Thanksgiving table than about how they will be remembered in the history books do not go into — or stay in — politics. I don’t want to sit in Starbucks shooting the shit with my President. I want to know that she — or he — is committed to certain goals that transcend her or his own personal ambitions and smart enough and energetic enough and credible enough to work toward them. Emphasis on the credible.
Sometimes, we just need to remember the person who said I do, or the person who tossed a hat in the ring. Look past the the muck and really see what the person who may have been knee-deep, once, does moving forward. Some stains can be washed out; others are just too stubborn, too insidious to ignore.