The Dawn of the Single Married Man

When I was 20 years old, I went on a date with a married man.  Breaking bread with an adulterer was involuntary on my part.  When you’re 20, you do not automatically look at a man’s ring finger when he introduces himself to you.  You figure it is only “odd” that he doesn’t offer you his home phone number (particularly, in the mid-90’s when a home phone line was more than something you only needed for an internet connection).  When a 20 year old woman accepts a date from a man a bit older than she, it never occurs to her that there is something amiss when he asks her out after two quick phone calls that took place after midnight and lasted about 3 minutes and 26 seconds each.  She puts on a nice pair of pumps and a cute dress.  She goes on the date.

I remember that date well.  Midway through my scrumptious turtle soup, this odd stranger changed the tone of our light banter by casually announcing: “I’m married; is that gonna bother you?” I distinctly recall thinking, Huh?  Is this how men go about having affairs? They just announce they are whoring around and then the infidelity commences?  How so unromantic.  Prior to this dinner, I held on to the rather quaint image of how affairs happen.  Man and Woman spot each other in the office (or at church) and exchange a pointed “look.”  One (or both) is married so they quickly turn their eyes away.  Perhaps redden a bit.  Man and Woman spend several months (or years) avoiding one another, occasionally coming into contact and reddening some more.  They slip up and agree to serve together on the organizational committee for the company picnic (or annual tent revival).  As they harmlessly chit chat while planning, they realize that their passion is unbridled.  Although they both fight the urges, they end up ravishing one another in the back pew after prayer meeting (or on the copy machine after everyone’s gone to happy hour).  I did not condone the Man and Woman’s immoral behavior, but this image made adultery more comprehensible to me.  In my mind, married folks did not go out looking to betray their spouses.  Affairs happened when people were not paying attention; when they couldn’t avoid it.

The married man who sat across the table from me 14 years ago truly stunned me.  I knew I would end up storming out of the restaurant (after I finished my soup, of course).  But, I was so intrigued by his casual offer to make me his mistress.  I think after he made the “I’m married” proclamation, he nonchalantly broke off a piece of french bread, buttered it and made a comment about how he loved this restaurant because the bread was always fresh.  “I hate stale bread…especially stale french bread.”  I stared at him for a few seconds, trying to find a way to participate in this conversation.  I managed a stammered, “Uh…you’re married?  Uhm…then, why…I don’t understand…this is a date, isn’t it?”  He chuckled and patted my arm.  It was this condescending gesture that finally moved me from bewildered to irate.  I asked him why he would ask me out on a date if he already had a wife.  “Why the hell am I here?”  I wondered.  He told me I was cute.  And seemed nice.  So, he thought he’d at least give it a shot.  “But, if you can’t handle it, then you know, I can understand that.  Not everyone is mature enough to handle such an arrangement.”

I got over my anger really quickly and chuckled myself.  I found his attempt to belittle me into sleeping with him so obvious and so counterproductive that I could no longer sustain anger.  Even at 20, I recognized that insulting a woman was probably not the best strategy to get her into your bed.  I finished my soup, informed him that he was probably going to go to hell and drove home.

Over the years there have been a handful of men who have just as casually mentioned the existence of a wife and a desire to “spend some time” with me in the same breathe.  At 34, I am no longer stunned by it.  I am still repulsed by it, but at this point I can spot an adulterer within a few minutes of his engaging me in conversation.  

So, last week when I walked into a friend’s dinner party and an attractive guy sat down next to me and began chatting me up, I took a quick look at his ring finger, silently admired he and his wife’s superb taste in jewelry and waited to see where the conversation would go.   The dinner party went well into the night.  Through out the evening, Aaron the adulterer made vaguely inappropriate inquiries into my private life.  All I laughed off with, “Stay out of grown folks business, bruh.”  Aaron circled the room and mingled with the other guests, occasionally coming back to sit next to me and make inappopriate comments until I no longer had the motivation to even blow him off.  I just ignored the comments altogether.

As the sun threatened to peek through the sky, Aaron the adulterer offered to drive all the women home.  Because of our chatting at the party, I knew that Aaron lived a few blocks away from me.  I knew that all the other women in Aaron’s car did not.  They lived far away from where the party was taking place, but not as far as Aaron and myself .  I knew that I would be the last woman in Aaron’s car who was being dropped off.  I knew Aaron would ask me to sleep with him.

After the last woman said good night and thanked Aaron for the ride, he turned to me and asked me two things.  Programming his GPS, he asked for my address and then he asked: “So, are you looking for company tonight?”  The only thing that stunned me was how dully predictable this scene was. I answered that I made it a point not to keep company with married men.  “But, thanks for checking to see if I was interested.  Particularly, the phrasing: Looking for company.  As if you just want to sit on the sofa and watch a movie and maybe, have some lemonade at 5 o’clock in the morning.”  Aaron came back with a quick inquiry: “It’s that serious to you, huh?”  He looked perturbed when I told him that yes, I was inflexible on my rule not to help a man betray the woman to whom he had committed his life.

Aaron the adulterer told me I sounded like a preacher.  (And this is where the standard “Will you be my ho” negotiation got a bit more interesting.)

Aaron tried to assuage any potential guilt I might feel by explaining keeping company with him could work out for both of us.  See, it wasn’t like he would be all clingy and be calling me and bothering me all the time.  We could have a good time and keep it at that.  I wouldn’t have to worry about “a brother being all in your face all the time.”  I nodded as Aaron argued his case. “So, you plan on sleeping with me and then never speaking to me again.”    I swooped my arms up and cupped by heart, threw in a pair of faux-doe eyes and let out an elongated exhale. “Wow, I feel like a princess.”

Aaron pressed on.  I think the innumerable cocktails he had consumed at the 7-hour dinner party rewarded him with an unbelievable resolve.  He told me he knew people like me.  People who made a big deal about stuff like this.  “I guess I’m different; it really isn’t that big of a deal to me.”  

Yeah, I kind of figured that out, bruh.

When we were about 10 minutes away from my apartment, Aaron the adulterer finally accepted that he would have to settle for having sex with his wife in the immediate future.  At this point in the night, he turned into one of those people who commits all manner of debauchery while drunk or high and then wakes up the next morning looking for a priest.  “I hope you don’t think I’m some sort of scum bag,” he asked with a level of sincerity that threw me off for a quick second.  “It’s not like I go around looking for this.  Just that, you know…I like your style and you were saying things tonight that made sense.  You’re smart.  You think before you voice your opinion; that’s cool.”

I should explain that the dinner party had taken place ALL UP IN Brooklyn.  I live ALL UP IN the Bronx.  I travelled three boroughs just to attend.  Although he was an adulterer, Aaron had proven himself to be a nice guy.  He saved me at least two hours on the train (during late night subway schedules which normally mean, just count your blessings if one comes every half hour or so).  I figured I could be his priest in exchange.  What was the harm in absolving him of his sins.  I listened as Aaron explained that he had never “done anything” before and that he hoped he wasn’t coming off as a jerk.  “Really, I’m not some scum bag,” he insisted.

“Dude, only God can judge you,” I offered to him.  “I am not God.  I am just the woman who won’t be sleeping with you.  Whether or not you are a scum bag is between you, your wife and the God you both serve.”

Sadly, these words did not offer Aaron the solace I had intended them to.  He looked offended.  Even as I thanked him for the ride and exited his car, there was a hint of disgust in his eyes.  (Or perhaps I was half asleep in the first place and imagined him being offended instead of plain ole indifferent.)

A week later, the stunned outrage that once boiled in my 20 year old feminist veins years ago has yet to even come to a healthy simmer now.  Perhaps it is just the shedding of naivete or the building of a fortress of cynicism that makes me find the conversation with Aaron absolutely hilarious.  While I know that the image I nursed about romantic affairs is probably more a prototype for romance novels than the standard for real life adultery, there is a part of me that wonders if this is what is truly sad about modern day infidelity? The fact that men like Aaron probably go into a marriage with no intention to remain faithful.  That when they do take on a “side piece,” she really is just that.  A woman who has the honor of getting sex from you when your wife is out of town or just away from the house for an afternoon.  There is no pretense of a connection. No attempt to feign even the most basic of concern for your “piece” as a woman with whom you have some sort of relationship, albeit a tenuous one. 

“I won’t bother you and be all up in your face,” Aaron proposed as a means of selling me on this infidelity thing.  So, thus, some married men want to continue their lives as single men in every sense of the word.  In the state of modern-day male-female relationships, even affairs have been drained of romantic courtship.  A single married man has no qualms about breaking his vows to his wife and no desire for his dating life to change simply because he has put a ring on some woman’s finger.  He is so indifferent that he doesn’t even save his shredding of vows for a former lover who resurfaced in his life or a true accident that occurred when he let his guard down and allowed his “office crush” to get too close to him. 

Since I have never had an affair, I am not sure how romantic they are.  I do wonder, however, if the modern version of cheating is as unfeeling, as impersonal, as removed from any real connection to another human being as just about everything else in the 21st century.

3 Responses

  1. As usual honey I loved this blog. Hit home for me on so many levels. Sooooooooooooo many. And for the record adulteress affairs (for me) have been unromantic an emotionally devoid. Hence why I no longer participate in them. You can only lie to yourself for so many years before you see the light. Good blog. Very well written.

  2. Well written. I’ve encountered the “what’s the harm?” proposition only once–thank God–and I was totally flummoxed. Now I have pattern to frame a response on.

  3. Hilarious! Even more so because I was present that night when Aaron was getting his “single man” on. I totally respect your point of view and definitely understand logic in your blog. I find that most men (married and single) are waaaay too confident in their game and try to get away with the darndest things. And yes- enough women actually put up with their foolishness to make them think their behavior is acceptable. But to answer your question about whether the “modern version of cheating is as unfeeling, as impersonal, as removed from any real connection to another human being as just about everything else in the 21st century,” I’d like to briefly share my experience as the other woman. “MY” man wasn’t married, but was in a serious relationship with another woman when I was with him. I’m leaving a lot of details out, but basically when he and i were together he did treat me like i was his only one and although I knew i was merely a side piece, I didn’t mind because I really dug him and i truly believe we had something. Also, I am a product of an adulterous relationship so I may be biased. But my mom and dad were truly in love and he treated her with the utmost respect when they were together (before he ran home to his wife at night). However, what they had was undeniably real love and my father was there for me MOST of the time, so maybe that’s just what I was used to.
    ANyway, love your writing and it was good seeing you yesterday at Abi’s exhibit.

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