The ‘mistress protection program’

Hang onto your husbands, girls! I’m back!” — Gilly Owens, “Practical Magic”

In his HBO special “Never Scared,” Chris Rock does this great bit on why he doesn’t cheat — because then he’d have to put the women in the “mistress protection plan” else risk getting killed by his wife.

It’s funny. I laughed. But it got me to thinking about a lot of the women (and men) in my life who have decided to date someone who’s married or otherwise spoken for. And while I’d never consider myself completely innocent in this realm, I’ve done the equivalent in just dating losers in general. (See “asshats who only call ON holidays if they’re available” and/or “can you call at some time OTHER than 2 a.m.?”)

Bottom line — what makes otherwise sane, relatively (at least) attractive, interesting, rational and even intellectual people choose to Waste. Their. Time. with losers?!?!

I have spent most of my life being single (see Exhibit A: putting up with idiots mentioned above) and have had quite the love/hate relationship with my status. Ultimately, I declare that I want to be a partner and not a Good Samaritan. And it makes for a lot of lonely nights, albeit peaceful ones. Unless I start obsessing about what’s wrong with me, and that, my loves, is a whole ‘nother blog entry. 😉

In any event, lately I’ve started to “get” my friends’ motivations in being with married men. Disclaimer: I don’t condone it, nor do I WANT that for me (or for THEM). But I understand that, after you’ve been alone just long enough, you start to wonder if it’s so bad to want to have some company, now and again. Even if it’s unpredictable, brief and, hell, insincere. Just as long as it exists.

I had a dear, dear friend who just couldn’t get rid of the married-guy syndrome. We were both — how shall we say it … oh, yeah — FAG HAGS, so meeting straight men? Not real easy. We tended to gravitate toward the first guys we met whose belt DIDN’T coordinate with his wallet and shoes (yay, straighties!). Hell, knowing they had a girlfriend/wife was proof that they weren’t either outright gay or just looking for the last girl they would ever kiss — we convinced a LOT of men that they were gay. Go, us! LOL — Talk about a big fat bucket of SUCK, in all senses!

Anyway, I watched her — and a lot of my friends — get wrapped up into promises of “He really cares about me — he thinks we’re soulmates!” “His wife doesn’t even sleep with him!” “He’s only staying for the kids!” “He says he really loves me!”

Barf. Gag. Blech. Hold-my-hair-back-while-I-puke.

But these girls didn’t start out believing that crap. They started out skeptical, detached, blase. They decided, “I’m only in it for no-strings-attached good times. I’m not getting involved.”

But they did. One after the other — with exception, of course. Those who were smart enough to get out early escaped with just a dirty feeling and a determination to do good deeds, lest Karma come back and treat them the same way the wives of these men were being deceived.

I admit that I had a HUGE crush on a married guy once. And there was something special in the way we related to each other as colleagues and friends. There was a rapport, a gentleness, a flirtation — however subtle, it was there. But it never advanced. His marriage was a good one — he went on to have beautiful children and a great new home. Had I (or, for that matter, he) been a lesser person (or braver — we’re still not sure yet), who only knows what would’ve happened. But we weren’t. He’s still happy and I’m still single. And it’s OK, really — if there was anything that I learned, it was that we have multiple soulmates. I believe we have people with whom we travel through our various lives, and when we see each other again, it feels familiar, cozy, warm and just plain good. So we take it where we can get it, however ephemeral the high might be.

But I’ve digressed. I don’t mean to imply that people who knowingly act as homewreckers feel like there’s some spiritual divination that puts them into — and keeps them trapped in — that kind of crazy situation. But it does speak to the lies we are capable of telling each other and ourselves when we want something or someone.

Fundamentally, I half-wonder if these folks aren’t simply in love with the idea of having someone — even if it’s only on a part-time basis — instead of having no one and seemingly nothing at all. I mean, I have watched super-strong women — feminists, even — turn into quivering masses of goo over a covertly made phone call from the guy when his wife was giving the kids a bath. I’ve seen these same women exhibit murderous rage that these supposedly useless wives continued to exist. And I’ve always wanted to ask them whether the men were single and free to be with them, would they actually really WANT them. Because, you know, even in the RARE occasion that they do leave like they keep promising, are they going to show up on your doorstep for anything other than a place to crash until they can get on their feet and run for daylight?

What brings all this to mind was a half-assed date with someone (who swore he wasn’t married) who basically made it clear that I was supposed to be “on call” for whenever he had free time or whenever he was in the mood. The type to call and say “meet me here” or “hey it’s a holiday, what are you up to” — the type who would NEVER plan something in advance, nor enjoy getting dressed up (or cleaned up, for that matter) just to impress me. Now, I’m not saying I need to be taken to the Kennedy Center or to other upscale places in society (although I WOULD like to get there at SOME point!), but for Christ’s sake, scrub your butt at the very least before you’re in my presence! I like attractive, clean, CLASSY men. It takes a LOT for me to storm out on a date and not look back — and that did it.

It’s not a quirk — all girls are like that. Hell, I dated a guy in college who thought he could drop by after work all the time. No way, bud — I told him he needed to go home and shower first. Because I was putting in effort for him — I’d wanted to be fresh and pretty and in an outfit that looked good/made me feel good. I didn’t want a slob because then I would feel the inclination to be slobbish, and that is NOT in my personality. Ultimately, I am well-prepared to treat someone like they are special — and I fully expect reciprocation. Period, end of story. No negotiating on that one.

I wonder whatever happened to some of these friends from my past. I mean, hey, if it’s true love and they can eventually end up with these guys that they adored so much, then more power to them. I’m a romantic at heart — I want people to get the things that would make them happy. But, moreover, I hope they came to their senses before it was too late and they lost all remnants of self-esteem and expectations and dreams and aspirations of attracting someone who was actually worthy of all they had to give.

And it’s not just them — all of us who ever put up with less than we deserved (or who were ever asked or expected to put up with a whole lottta nothing special), I hope that we find that seemingly elusive path to happiness and that we meet someone along the way who will make the journey more like having a jolly little road trip rather than walking the green mile.

And everyone who’s not worthy of the journey? Kick ’em to the curb — ’cause those high-quality boys (that we REALLY want to attract!) don’t make passes at girls who put up with conniving, useless, lazy motherfuckin’ ASSES!

On iTunes: Goldfrapp, “Silver Rain Fell”

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