Infidelity, Revenge-Sex, and “The Other Woman”

JUDITH CHAMBERS

The desire to destroy marriages first manifested itself shortly after the onset of puberty, by which time I’d lost my own father – something I’ve never been able to come to terms with.

The way my mother described it you’d think dad died of an incurable disease that she called “the other woman”, a kind of social virus that took advantage of a marriage’s weakened immune system to sneak in and steal away half its genetic material.

For a long time afterwards I saw “the other woman” everywhere I looked, there she was waiting for a bus, or reading a magazine on a tube train, or manning the till at my local Waitrose, every woman was conceivably the enemy, the younger and prettier she was the more likely she was to be carrying the fatal disease that took my father from me.

 At some point I began to resent the wholesome marriages I saw all around me, I’d watched my friends picked up by their dads after school, or cheered on during sports day, or come father’s day everyone would be chatting about where their dad was taking them that evening:

 “…and where’s your dad taking you, Judy?’

 “I don’t have a dad.”

 “Whatever happened to him, Judy?’

 I’d hang my head in shame, my reply barely audible: “The other woman took him.”

 

in-the-mood-for-love

                                                       In the Mood for Love (c) 2000 Universal Pictures (US)

We don’t usually think of women as predators, in fact most of us have been preconditioned to see women almost exclusively as victims, something I don’t particularly hold to be true. William Congreve’s famous phrase: “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, has stood the test of time not because it is catchy but because it has some basis in fact.

The loss of my father turned me into “the other woman” as surely as if she’d been a vampire who had somehow infected me with her curse, I started having affairs with married men in my late teens, they were all much older than me and perhaps at that point I was merely searching for a father figure, the fact he just happened to be married was incidental.

Later on I would deliberately go out of my way to seduce married men, gathering evidence of their infidelity along the way, and when I’d had my fun I’d rat them out to their partners. I wanted to destroy their marriages, the way my parents’ marriage had been destroyed, I figured if a man was prepared to sleep with me then his vows mustn’t have meant much to him in the first place.

But in the end I was just excusing my own rage. I had become the very monster I had once fought against in my childhood fantasies, “the other woman”, a serial philanderer of such prodigious talents you may as well have called me a virus, a beautiful virus certainly, but as indiscriminate as I was merciless.

I like to think I’m a changed person now and that the books I write offer some insight into my former condition, but deep down inside I know the monster is still there, biding its time. I suspect it is inside every one of us, whispering, tempting, persuading…perhaps some of us are more easily persuaded than others.

JUDITH CHAMBERS

 

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