Sex, Lies, and Double Lives
The barrage of sex scandals hitting the airwaves over the past few months has had an unsettling effect on me: I am an idiot on the subject of extramarital affairs. Realizing your own innocence should, I suppose, be a healthy thing. It should mean your own quiet little dutiful life, slogging from day to day as a plain old honorable wife, is somehow even more honorable than you thought it was. Maybe so, and I sure hope so, as I sit here embarrassed by how shocked I am. He did what? I think, as I learn of double lives, of the destructive stuff men do to satisfy apparently acute sexual urges. He rang up an $80,000 tab on a call girl? He arranged for threesomes with his driver? He flashed secret foot signals under a bathroom stall?
He, he, he. Where, I am starting to wonder, are all the shes? Have any of these high-profile sex scandals featured a female at the helm? I have been sitting here racking my brain, and I'm sure there are some, but I shouldn't have to work this hard. Any of the examples I do come up with are very young women: pretty teachers caught with schoolboys. Or madams running, uh, well, businesses.
I can find exactly zero high-profile middle-age women caught having created a sex scandal so elaborate that it merits the front pages. What's that about? Women don't do double lives? I try to imagine having a secret second family across town. This notion puts me in immediate need of a nap. Like I need more softball practices to drive to, more piano lessons to arrange? I try to imagine paying $80,000 for a sex slave and wonder what the heck kind of sex that would buy me, but all too quickly I'm back to the dollar amount, calculating not how to get me one of those boy toys but rather: That could buy me how many pairs of shoes?
Consider polygamy. How come it's always the guy with all the wives? Where is the wife with all the extra husbands? So rare is this phenomenon that most of us don't even know there is a word for it -- polyandry -- and you practically have to travel all the way to the Himalayan areas of South Asia to find any vestiges of it.
Know any woman who wants more than one husband? Know anyone who could handle the care and feeding? Who has the time? The energy?
Refusing to be naive, I do hold out for the possibility that women all over America are carrying on crazy affairs, and that they are simply better than men at not getting caught.
If that's the case, I don't know these people. I look around at my circle of soccer moms and think: There are simply not enough hours in their days.
If most women don't have time for a double life, it could be because most of us feel as if we are trying to manage the work of triple and quadruple lives as it is. We are already masters of multitasking. We could no sooner jam one more life into our already-packed lives than we could...fly to the moon. And given the choice -- here's the tricky part -- an awful lot of us might choose the moon temporarily, only to come running frantically, longingly home.
I wonder if something about our gender is... lacking in the high-risk department. Or maybe the "good girl" model that we quietly drum into every girl's head has, over time, caused us to evolve into obedient creatures of habit. Then again, maybe we just love our families. How bizarre.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, August 2008.