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Monday, November 14, 2011

The Sweet Spot: I Am the Other Woman

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM


I was 16 when I became, accidentally, the Other Woman for the first time. Rusty, the head of the punk pirate house, asked me to help make a tape for his girlfriend's birthday. Inadvertently, I leaned up against the bed and left a tell tale strand of hair there.

Later, when the girlfriend came home, she found it and shouted, "You cheater! That red-headed bitch was in our bed!" She then promptly broke up with him.

Despite the innocence of that particular occasion, I can't say that Rusty's motives were entirely pure. A few years later he confessed that he'd had a crush on me then. That girlfriend may have been unpleasant but she was no fool. She knew something was up.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ANDREW SCHMIDT
  • Photo by Andrew Schmidt

I had become a home-wrecker and I hadn't even lost my virginity yet. Since then, I have unintentionally broken up many a relationship despite never actually being the Other Woman -- meaning I resist those men in relationships who pursue me.

And pursue me they do, especially lately.

They offer romantic gestures, lingering looks, desperate sighs and even professions of love. It can be nice to be wanted so, but still I always say no.

Why? Because that is what feminism means to me. Because I subscribe to the girl code (sisters before misters), and because I do not ever want to be the cause of another woman's pain. I have spent much of my life trying to persuade those women who pull their husbands away from me that I am not a threat. But the truth is I am. Just existing, I seem to inspire thoughts of divorce. I am beginning to think that being the Other Woman -- regardless of what I do or don't do -- is my fate.

I am not alone in this. Ninety-three-year-old author Diana Athill was the mistress of a married man on a number of occasions. She has few moral qualms about her role.

"I think being 'the other woman' suited me down to the ground," she says. In fact, "I think it was what I was best at."

  • Diana Athill

Athill did it with style. I resist. Yet she and I both fit the bill. Why? Athill freely admits that she was not maternal and had no desire to have children. Free-wheeling and intentionally childless myself, I have always vastly preferred my freedom to the joys of being in a long-term relationship. The only time I ever find myself wanting one is when I am sick, or going to home for the holidays. Even then, those pesky boyfriends have often felt like more of a liability than a help.

Then there is another fact: The idea of love terrifies me. Athill also wrote that, "I could only be at ease in a relationship which I knew to be trivial. If I fell seriously in love, it was with a fatalistic expectation of disaster, and disaster followed."

So is it surprising that for those who are fully in the throes of commitment, an independent woman who represents a release from expectations can seem very appealing? Athill and I are like that iconic woman at the edge of town where the men come to drink, play cards, and throw down about the issues of life and the world.

click to enlarge 2722918868_a49fda5cec.jpg

It's not always about sex. Freedom of expression seems to be more of the draw, as most men I know actually do love the women they are with, and they even love the emotional commitment. But from time to time, they need a release valve. As I am a permanent resident of that valve, I am a perfect companion to blow off some steam with.

But it is not just men who from time to time need this release. It turns out that quite a few women also love to have a bit on the side. TJ O'Karo in his article Being The Other Man -- The Confessions of a Splackavellie, writes about his time in the trenches, "I became a sort of Jacopo Casanova, the ideal lover. And so the show began. I being the guy with nothing to lose by being a friend to these unavailable women, offering a listening ear, a shoulder to lean and sometimes cry on, offering excellent relationship, academic as well as other advice, spending quality time and generally treating them like queens, all without the tag of 'boyfriend.'" Many of these women also love the men who they are with but enjoy being released from playing the role of girlfriend or wife on occasion.

All this exploration applies equally to queer relationships, as wanting to run your naked toes through that greener grass isn't sexually specific. We all want from time to time something other than what we have. However, there can be an extra complication for queer folks -- the closet.

Poet and gay activist Baruch Porras-Hernandnez has experienced being approached by a potential lover only to discover that the person was married and not out. He wrote the following poem about it, called "Give It to Me Straight."

He tries to hurry me of his house,

the wife comes home soon.

he stops me on the way out to say

I don't love you

I'm not gay

this is only me messing around.

All I have to say is,

No sweat, just remember

before you kiss her,

get the taste of my cock

out of your mouth.

  • Baruch Porras Hernandez

Honesty matters, and so I will continue to resist being the Other Woman in the sexual sense. But sometimes the attraction itself, without the act of cheating, can actually help certain relationships. I give those men just enough of a dose of me to make them aware of how much they prefer being with a woman who cares about them.

Almost all of the men I have significantly dated got married immediately after we broke up. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but even the 24-year-old poet I dated went to the altar with the next woman he was with. The current joke in my circle is that I scare men into marriage. Ha ha, I'm such a ball buster. It's an amusing idea, But they just might be right. And if, in fact, helping to make relationships stronger is a service I provide, I am happy to do it. In the meantime and off duty, I am quite happy drinking martinis in my little house at the end of town.

Poker anyone?


Diana Athill is a British literary editor, novelist and memoirist who worked with some of the most important writers of the 20th century including Phillip Roth and Norman Mailer. Her quotes were taken from this interview in the Telegraph.

The Sweet Spot is a blog column about alternative sexuality by Ginger Murray who is also the editor of Whore! magazine. Check back next week for more.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Ginger Murray


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