A few weeks ago, my friend Elizabeth and I went to the Junior League rummage sale. Neither one of us was looking for anything in particular, but both of us are potential hoarders in training, so we just like to rummage. While doing so, we found a few tables of books, and in that stack of books I somehow managed to locate this gem:
Having An Affair: A Handbook for the Other Woman
Now, everyone who knows me knows that I like books and movies that I got for a dollar, because they always turn out to be awful but also turn out to be funny, usually. Based on the subject matter alone, I thought this one would be pretty awful and funny, too, like the time I read that book on how to score with chicks but no, it's just awful.
I'd like to say at the beginning that I'm not passing moral judgment on people who have affairs. It's not something I've done, technically, but when I was younger and thinner and had a full head of hair there were times when I may have dated guys who had girlfriends. I've never dated or hooked up with anyone who's married, but I know people who have. While I did think it was terrible when some of them did it, my reasons for doing so are based on their reasons for doing so more than on the act of having an affair itself, which is why sometimes I figured yeah, fine, go have an affair. If I like you enough I might even help cover for you. (Not naming any names.)
This book isn't awful because of the subject matter. It's awful because the author is a terrible writer. She starts every chapter with a coherent point, but then rapidly digresses into side-point notes for mistresses, notes for married men having an affair, notes for wives, tips, jokes, and a number of other digressions that serve more to break the narrative up at awkward places than they do to offer any actually helpful advice. Not only that, but the author, an unmarried veteran of a number of affairs with married men, comes across as bitter and jaded more than she does as the wise helpful sage that she aspires to be. Again, I'm trying not to judge, but if you keep dating married men and it keeps turning out to be a horrible experience, maybe you should stop dating married men?
Just a thought.
I can't even do a point by point review of this, because the points are so buried or broken up or repeated over and over that there's not a linear, coherent way to parse them out. Instead, I'm just going to share the 15 most horrible parts of this that I read. I won't say they're the 15 most horrible parts of the overall book; they're just the parts that I marked before I got bored a little over halfway through and just pushed myself to finish this and please, God, read anything else that falls in front of my face.
1) "Single women who get entangled with married men are the ones who really suffer."
I'm not sure I agree with this, but she claims to be an expert so I'll just let it pass.
2) "To eliminate any doubt, my advice for you - for the record - is not to enter into an affair to begin with and to get out of any affair that you may currently be having."
I'm not planning to enter into an affair, so I should just stop reading now, then, right?
If only I had listened to myself.
3) "Even if it's 'only' great sex, a promotion at work, or a bit of help with the deposit on that new car, get something for yourself, please. Just to offset that gnawing feeling of being 'second best' that will unfortunately come as 'second nature' as the affair progresses."
This part strikes me as odd, because she hates prostitutes. Hates them. Any time she mentions them in the book, she refers to them as "hookers", but here she is explaining that you should definitely get that married man that you are having sex with to compensate you for that sex. This somehow makes you not a prostitute, even though you a trading sex for goods or cash. Maybe because you are only doing it with one guy?
4) "Should you happen to be the wife of a man whom you suspect is having an affair, my advice to you is to stop reading now."
Or should you happen to be anybody with a pulse.
5) "If this 'agreement' is not benefiting you in any way (other than sex), then you're doing it all wrong."
But again, you are not a prostitute, because those ladies are hookers and hookers are terrible.
6) "Fundamentally, deep down (some deeper than others), men are generally selfish, scheming, self-absorbed, obstinate, devious, lying, cheating, insensitive, egotistical bastards (many with a flatulence problem)."
Men are scum. Gassy scum.
7) "For example, you don't want to open the door and greet him wearing those awful secret baggy velour sweatpants and old slippers. He gets that at home."
Ouch. She really respects the wives, this bitter affair lady.
8) "Men and women typically get married because a) she is pregnant or b) they think it's what they want when they are young and just starting out in life (especially men, as they need a woman to look after them and their laundry/meal requirements when they move out of their mother's house)."
She also respects marriage. And men. She's just a ball of respect for everyone, except hookers.
9) "His mistress will be used to lying next to him and providing some sexual gratification and release whilst he has to listen to his 'other half' hundreds of miles away banging on about what the kids did at school that day and how he doesn't spend enough time at home."
While he's on the phone with his wife is, apparently, the perfect time for a handjob. Ladies, take note.
10) "Your MM is not exclusive to you, so you needn't be to him either."
MM means "married man". She's saying you should go ahead and keep playing the field while also having an affair. How's that working out for you, bitter single author lady who keeps having affairs?
11) "You may have joined the local gym, which you really can't afford, in hopes of finding 'Mr. Right'. But you didn't find him - just a load of beefcakes and gay men in tight shorts."
Time to go join my local gym!
12) "If you're a stay at home wife, you might want to look at options such as the postman, gardener, or plumber - basically anyone who can service you as an extra service to the one he was coming to the house to carry out anyway."
At least she's not saying only men should have affairs. Yay for equality!
13) "Isn't it amazing how the woman's side of things always comes back to the rudiments of being a hooker?"
But again, you are not a hooker. Hookers are bad.
14) "I'll be discussing the category of middle to upper wealthy MMs only, as I do not see any benefits whatsoever to having an affair with a poor man."
Money is important, but again, you are not a hooker.
15) "Even hookers are mindful to include their accommodations overhead in their rates!"
But you're not a hooker. You're a nice lady having sex with a man for money.
That was my last sticky note flag because at that point, I just couldn't anymore.
But someday, if I start dating a married guy, maybe I'll be happy I read this.
Until then I'm just glad I'm not the author.