I’ve heard it from girlfriend’s confessions, male friend’s woes, and neighborhood gossip. Women are cheating on their husbands. Lots of them. When I was growing up, extra-marital affairs were something associated with husbands far more often than wives. Have things changed?
I picked up an interesting looking novel at the bookstore that centers on the topic of adultery. It caught my attention. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright says it follows a married thirty-something woman’s affair with a married man. Gina falls for Sean, her sister’s neighbor, and they carry on an affair for more than a year before they leave their spouses and unofficially move in together.
The American Library Association awarded this novel the Andrew Carnegie Medal For Excellence in Fiction. The New York Times Book Review declares The Forgotten Walz, “A tour de force.” It is indeed beautifully written and insightful.
I find the front and back cover, however, a bit misleading. The book jacket shows a woman in shadow standing in front of an elegant balcony with her hands on two empty chairs. I turned to this story to peek inside the heart and mind of a tortured woman committing a runaway love affair. That’s not what I got. What I found instead, was an elusive protagonist who did not understand her motivations, nor did she articulate her feelings to the reader. It’s not a romantic book. Gina is not repentant about leaving her confused husband, nor does she feel particularly guilty for extracting her lover from his wife and troubled young daughter. She says she loves Sean and she knows she made the right choice, but ultimately, no one seems particularly happy. As far as I could tell, Gina was not the angry wife the thrill-seeking wife or the wife with low self-esteem. She did not appear emotionally starved or sexually deprived.
Ultimately, her story is not even really about her love affair. Gina’s adultery was merely a backdrop, masterfully used to paint a moral indictment of today’s me, me, me, Kim Kardashian-like material girl.
If you are looking for a brilliant read about the decay our modern-day society, this is the book for you.
To answer my original question, have things changed, I typed a few key words into Google. Turns out, they have. More woman than ever are rolling in the hay outside of their marriages. It’s getting close to a 50/50 split between the number of wives cheating, versus the number of husbands.
Some women need to see what else is out there in order to appreciate what they have. Some women need to see what else is out there to gain the courage to leave a marriage that no longer works. While I personally believe that it best to be up-front with our partners, the pragmatist inside me understands that life is not always so clean cut.
What do you think? Do you have a black and white opinion on cheating or is there a grey area?