Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Cosi fan (potentially) tutte?

I know several people who have ended their marriages, to the complete shock and bewilderment of their spouses. In several of these cases, the ender turned on the endee, blaming him for it all (not all the enders were women, but the blamers happened to be). Marriages do end of course, and sometimes that's for the best, and I'm not going into all that - and, before I go further, this is a judgment-free zone as far as I'm concerned and I'm meaning no more than I'm actually saying. It's just sad, that's all.

A few years ago, I changed hairdressers. The previous one was a nice girl, married young, with two children, and she used to chatter about family life. One visit, she did nothing but grumble about her husband. 'Hm,' I thought. 'She's having an affair or she reckons he is.' The next visit, she said she had turned him out of the house. The next visit, she told me the whole story. A bloke had stopped to let her across the road, with her pushchair and little boys and later saw her again and gave her his phone number. She was flattered and sent a text and it followed from there in the usual pattern. I heard the latest edition every few weeks and it got more cringeworthy every time.

I didn't stop going to the hairdresser from moral indignation, but because the whole thing was such a car-crash. It was obvious that the bloke had targeted her because she was obviously in a relationship, with little children and he thought she might be a. up for it and b. committed, in the long run, to her family - that is, he was safe from any demand for a long-term monogamous relationship. He then spent the next six months trying to get her to chuck him by being generally unreliable. It was embarrassing to listen to, because she didn't realise how much she was giving away in what she insisted on telling me, and her hair-cutting skills went right out of the window. It was half an hour's drive away, so in the end I found a local hairdresser, whom I like very much and who isn't nearly so chatty.

Other family break-ups seemed to follow much the same pattern. Either one of the pair started seeing someone else or, for whatever reason, decreed that the marriage was at an end, without any real explanation, and within a short time started seeing someone else (usually known to them already).

I came to the conclusion that their pattern of thought went something like this

1 I fancy someone else!
2 Goodness, I'm having an affair! (this may come later, in which case all the other numbers shuffle up and this turns into 5)
3 But bad people have affairs. But I am not a bad person. I have high moral standards and I always vowed I would be faithful within marriage.
4 Therefore, for me to do a bad thing, not being a bad person, there must be something seriously wrong with my marriage, or otherwise I would not even be tempted.
5 It's my spouse's fault, because I have already reasoned that I am not a bad person, and yet it appears that I have been made unhappy and discontented. The marriage is at an end, but I am entitled to make demands that might seem quite unreasonable were anyone else to make them, because it is all my spouse's fault that I have been driven to this.

Maybe a little more self-knowlege and cynicism might not come amiss. Perhaps for the sake of the children, at least? In every recent situation I'm referring to, the children were between 6 months and 7 years old.

In case there is any doubt I am not having, and am not planning to have, an affair. Indeed, I haven't even been propositioned recently. I mention the subject only because of a conversation I had with a friend this morning.

If you've come in search of Mozart, my sincere apologies, there's nothing for you here. But isn't soave sia il vento the most sublime aria ever written?

14 comments:

Blue Witch said...

My hairdresser's life is more 'entertaining' than any of the soaps. It's why I don't ever watch them.

In fact, everyone I've ever discussed it with (erm, 3 I think, so not a valid or reliable sample)has a hairdresser who has a most interesting 'family life'. Is it a pre-requisite for the job, or is it that people with certain personality traits are drawn into hairdressing?

Z said...

Gosh, you were quick BW. 3.07 was the time I started writing this, I've only just posted it.

My hairdresser and I listen, chuckling, to the conversations around us. I think she is the exception that proves the rule.

Dave said...

As am I, being divorced but entirely affair-less.

Z said...

I'm not meaning divorced people in general, of course, Dave. It's just the parents of young children who suddenly end their marriage, to the bewilderment of all who know them including their partners, because I've come across several people in that situation in the past two or three years.

I'm not casting aspersions on hairdressers in general, either.

Fluffy Pink Duck said...

I've seen a friend do this with very similar reasoning (all that was wrong with her poor husband was he was shy and a bit boring) and was targeted just like this by a chap who thought he would be safe from any long term consequences because she was married.

Dandelion said...

I know three lots of people that have done this, all aged 60+
Just goes to show.

Rog said...

Hairdressers have a natural proclivity to starting an off-hair. Particularly if there is a parting involved.

Your reasoning is quite correct though.

Gordie said...

I think it's a great shame that up for it and committed are regarded as being mutually exclusive, since the former is quite common, indeed far too common to be bartered against the latter.

My hairdresser is an excellent source of oestrogen fuelled ribaldry, and once advised me against socialising with a couple by saying "You won't get on with [boyfriend], he's not your sort of man at all..." (pause) "He doesn't even let her have sex toys."

Z said...

No, I said that the seducer - I'm using an old-fashioned term deliberately - thinks that she is bored and up for it, but also that she will be committed to her marriage for the sake of the children.

I had a long chat once with a bloke who, although married at the time (not now) liked something on the side too. He said frankly that he only looked at married women, as they were often bored, but that as long as he was frank from the start, they enjoyed a fling. I think the difference is now that women don't need security, and also that they self-impose high standards, so that they think that it all has to be perfect and if it isn't then they might as well get out.

Dand, a friend of mine was greatly concerned a year or two back because her father-in-law's wife had chucked him out after 25 years marriage, when he was in his 90s, because she couldn't be bothered to look after him. I'm not sure what happened there actually, I must give her a ring some time.

Rog, you have summed it all up. And Gordie, the Sage doesn't 'let' me do or not do anything. Your hairdresser sounds a splendid person.

lom said...

Well written Z. This one always starts a good debate

badgerdaddy said...

I think it's fair to say people can just be plain damn lazy, too. They'd rather take the excuse and walk away than work at something. There's often a lack of communication which just gets worse and worse... And in one case I know, the wife just became a wife and mother and lost what she thought of as her own identity. Next thing you know, she's having an affair with someone who saw her as an exciting woman and blah blah blah... Part of this was the huge problems their kid had. They were both focussed so much on the kid that they forgot each other. Easily done, I guess.
It's a funny old world.

Eddie 2-Sox said...

That sounds familiar Z, twice. First time there were no children, second time there was Sam, aged 2.

It's just so easy to communicate secretly these days.

Anonymous said...

My hairdresser is an older lady from Eastern Europe. She is very nice and we just do small talk. I've never been one to chatter during haircuts and despise gossiping.
What a pity some couples have poor communication. Relationships are hard work and require shared communication of wants and needs. Then following through with how to remedy them.

Z said...

If I'd had an affair with everyone who thought of me as an exciting woman...

First person to add "Z would still be a virgin" gets slapped. No really, I mean it.

It's the justification for destroying children's security with 'but they won't be happy if I'm not happy' rather than a determination to make a happy family - not in an abusive or totally uncaring relationship of course, but that's not the situation I'm talking about here. You're right, it's open and honest communication between married (or partnered of course) couples, and responsiveness to each other's needs - which goes both ways, both to the discontented/needy one and from him or her to the other - that could help.

I think people can be quite easily satisfied these days too. I never thought of being in a long marriage until we'd clocked up 30 years. I've known couples where 25 seemed to herald the death knell.