The Down and Dirty Dish on Revenge

Serving It Up Nice and Cold to That Lying, Cheating Bastard

Eva Nagorski

St. Martin's Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books

Chapter One

Readying for War

 If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?—William Shakespeare,

The Merchant of Venice

You think you’re being cheated on but your man isn’t fessing up to anything. Or you think your man is strategizing how to kick you to the curb. Or maybe you’ve just had the ugly truth thrown in your face out of the clear blue: You’ve been cheated on and then dumped. Or maybe you’ve been cheated on, dumped, and left with a nasty and volatile STD. And now that unbearable sensation (I’m talking about the heartache, not the clap) won’t go away. Maybe he told you it was over or maybe you told him he wasn’t going to cheat on you again because you were kicking him out. Whatever the reason, solution, or end result, being dumped or cheated on bites the proverbial big one. Anyone knows that without having to actually go through it. So how do you make sure to prepare yourself in case that’s about to happen to you?

 

Let’s rewind. Were you suspicious but didn’t really focus on obvious signs for fear of discovering the truth? Or did this all come out of left field because you were so gaga over the bastard and just blindly trusted him? If you could back up in time and acknowledge—and act on—your suspicions, you probably would have found yourself at the filing cabinet going through past credit-card charges or sifting through receipts like a madwoman because, well, you would have been a madwoman. This would have been the closest you would have come to a straitjacket, but for good reason. You would have had to make sure you were right. You would have had to put two and two together accurately before super-gluing his butt cheeks together.

 

So, are you now able to see the handwriting on the very wall you’re banging your head against? Are you wondering why you didn’t notice the neon signs he was shining while he was screwing your yoga class friend in the lotus position? And, looking back on it now, why in the hell was he going to swim at the YMCA wearing Drakkar Noir?

 

If you marry a man who cheats on his wife, you’ll be married to a man who cheats on his wife.—Ann Landers

 

Even the brightest of us don’t always see what’s going on right under our noses. It’s because of one glaring and gratuitously egotistical reason: We don’t want to. Our egos are so much more sensitive and delicate than our hearts. The thought of rejection, the fear of being alone, and the anxiety of having to get "out there" again and date are just too much to handle. You make "sensitivity concessions" with yourself for his sake and yours. You’ve already invested so many of these concessions in the relationship: You made peace with his farting, his smelly sock-balls, and his sexual insecurities long ago.

 

But most of our sensitivity concessions are fragile. Unlike the dead French president François Mitterrand’s wife, we have to apply a "handle with care" label when it comes to our own feelings. When President Mitterrand died, his wife attended the funeral stoically. Also in attendance were the dead president’s mistress and illegitimate daughter. Talk about leaving this world a "bitter" place. Zut alors!

 

There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.—Diana, Princess of Wales, on Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, in a BBC1 Panorama interview

 

The Cheat Is On

 

This chapter will shed some light on cheating because both those men who are about to dump you and those men who are cheating on you frequently exhibit similar behavior. Of course, the cheater often wants you back. The affair is usually a sideshow event that he knows should come to an end, and when it does, he may even feel a euphoric sensation that highlights his feelings for you and may cause him to be overly erotic or lovey-dovey around you in the immediate aftermath.

 

Love is a game in which one always cheats.—Honoré de Balzac

 

He may, of course, also try to blame it on the fact that studies have come out that it’s just part of his genetic makeup. A 2008 study by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found that there’s a gene, AVPR1A, which literally messes with a guy’s head—it affects a brain chemical. It’s a gene that’s very similar in humans and voles, and explains why certain types of voles are monogamous, and why others aren’t. Ditto for human men. If they have the gene (and supposedly 40 percent of men do), chances are they’ll end up cheating, or at least unable to commit. That’s one helluva excuse—imagine how many guys are running around to find some doctors to help them prove they’ve got just that!

 

In the long run, if he’s cheating on you, for whatever reason, things will either come to a sledgehammer of an ending or are going to be super crappy between you two for a long time. But if you’re willing to try to rectify things in order to salvage your relationship—which many people do, whether because they have kids together, a house together, or simply feelings they can’t erase—it’s not something you can always fix with Dr. Phil, couple’s pornography, or home cooking. Especially when you realize that when boys start playing in another backyard, they come home only wanting to see more of the neighborhood.

 

Maybe he’ll realize his mistake and not make the same one twice. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking; perhaps it’s possible. But in this book, we’re not giving him the benefit of the doubt. We’re going with the more realistic notion that he needs a little reminding of what it means to mess with you.

 

The Lying, Stinking, Cheating Populace

 

Thinking Ahead

 

Catherine Zeta-Jones is rumored to have an infidelity clause in her prenup with Michael Douglas stating that he has to pay her millions if he ever cheats.

 

The numbers on who is cheating are all over the place: some, many, fewer than expected, off the charts. These huge disparities may be due to people’s highly flexible definitions of "cheating" (is a blow job considered a sexual infraction?) or to the fact that many people don’t provide honest answers when asked about their sex lives. It’s not like an exit poll on Election Day. Some people just may not be ready to relinquish that information, no matter how confidential the questionnaire. As one New York Times article, "Love, Sex and the Changing Landscape of Infidelity," suggests, "Surveys conducted in person are likely to underestimate the real rate of adultery, because people are reluctant to admit such behavior not just to their spouses but to anyone." So the facts on adultery have never been completely clear.

 

When cheated, wife or husband feels the same.—Euripides

 

Before 1988, national statistics were limited to fertility-related behavior and to sexual behavior in adolescence. According to Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey and director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Society at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), "It really was only the advent of AIDS and the heightened public policy need to have good solid statistics on adult sexual behavior that led to the increased data collection on that topic." Don’t blame the National Security Administration, but scientists have been able to do a bit more sex research than they could before and gain access to more truthful answers.

 

I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.—President Bill Clinton

 

Whatever the numbers, one thing is clear: People cheat. But according to the March 2006 NORC survey, "American Sexual Behavior," the "facts" on extramarital affairs are more hotly disputed than the findings on any other area of human behavior. This is the result of pop-psychology experts and magazines, which conduct their own "studies" on sexual behavior in the United States. "These studies typically find an extremely high level of extramarital activity. They also often claim that extramarital relations have become much more common over time. In actual fact, the data indicates much more stability than change," says Smith. "Three to four percent of currently married people have a sexual partner besides their spouse in a given year, and fifteen to eighteen percent of ever-married people have had a sexual partner other than their spouse while married" (according to a 1994 journal article by Robert T. Michael, Edward O. Laumann, and John H. Gagnon). That means that if you’re in a room with ten people, one of them has put his hose in the wrong garden and another person is probably planting a seed.

 

I have good-looking kids. Thank goodness my wife cheats on me.—Rodney Dangerfield

 

However, one thing does appear to have changed: As Smith states, "There is some indication of a narrowing of the gap between men and women on the level of extramarital relationship." With more women getting out of the house to go to work, and sexual taboos becoming a thing of the past (with the help of TV shows such as Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives), women are feeling more entitled to a little bit of their own fun. Or maybe they’ve always cheated just as much but were better at lying about it. According to private investigator Vinny Parco, owner of Intercontinental Investigations and star of the Court TV show Parco PI, another reason women cheat is "they’re bored." As Parco explains: "Their husbands are not noticing them anymore or taking care of them. Or they caught their husband years ago cheating and now it’s their turn. It’s revenge." Touché.

 

However, there have been studies that have shown at least women are much better at sensing potential "threats" (hot guys other than their mates) and have the ability to recognize when they should make the effort to protect their relationships. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal developed a study that revealed that women literally had alarms going off in their heads if they found themselves flirting (which could lead to cheating), while men, on the other hand, barely seemed to notice that they might be flirting with disaster. The conclusion was made that men need some training so that they learn how to avoid finding themselves surrounded by a bevy of beauties while out with friends, all while their significant other is doing their laundry and waiting for them to come home.

 

Mr. Zhang Bin is having an illicit relationship with a woman other than me.—Hu Ziwei, wife of Zhang Bin, a popular Chinese TV sportscaster. Hu Ziwei busted into the Beijing Olympics press conference, making her announcement for the whole world to hear.

 

MSNBC.com and iVillage conducted a survey in February 2007, getting responses from more than 70,000 readers during a two-week period. "Three-quarters told us they were in a committed relationship and the majority of participants have been with their current partner for at least 12 years. Fifty-four percent were men, with an average age of 43; 46 percent were women, 38 was their average age."

 

According to their study, nearly half of the men and women surveyed had cheated. "Twenty-two percent of people have cheated on their current partner, but only 4 percent are in the middle of an affair."

 

Flowers Are a Wife’s Divorce Attorney’s Best Friend

 

Leroy Greer from Texas sued 1-800-Flowers, claiming a "breach of contract" because he had specifically asked that no documentation be sent to his home when he ordered flowers for his mistress. But months later, the Internet flower delivery business sent him a thank-you note, and his wife—from whom he was separated at the time—found it. Although the couple was already in the middle of a divorce, this episode definitely punctuated their marriage and hit his wallet—she’s asking for a hell of a lot more money now with the proof of infidelity on her side.

 

According to the Ashley Madison Agency (www.ashley madison.com), a Web site that promotes infidelity and has slogans that include "When Monogamy Becomes Monotony" and "Life Is Short, Have an Affair," "50 to 60 percent of men and 40 to 50 percent of women will engage in an extramarital affair or romantic tryst at some point." They also point out that 50 percent of Americans said, "President Clinton’s adultery makes his moral standard about the same as [that of] the average married man."

 

So, if you go by those numbers, when you walk past five people—male or female—on any given day, you can take it to the bank that at least two of them have been "sexually barnstorming."

 

Miller’s Double-Crossing

 

Everyone and their mother knows Jude Law cheated on his former fiancée actress Sienna Miller with his children’s nanny. But after calling off the engagement, Miller found a way to forgive Law, patch things up, and then apparently get back at him—by "hanging out" with the latest 007, Daniel Craig. Law and Miller then went kaput.

 

The Politicians

 

As an illustration of how cheating happens in every walk of life, let’s check out a high-profile arena, in which one would assume that cheating would be curbed due to the elevated risk of getting caught: politics. When a lawmaker gets busted with his pants (or her skirt) wrapped around his ankles, it’s splashed on the front pages. You’d think that’d be incentive enough to stop any sort of office sex play, right? Wrong.

 

Here are just a few examples of politicians recently in the spotlight for pork-barreling women—and men—who aren’t their wives:

 

While campaigning for the presidency, preaching moral values and putting his devotion to his cancer-stricken wife on display, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards got busted for having an affair with a filmmaker who was documenting his campaign. (Despite Edwards’s denials, rumors also swirled that he had fathered her child.)

 

Former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey came out of the closet and admitted he had cheated on his wife with another man. Later on, he claimed that she participated in threesomes with him and his lover, but she denied it.

 

Client Number 9 (aka former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer) dipped his icicle into a $1,000-an-hour call girl’s SnoCone while he was busting prostitution rings and proving to be a hard-liner on crime. He was hard, all right.

 

Reverend Ted Haggard, former president of the National Evangelical Association, regularly condemned homosexuality. But then he was accused of having sex with another man— who also happened to be his meth dealer.

 

How about U.S. Senator Larry Craig, who was caught red-footed playing footsie in a bathroom stall with a man who turned out to be an undercover police officer.

 

While former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was blasting President Clinton for playing around with Monica Lewinsky, he was cheating on his wife as well. You have to understand: Infidelity is very bipartisan.

 

Which of course brings us to the godfather of infidelity, former president Bill Clinton, who was doing more than actually smoking the presidential cigars in his chambers with Monica.

 

CNN found that Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman in America. Women admire her because she’s strong and successful. Men admire her because she allows her husband to cheat and get away with it.—Jay Leno

 

The Thinkers

 

Believe me, to seek a quarrel with a man is a bad method of pleasing the woman who loves that man.—Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

 

To move away from politics and turn toward a more philosophical approach to the concept of cheating, there are those who, like the French novelist Marcel Proust, believe that the threat of infidelity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but rather the secret to a long-lasting relationship. "Adultery introduces spirit into what otherwise might have been the dead letter of marriage," Proust poetically mused. "A woman one loves rarely suffices for all our needs, so we deceive her with another whom we do not love."

 

And while you may want to jump to the conclusion that all men are egomaniacal pigs, some women follow that same pattern of thought. Anthropologist Margaret Mead suggested that monogamy is an extremely tricky practice. "Monogamous heterosexual love is probably one of the most difficult, complex, and demanding of human relationships," she said—even when it came to her own life (she was married three times). "I do feel I’ve given monogamy—in an absolute sense—a pretty fair trial—and found it wanting."

 

Parrotting Love

 

One parrot made things a little complicated for Suzy Collins when he began squawking, "I love you, Gary" and "Hi Gary" whenever her phone would ring—all in front of her boyfriend (and the parrot’s owner), Chris Taylor. Turns out, Suzy had been having an affair with her ex-colleague Gary, and had had him over numerous times in the apartment she shared with Chris. When things fluttered to light, the girlfriend moved out, and soon enough, Chris also had

 

to get rid of his bird since it wouldn’t stop calling out Gary’s name.

 

There are those who find monogamy to be flat-out boring, more a recognition of some fundamental failure of the imagination than a virtue. Oscar Wilde chimed, "Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies." Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter are among our great works of literature. Perhaps it’s no accident that their protagonists are all caught up in tempestuous, catastrophic, adulterous affairs.

 

That’s the common thread in all their stories, and it seems to pertain to everyday life as well. Why can’t we remain in marital bliss and not have to suffer? Is there really no escape from experiencing the trials and tribulations of a love that strays? Why is it so rare to find the "happily married after" with no bumps, potholes, or near-fatal relationship accidents such as infidelity along the road?

 

The woman who is adulterous in her own home must always remember one thing—put the seat down.—William Cole

 

Writer Claire Booth Luce once said, "There’s nothing like a good dose of another woman to make a man appreciate his wife." But this is just a dispassionate theory on adultery. A writer’s philosophy is probably the furthest thing from your mind when you find out your husband has been poking someone else’s pie.

 

Husbands are chiefly good as lovers when they are be traying their wives.—Marilyn Monroe

 

So what happens once the red-lettered elep

 

hant called infidelity is in the room? According to iVillage and MSNBC.com, 13 percent of women and 18 percent of men decided to forget about it and stayed together. Forty-four percent of women and 37 percent of men couldn’t get over it and left their partner. Eleven percent of the women who cheated said it was to get even with the spouse for something he did, while only 5 percent of men could say it was for revenge.

 

Is Monogamy Natural?

 

In The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People, David Barash and Judith Lipton remind us that monogamy is rare in animals. The only monogamous primates? The marmoset and tamarin monkeys.

 

Whatever the percentages are, it’s time to get the down and dirty facts on what’s going on in your "other half’s" life when he’s not around you. You don’t need an eyepiece, a pipe, and a trench coat to figure it out, but you may have to tap into the sleuth region of your brain in order to discover the truth.

 

Excerpted from The Down and Dirty Dish on Revenge by Eva Nagorski.
Copyright © 2009 by Eva Nagorski.
Published by St. Martin’s Press.

 

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