Friday, 20 April 2007


I have read a few books on infidelity recently. Two of them are Whatever Love Means by David Baddiel and Life Before Men by Margaret Atwood. The thing about infedility I realise is that though it is wrong and despicable on one hand, it feels right and not sinful on the other. And I think the tragedy lies in this: one would willingly feed one's self to the temptation, despite knowing that it is wrong, so as to fill in the hollowness occupying the soul and therefore choose to the option of ignoring the consequence altogether, and allowing one's self to thrive on sins and pathos with the hope of finding some right in the wrong. I also see it as a way of self condemnation; deliberately destructing one's own set of moral beliefs and hence one's self.

It is rather sad that people choose to cheat on their partner. And the reason for them doing so varies and hard to comprehend. Atwood offers the explanation that is it due to the the social upbringing of a child. In her novel, she gave extensive and detail description of her protagonist's, Elizabeth, childhood.

Elizabeth grew up in a family where she seldom feel love. Her aunt, Aunt Muriel, is often in the picture though it is not her business to intervene. She is harsh and incorrigible. She treats almost everyone, especially her husband, badly. She wants to be in control all the time. Thus clearly explains Elizabeth lack of freedom. Hence when she found Nate, a loving and dedicated person she fell in love with him and the two of them got married. However, having met Chris she finds herself attracted to him. She feels that he can make her feel more like a woman. He can satisfy her more. She decides to have an affair with him despite having two adorable girls with Nate. She is clearly strongly attached to Chris as can be seen from her fatalistic behaviour after the death of Chris, for some unknown reason. She felt sick and unworthy most of the time. Surpringly, Nate stood by her despite knowing about the affair.

However a few years after the death of Chris, Nate found Lesje (pronounced as Lasha). Lesje is a museum curator for dinosaurs and is married to William. What first began as fling grew into deep affectionate. They began seeing each other when their spouses are not at home. It is probably Nate's way of getting his revenge on Elizabeth, but their attraction spun out of hand causing them to be entangled in a web. And when Elizabeth knows about this, she seduces William. Having only sexual relationship with him. And the four of them continue behaving as such till one day, almost simultaneously, all of them feel guilty and foolish. Nate left Lesje, after separating from Elizabeth. Elizabeth abandon her own family and seek her own solace. Lesje stayed with William, with guilt clinging on her.

In Whatever Love Means, the complexity of the love triangle of three friends and the interesting "connection between sex and death, love and loyalty" (The Times) that Baddiel tries to establish not only add to the morbidity of the story but also the realisation of their wrong doings has a profound effect on the reader more so than the characters themselves. That is probably why I felt compelled, the point that Baddiel tries to convey got to me. At the end of the story, Joe simply forgives Vic for sleeping with his wife, Emma, and passing AIDS to her though Vic is already married to Tess; instead of the wrathful vengeance we expect Joe to have for Vic. This lack of animosity between the two is, interestingly, peculiar.

Although Vic and Joe are best friends, I don't think the Joe's nonchalant take on the matter has got anything to do with their friendship. He did confront Vic after he has abduct his friend, but just so that he could get the truth. It is most probably because he realised that Emma loves Vic more, and the two of them will be seeing each other very soon. Thus he felt compelled to forgive his friend and his wife. Baddiel did give an extensive inside to Vic's background. And from it the reader can gather that Vic's character is rather weird. He has a strong sense of attraction for bikes and guitars that is almost sexual.

Hence, the other reason why people cheat on the partners is probably due to psychological reasons as well.

Nonetheless, I am no trained psychologist. And the texts I chose were not written by psychologists either. Nevetheless, just like them, I too am curious and puzzled that such unethical behaviour is done by adults who are supposedly our mentors, teachers and role models. Yet they scold teenagers for sleeping around, giving the reason that it is immoral. However, it is only a handful of those adults, and teeangers, who are guilty as charged. Still I cannot get why they have to do it albeit the reasons Atwood and Badiel have tried to put forward. I am still not convinced. I guess it's very complicated, something a youngster wouldn't understand. Can't they settle for a "menage-a-trois"?

Love y'all.

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