Before I throw Gina Frangello into the jaws of the Universal Bullshit Translator, let me just rattle off a few ways being a mistress (per AP Style: lov-ah, companion, fuck-puppet) is the most retrograde, sexist thing imaginable.
1.) Pick me dancing to “win” a cheater is abasing yourself. Powerful women don’t make competing for a fuckboy the center of their existence. You’re not turning the tables on the patriarchy — you’re sucking its dick. You’re a side show contestant hoping to be found worthy. Alice Paul didn’t starve herself so you could take selfies with your married boyfriend, okay?
2.) You are colluding in abuse. You can’t cheat without chumping someone. You are risking another woman’s health, mental well-being, her family life. She didn’t consent. The secrecy and deception that gives your “relationship” the frisson of danger that you enjoy, you enjoy at HER expense. That isn’t Universal Sisterhood, it’s Vichy, France.
3.) Swapping out one set of entitlements and abuse for another doesn’t make you liberated, it makes you the oppressor. Just because men have been able to fuck around with impunity for centuries doesn’t make it right, or something to aspire to. Yes, women are fully human, with all the flaws and vices therein. And they get called names men don’t get called. And that has NOTHING to do with abusing others. You enjoy furtive orgasms and feelings of unearned superiority? Don’t call it liberation. Or self-actualization. Call it what it is — pathetic. You’re sticking it to a chump, that makes YOU the bad guy.
Now to the UBT. This might take an extra helping of lebkuchen…
Who is Gina Frangello? She’s wrote a recent memoir “Blow Your House Down — A Story of Family, Feminism and Treason” about her long-term affair.
She eventually marries this dream boat, and wrote a breathy piece about her pandemic Zoom wedding for Psychology Today (WTF Psychology Today? We’re doing Vow sections now?)
By then, we were a year deep into a passionate and clandestine extramarital affair.
We had both been married forever—two decades, give or take a few years, apiece. Although our marital relationships were radically different from one another’s, neither of us had ever cheated on our spouses prior to our affair. We spent some three years “ending it” with one another but repeatedly falling back together before finally, reconciled at last to our inability to cleave, we each confessed to our spouses. Though we of course expected devastating fallouts, in retrospect we had little idea how wide-ranging and brutal the fallouts would truly be.
Rob lived in LA. His literary, music, and recovery communities were all in Southern California, as well as an almost constant sunshine that helped the depression that was a frequent byproduct of his ultradian bipolar disorder. I lived in Chicago with my three kids and the two elderly parents I’d been caretaking for nearly a decade.
Yes, he’s a bipolar addict musician who lives thousands of miles away. You know this is going to end well.
Now that those introductions are out of the way… the blurb.
Blow Your House Down is a powerful testimony about the ways our culture seeks to cage women in traditional narratives of self-sacrifice and erasure. Frangello uses her personal story to examine the place of women in contemporary society: the violence they experience, the rage they suppress, the ways their bodies often reveal what they cannot say aloud, and finally, what it means to transgress “being good” in order to reclaim your own life.
Nothing like being a side piece for years, the person you can’t introduce to anyone, to combat that erasure and self-sacrifice narrative.
Yes, the only way to reclaim one’s life is to transgress. Consider therapeutic school shootings. Hey, I had suppressed rage!
“Underlying this generous and intimate personal history is a censure of the broad cultural suppression (and demonization) of women’s rage, passion, and autonomy; and the gleeful eagerness to punish women who have transgressed. Frangello presents rationalizations for her actions, but she isn’t asking to be excused: This isn’t so much about seeking absolution—though she knows she’s being judged—as much as it’s about reclaiming a story that is too easily appropriated and rewritten by outsiders, often through a lens of misogyny. It’s a powerful, electric testimony.” —Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed
Judging is misogyny. Fucking your husband, not so much.
A is for Adulteress
But you knew that. There is virtually no history of literature without the Adulteress. Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, Edna Pontellier, Hester Prynne, Daisy Buchanan, Molly Bloom. The adulteress throws herself in front of a train, runs over her husband’s lover with a car, walks into the ocean intent on dying without a care for her children. A is for Adulteress, Agent of Ruin. Woman.
A is for Average.
But you knew that. There is virtually no history without the dumb side piece. The conspiratorial mean girl who would screw her friend’s boyfriend. The thirsty Adult Friend Finder ad placer, whose no-strings-attached-sex offerings make her special. The aging cheerleader with the 80s blowout who has more self-regard than sense. A is for average, agent of suburbia, banal.
A is for Ancient
Various recent studies using extensive data from online dating sites have revealed that women’s perceived attractiveness by men hits its highest point at the age of eighteen and declines steadily thereafter (Elizabeth Burch), and that the peak age of women’s attractiveness is somewhere around twenty-two or twenty-three (Christian Rudder). According to Rudder, co-founder of OkCupid, “Younger is better and youngest is best of all.” For men, by contrast, attractiveness seems to increase steadily with age, peaking somewhere between forty-six and fifty.
Given these “facts,” one might wonder what irrational force could possibly have prompted A to believe that she still matters enough for all this fuss to begin with—for all this inconveniencing of other, upstanding people who had expectations of and plans involving her? Just look at the way she’s carrying on, as though she honestly doesn’t realize she is statistically Unfuckable anyway.
I’m not a narcissist, I’m a warrior against agism. You said I don’t matter? Watch me matter as I fuck around on my husband for years. Which inconveniences him. The way chopping off your arm inconveniences your tennis game.
Don’t mind the fuss. I had to prove I was fuckable. Apparently your devotion and sex, Husband, was not enough validity.
The UBT is tired. Read the Psychology Today piece if you want to learn about Gina’s breast cancer and Rob’s wife’s breast cancer and how he shuttled between them both because he CARES!
It’s interesting that Rob’s wife is just an illustration of how Super Awesome Rob is. Who got erased here?