Ashley Madison: For people who aren’t meant to have affairs.

Is it just me or does anyone else think the name ‘Ashley Madison’ has the dull thud of suburban monotone? The Ashley Madison affair is for people who feel safe shopping at Marks and Spencer and nowhere else. It will be organised and all the ingredients will be there, but there will be no fun in obtaining it or using it.

There are two kinds of people who have affairs: those who are meant to have them and those who are not. It really is that simple. People who need to use a site to have an affair are not meant to have an affair. People who find themselves drawn to a site with a name that sounds like a hair replacement clinic, probably deserve everything they get. This is not a moral judgement: I am a woman whose morals loosen occasionally and I don’t do guilt (the mark of a true hedonist surely). I am simply pointing out that if you need to decide to have an affair and then go online to search for it, you are not having an affair in the right spirit. Ergo this is not an affair by my reckoning, it is sex with someone you met online. To call this an affair is just wrong.

An affair works best if it’s unexpected. This is what fuels it in the first place.  The fact that you were walking home from work and happened to stop for a glass of wine and a few pages of your book only to find yourself having dinner with a man who decided not to meet the people he is supposed to meet because he’s now talking to you, well that’s already a lot of fun. You did not plan this, you did not contrive to look for someone: in fact on this night of all nights you were in the least glamorous frame of mind. You actually sat down with a big frown on your face.  And suddenly, within half an hour of sitting on a stool at a restaurant counter a man has walked in, smiled and it has all changed. So now the night is progressing and he’s asking for your number. There is no ring but you know he’s married because you are the kind of person who is meant to have affairs. He takes your number and he says, enigmatically, “I’ll be back in the country soon.” You don’t kiss: real affairs begin with the fuse gently burning, they rarely explode out of the blocks. You don’t walk home; in fact you don’t remember how you got home but you feel much lighter than you did before you arrived at the restaurant. Because you are the kind of person who is meant to have affairs you don’t ask when he’s coming back; if he turns up then you’ll deal with it. And you do.

It turns into an affair, a very sexy, passionate affair but that is not the only thing that distinguishes it from an online contrivance. Neither of you need to discuss that is what it is. When he flies you to Boston for a few days, he loans you his spare mobile phone which happens to have the numbers of everyone in his family on it. He knows, without saying, you will not use it. That is because you, and he, are meant to have affairs. You have no interest in marrying him or him you: the affair is a pleasure all its own, a relationship that has its own exclusive place. Both of you already have your codes of behaviour and they are compatible which is why you are both people who can have affairs. There is never guilt, nervousness or any hint of sneaking around. It is not cheap or tawdry. It is what adults do (or choose not to) if they have the choice. You do not ask where it leads as that is not the point. It has it’s own pleasure. And pain. But it’s worth it if you understand what it is and just go with it.

It takes a certain brain to understand all of this. I am not sure this mindset is present in the people who sign up for Ashley Madison or similar sites. To be desperate enough to risk your marriage by advertising yourself on a site, well frankly it just cheapens the affair. And if you say that’s what an affair is, then you have never have never had one. You had something, but it wasn’t an affair.

5 comments for “Ashley Madison: For people who aren’t meant to have affairs.

  1. Charlene
    September 6, 2015 at 18:14

    Reading thru your archives. Should I say again you are amazing? Great article (I’m not the affair type at this point, and when I might have been, was too emotionally immature to have handled it as you suggest). But your point is well taken!

    • woe
      September 7, 2015 at 06:28

      I am trying to get noticed but it seems that while people smile and laugh and say wow great writing (which they never say about Stella) they say ‘Oh too clever’. I reckon I’d go down better in the States.

      • Aurelia
        September 7, 2015 at 13:47

        Really, you think so? I can’t help thinking that the States seemed, generally speaking, very prudish when I lived there. Prudish and so basic in sexual tastes. And the British are too repressed to properly appreciate. Perhaps. Darn, it’s a problem! What if you played “the French card”? Have you noticed how many books came out that teach the North American women or the British ones how to be as slim, as elegant, as perfectly housewifey, or just as perfect altogehter as the French ones? LOL, none of these books is actually written by a French woman, et pour cause! It’s just a knowledgeable (or supposedly so, anyway) wink at the public that already has a certain association in mind…

  2. K.
    September 24, 2015 at 20:06

    I’m a mid-twenties woman who somehow let herself be shanghaied from a no-strings, friends with benefits affair into this emotionally exhausting and exclusive relationship with a guy who has a live-in girlfriend. It’s actually all so much more ludicrous than that… Somehow, I’ve rediscovered a forgotten part of myself in your writing and I can feel it awakening with jubilance.

    So, from an oft-faceless lurker, thank you 🙂

    • woe
      September 24, 2015 at 21:20

      I’m so glad you wrote as well as lurked. It’s so easy to think you’re the only one having the relationship, non-relationship. I had one for three years. We were intellectually and sexually compatible but he was a sociopath. But we had fun together so it kept going. As for ludicrous, I’m coming to the point where I think the whole game is ludicrous.

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