On Being the ‘Other Woman’.
Secrets. We keep secrets.
I met him at my thinnest, which means I could fit into long black trousers, good for interviews, and wedge heels (not too sexy, elegant, cheap but could fly with an interview with men who didn’t look down). I could tuck my white vest back then into those trousers, and add another white top over. I was chic, and pure!
But, as dried out as a raisin from my previous job. Although, I left that behind when I walked in for my interview with Him and a consultant HR manager, I came alive. I liked them. Liked their maleness. Liked the position of being asked questions now, because I didn’t have to do the question-asking anymore.
I was a consultant. About to manage a project I had no clue about, or what to do, or how to do it. But I had the belief (insert rolling eyes).
He was masculine, and dark, and tall (he was, I promise you, Cinderella!) and wore square slightly nerdy glasses, and had hair, which is unusual for a man over 40. I thought he was gay, so felt even safer. He didn’t talk much. Easier to project wise silence onto him than the friendly, wonderful, over-the-top chatty HR man.
I knew I did well at that interview. I liked interviews. Liked the questions. It always felt like a bar chat, in which I was being almost picked up metaphorically because normally I find I am the one asking the questions, taking the lead. It felt nice to be led, and connect.
We slept together, more drunk than a bar put together, about 3.5 months later, just before Christmas. I think that was the day before I fell and injured the other finger, on the other hand — this time not a sprain while trail-running, but smashed *Sigh* falling off the restaurant walkway before we took a taxi to bed.
Sigh isn’t true. Nor is the sleeping together. That means you must sleep in the bed together, surely? He doesn’t leave at 2 am and go back to his wife? Or does it mean you have intercourse, which I don’t remember? I just remember taking my clothes off, in my little flat, and having good underwear on, and he told me how beautiful I was. That was the most important moment. And the moment he left.
More on him later.
He wasn’t, one can tell, gay. Whatever that means. But for a little too-brief while, he was mine. All his humor, his crinkly eyes, his dull silences, his wonderful stories, his spontaneity, his measured decision-making — all of that was mine. It was the first time I cared more, in the most honest way possible, for myself than his wife. I wanted him so.
I wanted the magic that lit my everything up to fire again, and kept the color in my life. It had been so grey. And he didn’t make it change color. I had started changing it before him, but just for a short while. He made the soft colors turn into fireworks.
I came alive, and he fell (I think) a little bit in love with that aliveness, which was fueled by our friendship and his eye contact with me. It was honest.
It was honest until it was not honest.
On being the other woman. It has taken a bit of regurgitating of the past in this post, to get to the point. Words have drifted into a foggy but at times crystallized memory of what happened in that time with Him. It happens in affairs. So, I want to clarify what for me has been the definition of the other woman.
Fuck that. I am a woman. All the blogs, all the counselors speak of the male cheating; the wife left and betrayed; the stalking mistress. None of them have spoken to me. I am a woman, who was the other woman, for far too short a time. Heard of that before?
It was not my choice to keep it that length of time — it was his. I am also a good woman: a Catholic at birth, christened, and did all my communions and catechisms and even one singular confession (except for this — my second!).
So, as a good woman, I just want to write how incredibly painful it is to love someone you know belongs to someone else. And how much you hope, but don’t hope because you might respect and pray for her, love his children (even if with her) and admire him as a father.
How you even offer to be the best step-mom they could have.
It will work, won’t it? My friend once said: After an affair, the first marriage is over. If they stay together, it will be as a second marriage (paraphrase).
I was scared that would happen. I wanted his marriage to be over, but my spiritual aspiring self wanted their second marriage to happen. Wanted them to stay together as a family, almost as much as I wanted him to start another with me.
What does it mean to be good? To me it meant spiritual alignment.
He later told me I had barren philosophy. But the barren philosophy response to my much later enraged Whatsapps didn’t really reflect truth. I didn’t feel it was philosophy. All along, it was my attempt to be spiritual rather than my base human self.
It was good to want the best for him and his family. It was spiritually good. It was also in conflict with the Me that wanted him for me. Me with a capital M. So, I wasn’t good, but in my spirit I was good. I wanted him to love me, make love to me, in ways I would remember.
And when he realized in his sobriety, maybe with his little ones climbing on him at 6 am one morning soon after that weekend, it was over. And I was left with my not-goodness. My raw, embarrassed, desperate self.
Shitballs. I did it all. the desperate stuff, and later found a replacement Him, and did the other stuff. That’s for another article.
And now, like many months prior, I am trying to find what this goodness means. Am I good? I don’t know.
I want to be good. I want to be like that clever Mary Oliver poem, about not needing to be good, even if you crawl on your knees for decades. But what I do know is that I am not the bad that Google has told me. I spent nights Googling what it must feel like to be the other woman, and found zilch. Just You’re shit.
I don’t feel so spiritual towards those bloggers and psychologists who often write for the wife, not the non-wife. I am not bad. I am not someone you would imagine maybe to have an affair. I am known for compassion, for years in non-profit work, mentoring young people across racial divides.
Sigh for real. Not the one who would meet Him in the restaurant to end it, and instead end with a sprained pinkie and in bed with him and his softness (as in, soft everywhere, although that was not why I was really with him that night).
He was never my home (or was he?) but it was a beautiful little home of love to hope in, even just for a summer/winter of my life. This wonderful poet, Nayyirah Waheed, just sticks it with every word.
Alex O’Donoghue is a South African Irish 30-something. She has just broken through her fear of writing and being judged. In the courage light, she is starting to submit her voice. She loves cats, coffee, learning to be embodied, and community of high-quality people. She has a weird laugh, laughs a lot and can’t click. You could contact her via Miss Muse.