Lisa Taddeo, cheating, power and sexy ladies!*

* – I mostly just threw in that last bit for the hysterical Google search terms that will show up in my stats. Maybe.

I have no idea who Lisa Taddeo is, first of all. The fact that I’m even blogging about her just shows you how derivative the Internet is. A friend sends a link of this Jezebel piece that’s skewering Taddeo’s Esquire piece – and I am right in that place where my stamina is too low for work and too high for just gazing out the window and muttering curses about the un-spring-like weather, so I read both. And while there’s plenty to make fun of in Taddeo’s piece (she writes sentences like “…her blond tresses cascading murderously across the tile like southern blood” – which is… No. Seriously, no. Though it might have worked without that last part about the blood, i.e., it might have worked if the editor were paying attention), there’s some to think about as well, because buried amongst Taddeo’s lulzy metaphors is kind of an important point:

Why is marriage still so important – particularly in urban, cosmopolitan America? Because a whole lot of people have fun destroying it as a concept. In fact, they have so much fun destroying it, that once it’s destroyed, they reanimate its corpse so they can quickly go to town on it again. And people who solve their own insecurity issues by challenging monogamous norms are doing it in such a way as to prop the entire institution up.

I don’t know if Taddeo is self-aware enough in her piece to understand that this is what she is effectively doing. She talks about sleeping with other people’s husbands and fiances because it places her “crudely, smilingly, on the side of the winners” – i.e., makes her feel powerful. She takes particular glee in zeroing in on the weaknesses of other people’s relationships – “every time I meet a married woman, I think about the things she does that likely annoy her husband” – because it places her in an advantageous position. It’s like engaging in long range combat from a comfortable hideout vs. going in for messy melee attacks, if I can be permitted my own lulzy metaphor for a second. It’s very, very easy to ridicule other people’s relationships, because it’s not as if you’re in them, taking damage.

Finally, Taddeo sets herself up as the hot chick who triumphs over the pathetic wives of the men she bangs – because she’s hotter and more profound and reads David Foster Wallace out loud by gleaming pools of water – which is important, because you have to examine how she gets her validation in this instance. A woman a guy risks his marriage for has to be hot by default – but only if marriage itself remains important, both as a general concept and to the guy in question. If you couldn’t give a crap about your wife finding out that you’re boning some other woman on the side – then you might as well just bone anyone! And Lisa Taddeo isn’t just anyone, dammit.

The entire premise of Taddeo’s article, the Truth about Why We Cheat, the sort of thing that Ordinary People probably Cannot Handle, has to do with a kind of languorous tug-o-war about different values we place on different things. Remove the conflict from it, and it ceases to be that interesting.

Having been the Other Woman who once upon a time wrote tedious essays about the drama and the hotness of it (I may still inflict some of them on the world if I ever write a memoir. But will make sure to get a better editor. My evil knows some bounds), I do wish that Taddeo has taken the time to self-examine a bit more, instead of merely going for a catchy turn of phrase. She talks about the death of her parents having possibly affected her, but doesn’t seem interested in the  how and why. Mostly she just revels in secret knowledge (i.e., I know I’m sleeping with your husband, bitch, and you don’t! Mwahaha!) and the fact that she is, at the very least, not the woman who’s in the kitchen alone, waiting for her husband to come back from God-knows-where, and imagining all sorts of unpleasant scenarios. It’s like being an assassin or a sorceress or something awesome like that.

If you’re afraid of losing the people you love – or loving anyone to begin with – you’re probably not going to want a relationship which is as simple and as scary as involving two people making some kind of commitment to one another, particularly if said commitment is public. If you’re afraid of growing older, grayer, saggier and increasingly sexually irrelevant – then you might, as Taddeo does, argue for “Wild Moments” in which you are the glamorous temptress, rather than a dowdy, trusting, familiar companion. If you already know, in your heart, that happiness ends – then it might as well end for everyone. You want to be the wrecking ball tearing through the house whose foundation is already rotted through. Wrecking balls don’t have feelings.

And in a nation where the media now presents images of people so flawless that they might as well be cyborgs, where mortality is rejected and acting your age, past a certain point, is seen as giving up – being a mistress or even the accidental “crumpet on the side” is probably a helluva lot more comforting than being in the thick of things. And because marriage is sacred, everyone, people all over the world, knows that you can’t just say, “I’m bored” or “I need a break” or “Something is seriously wrong here.” Well, not most of the time, anyway. Most people’s choices come down to suffering in silence or cheating on the sly.

Because I’ve been in Taddeo’s position, I can honestly say that nobody knowingly gets into such an arrangement, where you’re someone else’s secret, unless you have something to prove. I think a lot of pathologically nice people who seek approval actually crave this position from time to time – you can be the bad guy, without a whole lot of effort on your part. Knowing this, I’m actually pretty sympathetic to where Taddeo is coming from – or would be, if Taddeo took herself just a little less seriously in this piece. Once again, I get that her parents died – and I don’t know how much digging within herself a person in her position can handle. Maybe going before a national audience and laying out this stuff under the guise of “I’m going to tell you sheltered people the truth about infidelity” wasn’t such a good idea. Or maybe Taddeo just really couldn’t give a crap, dunno.

If you’re the neurotic writer sort – cheating is like living inside a novel! A bad one, maybe, but still. If you’re an Other Woman, for example, you might even run into the Man and his Official Woman in public – and then gleefully flirt with other men right then and there, only to raise your eyebrows imperiously when he confronts you about it later. “Darling,” you’ll say, imagining yourself to be Joan Crawford. “Don’t be so tediously hypocritical.” The plot will practically write itself! As someone who has lived through all that – and then ended up marrying one fine day, and having a baby on yet another fine day, I can safely say that yes, it’s the latter position that makes you more vulnerable. You have a lot more to lose. And you don’t have nearly as much time to write – let alone to condition your hair and stuff (Taddeo is all about the hair) – with a baby around.

But you make your choices in life – and you roll with them, for better or for worse. You take responsibility. You don’t blame everything on a Tom Waits song on the jukebox (for real?). Though there is comfort in knowing that someone with a reasonably crazy past has an easier time staying in and playing “Skyrim” with a baby sleeping and dreaming at their breast – or so I’ve discovered about myself, anyway. I’ve discovered I’m capable of more love than I thought I could handle – which. is. awesome.

And if you are going to go to that level of the game,  incidentally, you ought not cancel the crazy completely. I almost feel like that’s the real mistake so many couples make, and what Taddeo may essentially be writing about. I just wish she wasn’t so damn smug about it. If you’re writing about manhattans that “taste like the future,” you can’t afford to be smug.

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21 thoughts on “Lisa Taddeo, cheating, power and sexy ladies!*

  1. Its interesting that I have been re-reading Anna Karenina the last few days, and this woman’s attitude reminds me of the way that Vronsky is portrayed in his attitude of contempt toward the “deceived husband”. I suppose that if Tolstoi had known more about women he would have written about the women who hooked up with the wandering husbands. This is old, old stuff.

    Why hasn’t anyone figured out that after you break up your family, lose your home, traumatize your children and turn your life into a legal nightmare, that all the eternal blazing passion and deep heart connection is going to be over in 6 months? Then what?

  2. ICK! That happened to me once bc of a lying piece of shit who couldn’t be bothered to tell me he was married. WhereTF is the power in being used and dumped by some creep who’s just going to go back to his wife when he’s finished with you?

    Agency makes no difference either. I got caught in a stupid frenemies soap opera when I was 21. This woman seemed to be spending every waking minute obsessing over a bizarre belief that I had designs on her man. I was hot at that age. Picture Deborah Harry, 1979. Frankly, I could have, and did do a lot better. But try telling a crazy jealous bitch you don’t want her creepy guy, and hell yes, she could do better, too. The bitch got more and more vindictive during our visits, while he sat there smirking. She crossed the line when she destroyed the $200 worth of gifts I bought for her children. So I fucked him. For 4 years. And I encouraged him to fuck as many other women as he could get his hands on. (Yes I use condoms. I’m crazy not stupid!) I exercised my power by refusing to play hurdy-gurdy monkey in some icky threesome for him. I only did that stuff with people I actually liked. And of course, he stayed with her. But getting him to leave her for me was never on my agenda.

    Well, sure enough, the creep finally got caught cheating–with one of the other women I encouraged him to cheat with, through vague hints at a delicious lesbian smutfest. My Psycho-hosebeast frenemy cut the crotches out of every piece of clothing he owned and chucked all of his belongings onto the curb in front of her house. She said she did that because he was “…swingin it all over town. I thought I’d give you some more room.” He had to go and live in a men’s shelter we Canadians lovingly refer to as Scrotum House. In his day, he had a boyish, Donny Osmond kind of good looks. Today, he weighs over 300 pounds and is still fucking some other guy’s (probably scary–he likes that type) wife so she’ll trick hubby into keeping him around. The man has never worked a job or paid his share of the household bills with any woman he’s ever lived with. Any money he made from his criminal activities has always gone into his own filthy pockets.

    I found out toward the end of the ’90’s, when I thought I might be able to patch things up with the lady who used to be my childhood BFF that I was right. The creep was the one who manipulated her into those jealous fits with his stupid talk of having a threesome with me. ICK again! I think I would know my best friend’s gender preference better than any creepy guy. I don’t bother hetero women for bi sex, thank you. I don’t bother anybody for any kind of sex at all. At that time I was able to pick and choose. Begging anybody for sex was beneath me.

    How dare that douchewad get between me and MY BFF?!? I laugh with perverse glee at every new report of his suffering. His own daughter, who’s about to turn 21 hates her dad’s guts. She won’t even speak to him.

    All these years later, my “frenemy” is being treated for bi-polar disorder, so I guess I can forgive her. We still have trouble getting along, tho. I don’t think she ever put the creep, or her doubts about us behind her. At least she’s moved on, and she’s with a good guy, now. The creep’s daughter tells me her mom’s doing well. I’ll probably never speak to my former BFF again, but I’m happy for the updates from her now grown kids.

    I have no patience for VC Andrews/Harlequin bullshit like Taddeo’s article. It’s all about privileged creepy doodz and Milk Carton Vaginas and crazy ladies in attics. ICK to the nth!! Nobody wins in these stories.

    Gimme a story about a female marathon runner or an astronaut or an ancient female explorer over icky romance stories anyday. THAT is triumph. That is power.

  3. Xena, I think that in this piece, Taddeo wants to illustrate how she is “just one of the boys.” How she gets that their wives are all annoying (and not brunette enough, bahaha) – and she sort of softens that up by introducing a female friend who is cheating on her fiance, except that not really, because the male fiance is not portrayed as this pathetic loser who deserves what’s coming. Maybe she (Taddeo) just wants to extend her dating pool with a few more douchebags. I don’t know. I think I understand her romantic side – I’m totally like that myself sometimes – but it’s presented very poorly and pretentiously. Dislike.

    Why hasn’t anyone figured out that after you break up your family, lose your home, traumatize your children and turn your life into a legal nightmare, that all the eternal blazing passion and deep heart connection is going to be over in 6 months? Then what?

    I think a lot of such people make the initial leap into married life with both eyes firmly shut. And when they break out – they’re equally closed off to reality.

  4. Taddeo is an effed up mess, but your advice is no better. Settle down and have a baby! Yeah, that works out so great for most women!!

  5. Stop the presses! A woman somewhere has said that she kinda likes being a wife and mother!

    But seriously – I pointed out that my current position is much more vulnerable wrt the position of the “other woman.” But that the former has other benefits. That’s kind of how it always tends to work – every choice of ours has consequences. Some are good, some are bad. As a person who has been on both sides of the fence, I’ve got every right to compare the two experiences. Some of the conclusions I’ve drawn are similar to Taddeo’s – but as I also pointed out, it can be much easier to settle down if you have a wild past. You’re not going, “Oh crap, oh crap, I’m not out there, swinging from the chandeliers.” You’re going, “So the chandeliers were cool – but now I’m singing Yo Gabba Gabba songs to a grinning infant who’s already trying to say ‘mommy’. W00t.”

  6. I see your point, but it seems to me that most women who have children are in denial. They won’t admit that things were more fun before. A friend of mine decided that having a child would be awesome, and got the father out of the picture, because it was all about her and the kid. Now she’s a pill-popper and the child is being raised mostly by grandma. I think that some people can never be prapred enough to be parents.

  7. The “I’m on the side of the winners” is an attitude that I see in a lot of writing and talking about sex and relationships (whether day to day or in big articles). To me it reads a lot like an Ayn Rand style mentality, except applied to relationships and sex instead of money. (So, instead of businesspeople/investment people/etc. going on about how amazingly smart and important they are, and getting righteously angry that those lower level workers would dare ask for money or services, I get to read about a bunch of people going on, or just assuming without question, about how good looking, witty, valuable, etc. they are, how much they deserve attention, and getting righteously angry that anyone not on the same level would dare ask for any sort of attention or success in these areas.)

    It may be a personality thing, or seeing the the fallout of several failed marriages (My dad’s been divorced 3 times, for various reasons.), but my attitude towards this sort of thing is pretty much that of the first comment.

    I’m actually somewhat surprised that I don’t hear of, or see, more opinions about how “you can’t say ‘something is seriously wrong here'”, instead of the stream of opinions about how either monogamy is just impossible and pointless anyway, or how marriage is this thing that needs to be protected at all costs. It would seem more useful to have a good understanding of the problems that can occur, and how to solve them, or ways to improve how the interactions go in general, since people will actually be living in them for various reasons.

    (And I’d also agree with how amazingly bad the writing is. It does fit well within the category is people trying to dress up bad ideas with “witty” and “literary” styling.)

  8. Tabby – what do you mean by denial? Do you think these women can’t trust their own feelings? Or that they simply put on a brave face for the world?

    I think that very few parents, including celebrities who have ’round the clock childcare available, will argue that nothing changes when you have a child. Obviously, you rarely get to have the kind of fun you had before a baby is born – although some people do live more adventurously than others (I think my husband and I tend to be adventurous – to the point of me freaking out about it sometimes, but that’s our lifestyle, that’s who we are). But there are enormous trade-offs, including, well, just simply bonding with your kid on a Sunday afternoon.

    You’re right that some people can never be prepared enough. But in the case of your friend – if she’s an addict, well, she’ll probably blame that on anything. If there was no kid in the picture, she’d blame it on something else. People going through various stages of addiction often have a really hard time taking responsibility for what’s happening to them.

  9. Okay so why would you ever do that? Cheat or be “the Other Woman”? Somehow doesn’t strike me as fun. Being unfaitful, not paying taxes, cheating at work, commiting all this petty (and grand) dishonesty – it’s kind of the same – It’s about morality, isn’t it? Do you, Natalia really think sleeping with married guy = being crazy, like “swinging from chandelieris”? I don’t get this at all – if you want to be crazy surely there are enough uncommited people around to fuck. This Taddeo person – I find her repulsive. Equally I don’t find it easy to stay friends with people who I know cheat on their boyfriends/girlfriends. Once I slept with a guy who “forgot” to mention that he’s got a girlfriend (she was home for Christmas!). I really liked him, but when I found out about the girlfriend thing I was ready to puke. Is it such a big thing to demand some integrity from people?

  10. I can’t speak for Taddeo, but when I talk about swinging from the chandeliers, I don’t really equate that with being someone else’s secret. It’s just a part of the general past – a fun past, and one I don’t regret for the most part.

    I was also tricked into being with someone who was “separated” from his wife, who was “seeing other people.” Right. I don’t blame myself for falling for that lie, and I wouldn’t blame anyone else either – but finding out the extent of his dishonesty was awful.

    But another time, I wound up being someone else’s secret because those were the circumstances, and looking back on it, it couldn’t happen any other way. I can’t talk at length about it without revealing personal information that can potentially hurt other people, but that’s the one time I can honestly say that personal integrity took a backseat to other stuff that turned out to be more important, in the end. Though that wouldn’t have happened had the man in question been actually married, or had children – for obvious reasons. I couldn’t bear to ever get involved with someone like that. I associate that period in my life with a lot of pain – and I think enjoying being the bad guy is a kind of reaction to that pain.

    Sometimes, relationships are extremely messy and complicated, which is why I don’t judge those of my friends who cheat and tell me about it. Not all of them are cynical. I know someone who loves his wife – but she’s a raging alcoholic who has long periods in which she just drinks all the time. He’s been seeing someone on the side for years now. It sucks for everyone, but that’s just what happens sometimes. There are some situations you can’t really judge unless you’re inside of them – and God Forbid any of us ever end up in that kind of mess.

  11. Thanks for the answer Natalia and sorry – I didn’t mean to attack you or judge you. I typed that comment rather outraged at this Taddeo person. Yes, life is messy and complicated I’m sure each of us can knows many stories that can attest to that. I just don’t get people who seem to gloat about their dishonesty and how much better they are then us – poor fuckers with their miserable monogamous lifes. I hope without sounding like a church official I’m allowed to say that this is a sure recipe for a lot of broken hearts. Of course I’m not innocent either – needless to say once I was in a situation when I almost cheated on somebody and to this day I shudder with revulsion at myself back then.

  12. There is a big gray area when it comes to cheating. My ex cheated on me: finding out was painful, but I wound up not blaming him. There was a lot of shit between us at that point. That’s all I’m going to say or can say.

  13. Justify yourself however you like, Natalia, you’re just as bad as Taddeo! You’re a better writer, so you pass off cheating as this soulful thing. You could stand to fix that moral compass of yours, I would expect nothing less of a mother! But I don’t even think you’re capable of that. So wouldn’t it be great if some woman came along and decided to wreck your marriage, huh? Would you write a long essay abut it too?

  14. Yeah, I probably would write a long essay about it. I like to write long essays.

    Also – fuck you and your expectations? I guess? ‘Cause you kinda sound like an idiot there. “This soulful thing.” Bahaha.

  15. @ Natalia, March 25, 10:32 am:

    I hope you know I’m not about waving my morality around on your or anybody else’s choice of sexual or life partners. Some of these other commenters need a serious reality check. This is about critiquing the way a story compares to real life. It’s not about making presumptuous accusations about how a real person–Natalia–is anything like the nasty character in a bad story she’s defending. You people remind me of the children who yell at the actors who play Crabbe and Goyle in the Harry Potter movies bc they think the actors are the characters. Grow up already!

    I included my ugly story for the sake of blasting a writer working within a genre where certain stylistic devices are acceptable and others are not. There has to be a certain level of realism involved to make a story within the romance genre reasonably pallatable, imo. I included my ugly story to demonstrate the ugly reality that DOESN’T work. Similar stylistic techniques to Taddeo’s, when they’re done properly, in a work of transgressive fiction like Heather O’Neill’s Lullabyes for Little Criminals tie the story together in a way that’s iconoclastic, but heartwarming, charming, and tragic all at the same time. O’Neill’s adorable Franglais wordplay calls to mind images captured by the French Impressionist artists of the 1920’s. I can almost see the underbelly of Montreal, reflected in colourful dots in a puddle under the stiletto heels of a teenage prostitute. Taddeo’s bloody southern hair similie, on the other hand, reminds me of the dead possum at the beginning of every episode of True Blood. It’s way too Bram Stoker for the point she’s trying to make.

    Maybe I’m just too hung up on the classic Aristotelian redemptive arc, but if you’re going to take a character engaging in antagonistic behaviour, and try pass that character off as a protagonist of some sort, you had durn well better give that character a Rawkin Social Justice Issue, a life of battery and oppression to justify her meanness, and turn her into an anti-hero.

    Taddeo’s antagonizing main character is So. Not. Precious.
    She’s a catty, privileged, single white girl, and she redeems nothing with her behaviour. Calling cheaters ‘winners’ (implying that the cheated on are ‘losers’) was bad enough, as Jezebel critic West pointed out. I had a REAL problem with her comparison of the married guy’s accent to a “salt-lick after a thousand taxis drove over it”. What a yucky image. I see a swarthy brown guy of indeterminate ethnicity, who people might mistake for a taxi driver, and a selfish princess hinting that it would be ‘naughty’ to fuck him because her culture says that he’s the type of guy who invades countries looking for little white girls to ‘ruin’. EEEWWW!!! Borat!! Has this twit ever thought about creating a character who has sex just because she likes swarthy men, and it feels good? I mean, not once in the piece did she mention orgasms, or even goosebumps.

    I’m still with Lindy West. The story sucked. Taddeo’s roadkill imagery might have worked as horror with a bit of tweaking in the Cormac McCarthy/Stephen King direction. It might have worked as perverse satire, with a bit of tweaking in the Woody Allen “why me?” direction. But it fails miserably at what it’s trying to be. It is NOT a bodice ripper and it is SO NOT a slick chick-lit commentary on Sex and the Single Girl. Bitches Who Fuck For Power are still Evil Stepmothers and Dynasty Villainesses in my book, and the only way to complete the redemptive arc is to kill them and/or sentence them to a life–or afterlife–of public service work. If Taddeo wanted to convey a message to people who approach marriage with their eyes shut, there’s a gentler, more humorous way to present the issue.

    Thanks, but no thanks. The Devil In MIss Jones has already been done. And done far more cleverly than Taddeo’s drivel.

  16. Btw, I said “characters” bc I’m assuming that Taddeo’s article is a piece of fiction designed to entertain. If she meant for this piece to be read as factual social commentary, she desperately needs to go back to school. The roadkill metaphors are even more obnoxious in a story that the author is trying to pass off as a news item.

    Exactly how do such bad writers get hired (or chosen from a pool of volunteers)?

  17. Pingback: Infidelity and Me « gusology

  18. Very well put. This really got me thinking – I too have been “the other woman.” And I chose that, deliberately. The idea of boasting about it the way Taddeo does kinda makes my stomach hurt.

  19. You sound like a senior in high school demeaning a freshman. Very been there done that. Taddeos piece was good, I thought the anecdotes were immaculate.

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