I'm not speaking from the pearl-clutchers gallery, either. I'm speaking from a place of reluctant experience — my parents broke up because of an affair, I've been cheated on, and I've been in the same position as Whiskey Tortoise herself. I would never put myself in that position again, because now I understand that an affair continually demands choices. You choose to stay up way too late waiting for somebody to come over, you choose to sit in the backs of restaurants, and you choose to pretend not to know one another in shared social circles. A mistress, just like the cheater, is buying into a fantasy with repercussions felt in reality. The intimacy and communication that she describes as singular to a mistress-cheater relationship might feel real, but it's grounded in deception.

Being a mistress isn't a rhapsodic gallivant that begs for an etiquette manual.

Being a mistress isn't a rhapsodic gallivant that begs for an etiquette manual; it's a sure-to-fail, dishonest relationship, and more often than not, it aches. Though culture has glamorized the role of mistress with the likes of Monica, Marilyn, all the way back to Madame de Pompadour, we now live in a society that's (begrudgingly) accepting nonmonogamous relationships, and we need to put the image of the fancy-free mistress to bed.

The essay finishes by sounding like the Oprah of dishonesty. "If you need to re-imagine new ways to keep your affair casual as the intimacy deepens, and if you want to keep this thing going, talk about it with your lover. Find ways to keep things adequately unattached. Stay free." That's right, go commando, sing in the rain, run through a meadow, and stay free, instead of having your heart broken. No one can tell you how to gauge when the intimacy of an affair becomes too difficult to manage, because that threshold doesn't exist, and if it does, we rarely register it. Emotions aren't like a bicycle ride; you can't just peddle backwards and suddenly be where you were moments before.

Maybe "The Golden Rule For Mistresses" was supposed to be controversial, super sex-positive, or empowering for women who find themselves in a mistress position. But really, let's be honest and say that there is nothing empowering about consciously betraying others and hurting them. I mean, maybe there is, but it's kind of sociopathic. Affairs don't exist in vacuums, or in intellectual abstracts where you can dissect them without getting blood on your coat. They exist everyday, and the consequences of the damage can be sudden or insidious, but they're always real. That's the only golden rule for cheating I can think of.


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