Whether it is a powerful man at the helm of the CIA or the state of California or a company who has an affair, or whether it is your own partner, why is it that the second question we ask is always about the other woman?
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The first question is usually "WHAT THE -- ", followed by expletives and nimble-fingered quick Facebook profile scouring. The next ask is who she is.
Perhaps the answer is important. It could be someone close, it could be a stranger and it could be someone who has only recently entered stage left. Beyond that, I am not sure there is much more anyone else needs to know. The thing is, we want to see. We want that visual because it confirms all of the misogynistic, judgmental ideas we have in our head, the Cosmo-fueled "what it takes to keep a man" notions of which women get wronged and who does the stealing.
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We desperately want to see that photo of the mistress -- long hair, perfectly lip-glossed, heels, sunglasses shading an eye-to-eye exchange. And we want that to be plastered side-by-side of the wife in her velour sweatsuit or outdated pantsuit, with hair that could use highlights and a body still holding on to the baby weight. Of course, that's not every picture of infidelity that is plastered either in our own personal memories or on the cover of celebrity gossip mags. It is a stereotype that is underlined by flashes online and in the news. But that's what we expect and want to see.
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I think that image of the rundown wife and the primped-up girlfriend somehow justifies the situation in our minds. Even if we judge aloud that too many men are unfaithful in their marriages, there's a quiet nod when we see that woman left in the dust of it all.
"Ahhhh, well..." we say, leaving the rest of the sentence unfinished but obvious.
"If only she'd..." we could continue on. Taken better care of herself. Lost weight. Sexed it up. Gotten a good wax. Invested in a good wrap dress. Tried harder.
It gets directed at the other woman as well, mostly falling on words like "whore" or something just as janky. Interestingly, we rarely say, "Look at him! With his perfect hair! With his Dunkin' Donuts beer gut! With his Botoxed forehead! Carrying his own baby weight a decade later!" Whore or homely, we don't justify his cheating because of his looks.
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All of this centering on WHO IS SHE? keeps us frantically turning from wife to other woman to compare and contrast and try to uncover the details and more controversy. In that manic reaction, we miss the point, we skip the blame. The person we should be focusing on is the man in the middle.