Is being approached for a talk show about adultery a chance for public humiliation, or for epic trolling?
Recently I was contacted by a “packager” for an Oprah Network show on couples recovering from infidelity. They’d been reading a message board thread on which I mentioned having had an affair, and were looking for couples who’d been through the experience. When I asked for more information, they sent me the URL to a sample show.
It was nauseating, of course. The show bounced back and forth between interviews with the man alone and the woman alone, but what were really amazing were the “enacted” scenes. The interview guy said, “She started to kiss me all over,” and then they jumped to an enacted scene where either the guy (or an actor who looked pretty much like him) was being kissed all over (in a very brief scene) by a outstandingly beautiful slinky woman wearing a ton of lingerie. If I’d ever been approached by a woman wearing that much sexy underwear, I guarantee you I would have burst out laughing. Any chance of an erection would be gone and forgotten, I’m such a vanilla post-hippie. I can’t even stand the suggestion of a fetish, much less multiple layers of synthetic costuming.
More disquieting, though, was periodic panning to pictures of their child after the very nice sympathetic wife made a statement. Slightly blurry focus and a sepia tone made this even worse. Ugh, double ugh.
The whole thing pandered to very conventional, traditional female sentiments that I guarantee you (even though I’m monogamous now) I could never, ever have about marriage, family, etc. One of the main unstated assumptions was that straying was something remote (very deviant and ego dystonic for most people,) when I know that this is frequently anything but the truth.
The guy kept saying things like, “I couldn’t believe I was doing this.”
Believe it, buddy.
But they DID say that the couple had limited powers to weigh in on the script. Hmmmmm. I’m nothing if not mischievous, so I started thinking of ways to have fun with this. I’m also a 67-year-old retired professor (emphasis on “retired,”) and one of the benefits of that is that I get to say and do things I’d never say or do if I was still working.
I ran it past my wife, who said, “Not on your life!” just as I predicted she would. I had confessed the affair I’d had that had ended six years before under direct questioning about four years ago. She was not happy, but seemed to realize that we were both going through the tenure process at different universities, and that I was working many days a week in a distant city. Our relationship has gotten way better since then, and both of us kind of look back on that time with wry humor. At least I do, and I have caught her laughing about it when it comes up.
The packager’s information explained that (surprise, surprise) show participants didn’t receive a fee, but did have their travel and incidentals paid. I guess Springer culture has convinced us that it’s better to be publicly humiliated on television than never to be on television at all.
I did reply that we might consider doing it for $50,000. At this point, I was considering trying to talk my first wife (in Texas, now) into it. They wouldn’t know the difference, I thought, and she’d be game and, as a part-time writer, great at helping me gonzo the script. It’s not clear, as well, which of us cheated more on the other, but I’m sure she’d win on numbers of partners, and I’d win for numbers of acts of cheating. So the humorous creative possibilities seemed endless.
Showing pictures of our post-punk, soi-dissant neo-skater filmmaker kid would produce calls from overseas, coupled with quick reverse-disownment. I can hear her now.
“Dad, we TIVO everything, so we saw it. Is there some way you can retract that show? My friends and my business contacts are going to think you’re horrible, and it’s going to reflect on me. Yes, I know that this is the home of S&M culture, but everyone here is respectable in public. Okay, but you know what? You’re the one who is going to have to change his last name. Mine is part of my brand.”
No matter, I had fantasies that we could cook up something really bizarre. Maybe the two of us arriving in a Fairfield Inn lobby by mistake with different partners at the same time. Maybe a hilarious fight about who it was exactly that brought the Chlamydia home (this was pre-AIDS, so protection was not always used.) The possibilities were endless, endless.
But, no, of course it was not to be in the end. Just the financial end wouldn’t work, and I couldn’t see doing anything like that for anything less than a very nice amount of money. For one thing, people in our small town were sure to see it. I needed to be able to say something like, “See this new Camry? That’s what I got with my half, and it’s all made up anyway. We scammed them. Well I don’t care if you don’t believe me. You should try it yourselves.”
Oh, they did say we could fudge a bit on the incidentals, maybe get first-class airfare, but no $50,000. But we had to do it for our 15 minutes of fame….And I also realize that they weren’t going to let us go off the sappy message with the script. It would be horrible and humiliating, and we’d already been through that part.