“I’m aware of the pain my behaviour has caused to so many people. I’ve let you down personally and professionally. I’ve severely disappointed all of you. I’ve made you question who I am and how I have done the things I did. I’m embarrassed that I’ve put you in this position. I have a lot to atone for”. Blimey, what’s happened: has Pope Benedict XVI revealed all to the tabloids? Has Obama joined the Republican Party? Is Jan Moir apologising to Stephen Gateley’s family? Nope; that’s an excerpt from the carefully scripted, super-sickly rhetoric that Tiger Woods spewed to the world’s media regarding his marital indiscretions. Elsewhere, speculation over the ‘mystery woman’ in Lenny Henry’s life is rife, Ashley Cole, Vernon Kay and John Terry are still in the (celebrity scandal) dock charged with textual abuse and speculation regarding Katie Price’s bed-hopping antics get more publicity than David Cameron’s attempts to ‘make marriage more financially attractive’. But none of this ‘news’ will come as a surprise even to those that conduct their lives deciduously avoiding the red tops or the vacuous, drivelling blather-fest that is ITV’s Loose Women.
Amelia Hill - the Guardian’s Social Affairs correspondent, no less - recently sank her job title to a whole new level, dedicating almost 1000 words to a feature entitled ‘Why Adultery Can Help Save a Marriage’, most of which was taken up by unsubstantiated, fence-sitting quotes from Mira Kirshenbaum, author of the new ‘self help’ book ‘When Good People Have Affairs’. A week later, Julie Powell - yup, the author of cookery book/chit lit yarn ‘Julie and Julia’ - emitted a wholly self-satisfied, one-sided account of the emotional havoc she brought to her own marriage when she decided that unfaithful was the new umami in the same newspaper’s glossy magazine. But whether you prefer to look to the gutter or the supposedly highbrow media for your daily fix of other people’s indecent exposure, none of it is brave, honest, need-to-know journalism; to the contrary, it’s boring, repetitive and about as old hat as you can get.
When it comes to affairs, most adults - married or not - have either been there themselves, had the experience inflicted upon them or picked up the pieces on behalf of a straying/strayed on friend. Surely we don’t need a celebrity, a pseudo-psychologist or a journalist to tell us about life on either side of the infidelity fence? The ongoing plethora of features, books and tittle-tattle don’t bring informative, enlightening or fascinating texture to proceedings - it’s all just the same old titillation that’s kept the chattering classes chattering for centuries, repackaged for the bland, quasi-moralistic zeroes - or possibly handing a parcel of justification to those who haven’t got the bottle to simply call an end to a lifeless, loveless marriage and decide instead to indulge in a spot of ‘fashionable’ hanky panky on the side. “If handled right, an affair can be therapeutic, give clarity and jolt people from their inertia,” Mira Kirshenbaum says, in ‘that’ book. “Think of it as a radical but necessary medical procedure: if your marriage is in cardiac arrest, an affair can be a defibrillator.” While I don’t doubt that such a quote will resonate deeply in the psyche of many a wannabe philanderer (file under ‘grown up, sophisticated, mature approach tactics’ in readiness for the inevitable teary validation session), isn’t prevention far better than such a drastic cure? If the state of your relationship can be likened to the emotional equivalent of a heart attack, do the decent thing and remove the clot altogether rather than subjecting yourself (and, by default, a cast list of characters who neither deserve nor need to be involved) to a situation that rarely has a positive outcome for anybody. Meanwhile, what goes on behind other people’s closed doors should remain just that, their dirty linen resigned to the mouldering laundry basket of remorse while we get on with reading the news.