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The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

House Second Season, Episode #6, somewhere near the end :

Cameron: I fell in love with my husband's best friend. Near the end I was at the hospital every day, and Joe would come by after work*. We'd go for walks and try to talk each other through it. We kind of clung on to each other.

Wilson: My wife wasn't dying, she wasn't even sick. Everything was fine. I met someone who... made me feel... funny. Good. And I didn't want to let that feeling go.
[long silent pause] What happened to you, how can anyone go through that alone?
You can't control your emotions

Cameron: No. Just your actions

Wilson: You didn't do it, did you? You didn't sleep with him

Cameron: I couldn't have lived with myself

Wilson: [smiling] You'd be surprised what you can live with [walks out of the office]

Saiffuddin has been coming home late because of crucial pre-award meetings with a major client**. Last night, he missed iftar and tarawikh entirely. Adam got worried.

"Mum, is Daddy, you know, having an affair?", he asked.
"Hmmmm", I said, liking where this conversation is going, "what do you think?"
"I don't know. Why don't you ask him?", he offered
"If he is having an affair, he will never admit it, Adam", I explained, eyes twinkling.
"Well," Adam said sagely, holding up a finger to make his point," it depends on how he says No. If it's a short, quick No, then it means Yes. If it's a long No, with a screwed up face, then it's a No".

Oh, if it were only that simple.

I'm writing this because lately, infidelity seems to have been the flavour of the week. There is that on-going plot in House where he's trying to seduce Stacy to stray. Here in Jakarta, the raging question on everyone's mind seems to be if this rock-star has recently married his wife's band-mate (an incredible betrayal that I somehow believe is untrue). And last week, I saw Oprah speak to seven cheating husbands about their affairs. Selingkuh is a topic that has followed me all the way from Malaysia. And it's such a dark, fascinating subject, no?

Since I used to work at a TV station, you can bet your hiney that I had more than one friend who was involved in forbidden flings. Our presenters were so (in)famous for their extracurricular activities that one female dentist was moved to berate her newscaster patient :

"Pasal apa newscaster TV Teeeega ni, suka sangat curi laki orang?", she apparently asked.
"Doktor", said my pretty friend patiently,"Doktor tunjuk kat saya gambar laki Doktor, jadi senanglah next time, saya tahu yang mana satu laki Doktor dan saya takkan curi dia".

She was a bitchy dentist who overcharged and totally deserved it.

My point is, when it is your friend (or more cuttingly, if it is you) who is having the affair, things are never quite black and white, or demarcated into completely right or wrong. Affairs are wrong; and here you get a long pause, not a full stop. Because there is always a thousand buts after the word "wrong" to justify the illicit actions. And when you know enough "other women", and to a lesser degree, "other men", you tend to look at the problem from both sides. An affair is part weakness, and part very bad timing.

The Oprah episode was interesting because it totally obliterated the belief that husbands stray because they can't keep their dicks in check. You know the theory --the male basic instinct is to spread their seeds far and wide, ergo the propensity to do it with as many women as possible. I think it gives women comfort to presume this, mainly because mindless fornicating doesn't involve anything deeper than uh, fornicating parts. But the guys who were suicidal enough to appear on Oprah revealed that men are more complicated than previously thought. Those who blubberingly admittted to long, drawn out affairs said they were looking for happiness and a sense of place, that someone cared for them. Goodness, just like women? Now, if only we can get the algorithm right and ensure that all these men looking for joy and the all these women looking for bliss are the ones married to each other. Seriously now, what are the chances?

It's not to say some of those cheatin' hearts do not beat in the bodies of complete jerks. A considerable part of Jakarta's economy seem to depend on them. I have had long conversations with supirs and hotel waitresses here who tell me countless stories of perfidy. (Actually, Saiffuddin's a gossip too, but he can use the husband-wife privelege thing as a defence to his big mouth.) Almost every faithless husband alone in the city will end up unfaithful. (Faithless women apparently go shopping, unless Adjie Masaid is on the menu.) You know the annoying Malay saying about how no hungry cat will refuse fish? Well, apparently there's plenty to catch here. Every kind, any price. Sure, it's about mind-bending sex on the surface of it. But the sad truth is boys, you too, are doing it because you're deeply unhappy.

It could be anything that these men imagine they can't get at home, and they can get from prostitutes without the hassle of a relationship : understanding, respect, control, mommy. But it's a pathetic kind of happiness because like any drug, the esctacy is fleeting : brief and illusory. And in a country like this, it could also be very, very expensive. I have heard stories of blackmail and black magic.

To be fair, women are not innocents when it comes to selingkuh, either. But so far, Hollywood has convinced us that when a woman cheats on her husband it is a full-blown romantic affair with lush scenery, sweeping score, and usually Ralph Fiennes. (or Robert Redford) Somehow a cheating woman is not as despicable, and the poor cuckolded husband is often the one at fault. (For example, he could be gay.) Sensitive storyline aside, I'll have to agree that an adulteress is as blameworthy as that drunken guy shoving rupiahs down the panties of a gyrating dangdut stripper.

Why can't we be happy with what we have? I guess because marriage, too is sometimes part weakness and part very bad timing.

Last weekend, my dorm-mate from uni, Iza and her husband, Zaky, dropped by our house. I was so happy to find out they were here. They took so much trouble to look for Saiffuddin's number, to the extent of bothering the client conducting the pre-award meetings, and though it was embarrasing to my husband, I was so touched by the persistence. Iza and Zaky were college sweethearts, and I have always known one as being the pair for the other. They were obviously still besotted, I saw that Zaky couldn't help touching Iza's arm when he speaks, and I thought it was so sweet. Zaky and Iza were lucky -- they found their soulmate, and everything -- timing, family, etc etc, were in their favour. Simple boy meets girl story, lived happily ever after, had three children and so on and so forth.

But it occured to me, what happens when boy meets the wrong girl at the right time, and then the right girl at the wrong time? Some people have had their souls rent asunder. I've often wondered if Saiffuddin and I weren't married to each other, how frustrating it would be if we did eventually meet.

Gosh, I'd probably have an affair with him.

*Cameron is a janda. She was 21 when her husband of six months died of thyroid cancer. House is really a cleverly disguised soap and that's why I love it.
**For those of you hearing warning bells, rest assured that I know Saiffuddin is really at the meeting. Unless he is having an affair with five engineers, including a stocky guy predisposed to rugby shirts, and a middle aged man named Bosco (who is the nicest of the lot, I must say)


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