If life was like Sesame Street, last week would have been brought to us by the words “cheating” and “scandal.” It seemed like everywhere we turned, another relationship was biting the proverbial dust. The Zeros Before the One’s own Claudia Maittlen-Harris wrote a great commentary about the women behind the scandals (lovely, powerful women who deserved better) and her piece was countered by Chris Nowak’s commentary that these men were jerks before these women married them. And, sure, that’s true. However, that doesn’t make their infidelity okay or acceptable.
Of course, I’m rather grateful for Anthony Weiner right now. He’s really made it so easy for me. I’m not just talking about the names and the, ahh, frontal shots (although perhaps you need to see my article What’s in a Name?) No, I’m referring to a politician stepping out on his wife. Really, Mr. Weiner? Try some originality next time. Far better than you have done this, and done it better. People are still laughing about Former President Clinton’s Lewinsky-Gate. You? Will be a mere footnote in history and a cautionary tale of social media.
Although, I’m not sure why I’m surprised. It seems as though cheating has become the norm rather than the exception. It’s become almost socially acceptable to cheat. Where cheaters used to be looked down on by society, we now eagerly lap up their tales of infidelity. Look at Jesse James, for example. The way he treated his ex-wife Sandra Bullock was truly deplorable but when he was making the rounds promoting his autobiography he was welcomed by the media with open arms. Why are we giving this scumbag attention? Doesn’t that send the wrong message? “Hey, you cheated on your wife and submitted her to public humiliation, but I totally want to hear all about your new book! Oh, and tell me about your new fiancée, too. I’m sure this one is true love and you’ll NEVER cheat on her!”
It’s almost like a shared group delusion. Men cheat, but what are you gonna do? I found myself succumbing to this group think the other day. A friend and I were discussing a celebrity scandal and she remarked that the celeb in question was probably cheating on his wife. Rather than be disturbed by that, I simply shrugged it off. “She knew when she married him,” I said casually. “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was amazed at how callous I sounded. I was raised to believe that marriage is sacred and here I was shrugging off infidelity.
I’ve heard similarly dismissive comments made about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s relationship. He cheated one her with a member of their household staff (which, frankly, is a little too close to paying for sex, in my opinion), had a child out of wedlock with his mistress and people say “Well, this was the life that she chose. She’s a Kennedy. No one can claim that she isn’t used to this.” News flash: no one chooses a life of scandal and infidelity.
Cheating has even become a cute romantic motivation in popular films and books. Emily Giffin’s “Something Borrowed,” the bestselling book that was turned into a movie starring Kate Hudson, is about a woman that sleeps with her best friend’s fiancé. You’re supposed to be rooting for the main character but it’s difficult when the situation is going to cause someone else so much pain. Is cheating ever acceptable? Does “oh, but they were in love” make it okay? (For the record, Giffin’s other book “Heart of the Matter” is a much more relatable look at cheating, but “cheat cute” sells.)
It’s a sign of the times: social norms change as society evolves. Usually, it’s for the better. Society has evolved to accept interracial marriages and we’re making great strides in LGBT rights. Let’s keep things going in a positive direction. Infidelity, however, is not something that we should be accepting. The only thing that’s more disturbing than the constant stories of cheating are the public apathy that seems to accompany them. Society has gone numb to scandal. A man sending inappropriate texts to an underage girl? Whatever. A man having a secret family on the side? Ho hum. We seem to have forgotten that a wedding vow is a promise. And haven’t we always been taught to keep our promises?