Erica's blabbing about our country-western bar hop and my description of Thumper transformed “A-T” to "Now Now", an “Affairs Circle” star. A trophy ring quest among the members ensued. It was notoriety I didn’t relish. Outsider’s gossip about members would eventually compromise my staid super mom/wife image. I wanted out.
To exit, I stopped aiding and abetting their affairs, renounced mine, avoided those in the group and only smiled if one was met by chance, then scurried away. My parting advice was.
“Put your family first, avoid alpha males and pursue your husband.”
Hypocritic words that fell on deaf ears.
I did stay friends with Erica. She was a neighbor, our boys played together, and I liked her. To convince her Thumper was history, I told her, he'd lost interest in me, I in him and he was history, a lie until it did end.
She continued to narrate her escapades to me while she assumed, I was out of action. She dated a Japanese produce man we nicknamed Tojo. He was short, married, a Zeta and enthralled by his blond Nordic goddess, Erica. He delivered produce to restaurants that demanded the best. We had fruits and vegetables unattainable in the grocery store with my orders placed by Erica.
He bought her a trophy ring, but she continued dating young alpha males and tried to entice me into having sex with them at her house in mini orgies. She was never jealous and didn’t expect her lovers to be faithful. I declined and avoided visiting when they came to her house to retain my social chastity appearance.
Within a year of my breaking up with Darryl, the "Affairs Circle" imploded. By 1983 AIDS reared its ugly head. Prior to it, a condom was considered a hindrance in an affair with the woman expected to be on “the pill”. Now it was a mandatory accessory as the number of players rapidly shrunk.
Over half the Affairs Circle members divorced, most due to a husband's discovery but a few wives left to marry their lover. None who divorced moved up. For most, it was a precipitate step down socially, economically and in man.
One, Sue, married her young alpha stud when her husband divorced her. She tried desperately to find her new hubby a high paying job like her ex had to continue the lifestyle she was accustomed to. She ended up, a twice-divorced, lonely, middle-aged woman with grocery store clerk employment. To be courteous, I initially checked out at her cashier but could tell she was embarrassed for me to see what fate dealt her. In empathy, I shopped at a different store.
Erica was caught in bed with an alpha male by her husband's private investigator. He provided photo finish proof. Avoiding the Affairs Circle, barhopping with Erica, not being at her house when her men were there and concealing Thumper, saved me. Erica’s husband demanded child custody and no alimony. Nervous about receiving a subpoena to testify in a divorce, I cut off my relationship to avoid being dragged into the muck. It was unnecessary. She eagerly agreed to a house sale, cash settlement, packed up and left to where the action was, LA sans son.
His having custody was best. The boy continued to play at our house and eat my cinnamon rolls. She stopped by and visited occasionally for a couple of years after her divorce and titillated me with her LA international amorous exploits. She worked at the LA Airport Hertz rental car agency, perfect for her to meet executive alpha males.
After a few years, she met a controlling, dominant, Lebanese male who married her. He managed her by never letting her out of his sight. They soon had two kids. She visited with her new husband once, but we only got to talk in whispers when he was in the other room. She no longer had anything amorous to say and was happy to be controlled. It’s what she needed.
Those who avoided divorce by evading exposure or threw their lover under the bus for a husband who forgave them, renewed wedding vows. Some, gained weight, dressed slovenly and risked losing their husband while faithful. Others kept trim, attractively adorned themselves and continued the battle of the sexes with their husband as the trophy. I evaded exposure and joined the latter.
The ’70s were over. Promiscuity was out again. The Red Guards of AIDS and other STDs crushed the Sexual Cultural Revolution. I wondered if Edward knew things others didn’t from his research with his condom use.
I was a survivor, happily married with children, due to stealth but also luck, luck that I didn't slip and trip, luck my husband didn't stumble on the truth and luck condoms kept me safe. Maybe it wasn't luck. Maybe it was my guardian angel, or my husband's or the kids'. Maybe God saved me. It didn't matter, I accepted my survivor's status and skipped the “what if’s”.
The kids needed attention as their school and sports activities expanded. My revival was as a full-time mom and faithful wife. I stopped flirting.
Then, coming home from work one evening in 1984, my husband announced.
“Honey we need to talk. We need to talk about something serious. It’s about us and the future. It requires you to tell me something, not tonight but by tomorrow. It’s complicated. We’ll discuss it after dinner.”
“What is it? Tell me what you need to know, now.”
“No, no, after dinner, after the kids are fed and watching TV. I got to think how to say it too.”
I switched from cooking to panic.
Something’s up, he’s been moody, withdrawn, even disinterested in sex.
The economy’s bad. He’s lost his job! Neighbors are losing jobs, houses, getting divorced.
Oh God divorce, he knows something! Oh, please God, not my secret puppet shadow! Please, God, don't let him ask for a divorce. What’s he need to tell me? What does he know? Is it another? Please God, not another!
For the last couple of months, he’d been staring off in space, thinking of something but would never "talk" when I asked what was up. Now my mind raced from the "talk" being an announcement he lost his job, to he discovered my infidelity, to he was divorcing me. The latter, his finding another, to renounce and divorce me, the greatest fear.
During dinner, my mind churned between who he might be in love with, to what secret of mine he’d discovered. He's losing his job turned into potential good news. As I slowly chewed food, distracted from the table fare to what-ifs, I pleaded to God he had to "talk" about being fired. During the meal, I excused myself and ensured my diary’s hiding place remained intact. It was.
With dinner finished, the table cleared, the dishes in the sink, the kids sent to watch TV, I went from the kitchen to the dining room with fresh coffee, to await my fate, the worst expected.
He sat, sipped his coffee, and mulled over what to say, perplexed how to start. While he gathered his thoughts, I was a doe-eyed deer, caught facing the glare of an incoming "talk" light which would determine my future. My secret puppet shadow scrambled for a global innocent explanation or deflection if the "talk" was about her. I searched for the proper "stiff upper lip" response if he loved another. I resolved not to beg if he asked for a divorce but knew, I would with tears.
At last, he looked up from his cup and asked.
"Would it be okay if I quit my job? Not quit work, my job. I want to start my own business, our business. I know business is bad now but that's the best time to start. What do you think?"
Relief swept me. My secret puppet shadow hopped back into her hole. I couldn't suppress the open smile which revealed my happiness. I didn't want him to think I was ridiculing his quitting but still couldn’t suppress my joy. I giggled then laughed.
"I'm serious. I've given it a lot of thought. It's risky, I know. I don't know if my job will last. We can borrow on the house to start. What do you think?"
Still smiling, suppressing giggles, I replied.
"Honey, where did you take me from when we met?"
As soon as the words were out, I regretted them. It was an unfair question which placed him in a quandary. I didn't intend to make him uneasy, I just wanted to start with a simple question so I could readily agree to his decision. He struggled for a safe answer. I suspected he thought.
“If I say Tropicana Village, she’ll think I’m saying she was just a poor girl, a nothing until she met me. To say from her family is even worse.”
He mulled it over, smiled and replied.
"From behind your Pee Chee folder?"
I broke into laughter at his clever reply, jumped up, hugged and kissed him over and over.
"No, No, Tropicana Village! That's where you found me. That's where you took me from. That’s where we found each other. That’s where we came from!
I’ll gladly go back there as long as it’s with you! Do you understand? I'm your wife. I go where you go. We’re together for better or worse! It's been all better, so what if it gets worse as long as we’re together. When are we starting? "
As we hugged and kissed the kids came over, looked at us as if crazy. They stared as if something incomprehensible was about to be announced. Our daughter asked if I was pregnant. Our hugging and kissing over the announcement we were starting a business was considered by them inconsequential. They returned to TV thinking nothing was up but it was, a new business, a major change in our lives for better or worse.
I was the first employee, bookkeeper, and problem solver. My life shifted from chauffeur mom to swirling in the chaos of starting a business. It provided enough adventure and income uncertainty I didn't have room for wanton thoughts. Although we didn't restate marriage vows, we did by our actions.
As the business started to make money, our social circle changed. Many "friends" became jealous. To retain prior equality status, they disdainfully attributed haughty attributes to us. We tried not to antagonize them with displays of wealth, but some spread malicious rumors to level the playing field. I worried one might talk to a former Affair's Circle member.
It was easier to develop new "friends" who accepted our higher economic status than keep jealous old ones. Only a few “old” friends made the cut.
Soon we could afford a large custom home, travels to Europe and Asia with the kids in tow and expensive bling toys, mine a 1986 Mercedes 500SE, V-8 with a manual four-speed transmission.
Hubby bought me trophy rings more expensive than any other. First a big four-carat diamond wedding ring and then an emerald, appropriate for jealous suspicions.
In middle age success, I attempted to retain sex appeal with upscale apparel, cosmetics, and mannerisms. Female news commentators were my fashion role models.
My husband's, business, however, seduced him and became his mistress, an obsession. He was in love. He thought about her 24/7 including in his dreams. I couldn’t compete. He’d found another after all.
I needed to find my own.
Author Notes: Relief sweep wife as she learns she is not being divorced.