I have a message for Gwyneth Paltrow: Life isn’t complicated until you complicate it. (Thanks, Mom.) And I’m pissed at you for contributing to the general acceptance of infidelity as simply a byproduct of living a long life.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
Infidelity is a byproduct of our ease with being deceitful. And if you’re chill with infidelity than you don’t care about honesty either.
I have written this post twice today. My intention was to write about the irony of the message the squirrels were sending me and the treat that I can still taste, but from the start of the day my heart has been aching. All this letting go opened up space (as one kitten so smartly pointed out would happen) in my heart, my core. Upon waking, that space was filled with sadness. A deep sadness that felt big, global. Not just my sadness. Sadness multiplied. Think satellite, not terrestrial. Think Milky Way, not neighborhood.
Black hole sized sadness.
I’m mourning the near-extinction of the most necessary, the most crucial value of all, truth.
If infidelity is epidemic, dishonesty is pandemic.
According to Gwyneth: “Life is complicated and long and I know people that I respect and admire and look up to who have had extra-marital affairs.” (Note she didn’t say respected and admired.) She offered up this sage observation during promotions for a film, Contagion, in which she portrays a woman who traveled to Hong Kong, and along with the t-shirt, she brings home to her family (after a stop-over in Chicago to cheat on her husband) a deadly virus.
She goes on to say, “It’s like we’re flawed — we’re human beings and sometimes you make choices that other people are going to judge…That’s their problem but I really think that the more I live my life the more I learn not to judge people for what they do. I think we’re all trying our best but life is complicated.”
“We’re all trying our best…”
We’re trying our best, G? At what? Removing any obstacle that gets in our way – moral, value, animal or vegetable – in the pursuit of own personal happiness? Justifying, in any way we can, any of our missteps? Saying one thing and doing another because we don’t care enough to pay attention?
If that’s the case then welcome to the world of mediocrity or worse, where rewards and Job well done! are replaced by bribes and As long as you can sleep at night! (with some Ambien, of course). We judge peoples’ actions, but when wink comes to kiss, or hand comes to payout which puts food on the table, we justify, we don’t judge. And then we say, Well, we’re only human. We’re trying our best.
To which squirrels would say, Yea, so you ought to have this crap figured out by now.
I wonder if she would respect and admire a person who siphoned funds from Gucci. Or Chanel. I wonder how mad she would get if she found out that animals were used in the testing of the new perfume she’s hawking. I wonder if she could face her husband, Chris Martin, after finding out he was unfaithful and be able to say, I respect and admire you.
I’m sure she would be confident judging a care-giver if a child’s life had been lost due to neglect, or illicit behavior or violence. Being a Vegan, she surely would judge with conviction a person who slurps up foie gras with toast points. But take a gander at this justification for wearing fur in a photo shoot when posed a question by an interviewer:
“That was awkward, and I’m glad you asked, because I do not wear fur at all. It was a daylong photo shoot on a boat near Capri, and there were all sorts of poses with all kinds of clothes—none with fur. During one set-up, a stylist came up from behind and draped a stole around my shoulders. I didn’t pay much attention to it, and when I noticed it was fur I assumed it was fake fur but did not ask, so it’s my fault. I was very surprised when they ended up using that one shot out of hundreds for the centerpiece of the Tod’s ads. I know it’s not a great excuse, but I hope you and your members understand.”
If someone put a burger in front of you would you just eat it? Or would you ask first if it was meat-free?
G, I am not trying to trash you. It’s just that you’ve encapsulated, in one brief interview, all that makes my heart sad, which is why I still think of this interview months after it occurred. I wouldn’t be surprised if you still think of it, too.
Even you, a smart, pondering sort of woman, sees infidelity and its necessary lies as okay, whereas lying about how one is raising an animal for slaughter is not. I don’t get that. I see an unwillingness to judge deceit as lazy, weak, and protective…just in case one day I might decide I want to eat shark fin soup and have sex with my married Director I should maybe tick-a-lock so as not to bite my own skinny ass, which would be so not Vegan. So therefor I don’t judge. Because one day I might have to judge me.
In the midst of my many revisions of this post, I received a phone call from a person with whom I was conversing about a job. A job that wouldn’t take me away from the children and one about which I could be passionate. A job that would eat into my time to write, but my people-pleasing side pursued because it would also silence The Genius’ cries for me to become employed. I was hopeful that it would come to fruition. Albeit, concerned that I was going to create an excuse to not be fearless and put all my eggs in The Book basket. But this was an opportunity of a lifetime.
He updated me on some progress on the business front and then told me that I made his wife uncomfortable.
Well, guess I won’t be needing to factor in that gig.
I had the opportunity to meet her. We connected immediately. She’s tough and tender, smart and thoughtful, brave and vulnerable. I admire her. And I admire her husband.
And I admire them both for their honesty in addressing why I can’t work for them.
She didn’t have a good feeling about me because I’m outgoing and open, single and pretty. The situation just didn’t feel right for her. She voiced it to him immediately. He listened. And instead of blowing me off, he called to explain the situation. He was honest, supportive of his wife and her concerns, and empathic as to how it would feel for me. (They are both aware of The Genius’ betrayal.) To be clear, I didn’t have the job, which in reality would have been an opportunistic hire, not a hire for a vacancy, so it’s not as if it had progressed to the point where she vetoed a hire. She simply spoke honestly about her feelings as soon as she discovered them.
Twice during our call he spoke of my openness and honesty, and that those traits are ones he, too, values. Perhaps that’s why his wife felt comfortable being honest with him.
Honesty begets honesty.
You don’t need me to tell you this, but for all those reading my words for the first time:
I’d rather take a bullet than have an affair with a married man. I’m the person that would send him back to his spouse with his tail between his legs and a game plan to get his act together. I would not hold back.
Have conversations, not affairs.
With the pain of knowing another human being – The Happy Dance Chick – proactively destroyed my marriage (in tandem with The Genius) still raw, I was saddened that a person felt that I would be capable of doing what to me is the unthinkable.
I wasn’t surprised that this type of situation arose. I’ve been experiencing it in other places, with other people. Not the majority by any means, and not the exact set of circumstances, but I’m definitely judged differently as a (soon-to-be) divorced and single mom. There are women who aren’t as comfortable around me as they used to be, or don’t feel the same ease of connecting over our intact families that we once shared. There are men who shy away from being friends with me because of the fear that it may be perceived as more, and men that assume I’m desperate to remarry or partner up because I’m a single mom.
Somehow I became the potentially hard-up floozy when The Genius is the one who had the concrete affair.
Oh, the irony.
Which is why, right now, I’m uncorking a bottle of Irony Pinot Noir.
I hung up the phone and sat outside watching hummingbirds zoom, hover, dive, slurp and sail away until a wave of sadness hit me. Tears burned and then busted through. I cried a steady, soft rain. My body went slack. I could feel it, but I could also feel it checking out. I was hurting inside. But not for me.
I was hurting because of pondering the ripple effect of deceit and internalizing the collective pain of the vast number of people who’ve been betrayed. I wasn’t hurting because of The Genius’ infidelity or because I’m judged differently as a divorced and single mom. I was hurting because people have come to expect deception, guard against it, and don’t trust each other. They have every reason to be that way.
Lying has become routine.
As has infidelity. Even Gwyneth, the Martha Stewart/Girl Next Door if you happen to live in Beverly Hills, gives cheating a pass.
So what’s next? Lying?
I can see it now…
Raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear to do your best to be pretty straightforward if you can? But if you can’t, that’s cool.
Well, I didn’t get the job, but I got the truth from two people who speak it. That’s like having an encounter with a California Condor. I’m grateful that they respected me enough to be honest with me. There’s absolutely got to be a silver lining here for all involved.
But what I really want is a silver bullet for deceit so trust can flourish again.
At least the buffalo won’t lie to me. We have a play date on Sunday. I know I can trust them to be honest. And if honesty begets honesty, maybe the date I’m bringing along might be a California Condor dressed as a tall, strong man with a killer smile.
I haven’t given up on humanity.