My favourite quote from the last couple of weeks comes from the former mayor of Auckland and governor general, Dame Catherine Tizard. When asked what she thinks of the current Mayor of Auckland, she answered:
“I supported Len Brown when he ran and I still do. I did, however, whisper in his ear, ‘You stupid f***wit’ when I first saw him after that affair.”
That’s how it was written in The New Zealand Herald, with those naughty little asterisks hiding the uncomfortable truth. Much like the way Len Brown once tried to hide his own uncomfortable truth. As Brown found out, you always get found out. Closets have a way of creaking open.
I like the quote because it depicts a good-natured right-royal telling-off. A sincere but gentle scolding delivered with a tinge of maternal warmth. I don’t imagine Len Brown felt entitled to disagree with Dame Catherine’s candid assessment. When you’ve screwed up, you’ve screwed up.
Marriage and faithfulness is on my mind this week because my wife and I are high-fiving our way to another wedding anniversary: 17 years. My standard quip is that it’s been the best 13 years of my life.
That’s a positive, not a negative joke. Every year I deduct some happiness from the grand total on account of a few steep learning curves, but it’s no lie to say that the other years have been genuinely great.
It helps that we really, really like each other. It’s easy enough to love someone, but the hurdles of life are a lot more fun if you are able to like each other too.
That said, I understand how people stumble into having affairs. No matter how much you care for your partner, the sparkle and shine will fade if you grow complacent. Bathroom habits and grocery bills wear down the gloss pretty quickly. We’re only human after all. Throw in some kids for extra exhaustion and suddenly anyone who lives outside your domestic routine looks a whole lot more attractive.
It’s probably a bit like craving KFC. Those secret ingredients play on your mind for many months before culminating in an uncharacteristic moment of indulgence that is followed by instant regret.
The path to this misguided fantasy is signposted very subtly with innocent-looking moments. An innocuous walk in the park or a casual text message can in fact be loaded with intent, even if neither person admits it, turning those moments into tasty little transactions of illicit intimacy.
In the early days it took me a while to recognise the dangers of these slippery signposts and I ambled blithely past a few of them. I’m older and wiser now and I have a very simple rule: “Don’t be that guy.”
Everyone knows who “that guy” is. He’s the guy who thinks he’s James Bond but in reality is just a married man trying to live vicariously by fabricating moments with other people he fancies. More often than not everyone else can see exactly what he’s up to.
Just because something is appealing doesn’t mean you are entitled to it. I’m not James Bond and, disappointing as it may seem at times, all the attractive women in the world are not waiting for me to hit on them.
I quite often take a step back to observe my wife as though she’s not my wife, just so I can see what everyone else sees. It turns out she’s the ideal woman for me. If we weren’t already married I would totally want to have an affair with her. So I do.
I may not be James Bond but I’ve already got the girl. If I were to pursue anyone else I’d be a stupid f***wit and the former governor general could rightly tell me so.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times, 4 July 2014. Reproduced with permission.