The crux of my question, really, is should women be OK with dating men who sleep around, but we'll get to that. First, because it's most of what has me waxing on the topic in general, I just read a book that's equal parts funny and informative, and how many things can you say that about? Not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, that's for sure. The book I read is called It Ended Badly, which discusses what the author dubs the worst breakups in history. Think Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Think Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. I'll save you my Goodreads spiel, suffice it to say, I recommend this book. If you like history and/or have ever been through a breakup and/or want a reason to severely dislike Norman Mailer.
I was fascinated by several of these breakups, but the one that affected me most was Edith Wharton and Morton Fullerton. Supposedly her one love (oddly, her husband was not), Wharton and Fullerton's affair was brief but passionate, until he up and left without so much as a word. This resonated with me personally as it's what a love of mine did to me once, and reading excerpts from Edith's letters to Morton (essentially "Where are you? Are you coming back? I don't understand.") were pretty brutal. But what impressed me was how she was ultimately able to recover and become somewhat empowered by the whole situation. Look, I'm not here to judge Morton Fullerton...just to say that he was probably slutty and didn't treat her the way she deserved to be treated. Here, ultimately, is Edith, in a letter to Morton--a letter that I typed on my typewriter last night and stuck on the fridge because I found it so inspiring:
"What you wish, apparently, is to take of my life the inmost & uttermost that a woman--a woman like me--can give, for an hour, now and then, when it suits you; & when the hour is over, to leave me out of your mind & out of your life as a man leaves the companion who has afforded him a transient distraction. I think I am worth more than that, or worth, perhaps I had better say, something quite different."
Damn, girl. Truth.
Yet how many women can't bring themselves to say that? That they are worth more than an hour now and then? Too many of us.
Because of a rather uncharacteristic (for me) choice of recent male company, I decided to ask around as to whether this behavior was acceptable. I come from a very conservative background, and sometimes I like to check that against, well, reality. Here's how a conversation played out over lunch:
Me: So, should this bother me?
Friend: Pssssh, no. Look, this is what men do.
Me: But...so...you don't think it's gross at all?
Friend: I think it's gross if he doesn't shower in between, but other than that, no, I don't think it's gross.
I was fairly certain in the moment that I was hallucinating. And so I'm a bit relieved that based on all the other feedback I got, most women do ultimately want to be with someone who's not sleeping with anyone else. Of course, the catch here is that this isn't really about what most women think about a situation or what they say they would do. It's about what you would do. It's about what you will do. When he comes around for his next hour, when it suits him, are you going to take what you can get and feel lucky that he wants you for any amount of time at all (not saying this is never the answer), or can you muster the huevos to go all Edith on him and say the thing we're all not saying, even though we should (not saying this is as easy as it sounds...just that we are most certainly worth more than that).