The Mistress: The History of the Other Woman
I read this article with a mix of weariness and intrigue. The mistress/the other woman is a common literary foil for the salacious nature of men. As a person who has been on both sides of the paradigm, but as a a single man, I am of the belief that monogamy is not a natural state for people. However, for the sake of an organized society (notice I didn’t say civilized society), monogamy is a necessary evil.
The book outlines the role of the mistress, not as home wrecker, but as emancipated woman and borderline social misfit. I’ve known a few “other women” and most want a relationship with the right guy. Only, sometimes the right guy is married or otherwise taken. For some, this is OK—it allows for the rush of the forbidden with the freedom to do as she pleases. For others, it’s a sham which leaves them broken-hearted. Women are sold a bill of goods early on in life and it doesn’t include “Chick on the side.” The author pities the mistress, but the reviewer Jessa Crispin, offers some other examples of the possibilities, in literature and in history (Queen Victoria, Katherine Hepburn). She sees a certain freedom in having a special relationship that you’re not locked into the prescribed roles of husband and wife, burdened by the daily maintenance of house and home. The love of a man she cares for (plus potentially other lovers), unfettered.
Now, am I advocating for women to take up with married men? Am I suggesting that the sanctity of matrimony be augmented with some extra-curricular trim? No, I’m not. But it’s an interesting POV that there are other sorts of fulfilling relationships beyond marriage.