My longtime friend Carrie White just published a memoir called Upper Cut, about her years as a Hollywood hairdresser and her recovery from drugs and alcohol. We crisscross one another on our trek from bookstore to radio station, hopefully presenting our labors of literary love to an oversaturated reading public.
It was Carrie who, a couple of decades ago, gave me an excellent piece of advice. It was, mind you, a piece of advice I should have been given in high school and which, it should also be noted, I did not follow worth a damn. The advice was this: “Never kiss a married man.”
Good grief. Didn’t she realize that married men are catnip to a love junkie? Affairs are goldmines of drama, and there’s nothing a love addict likes more than drama. It masquerades so easily as feeling.
Married men are like unappreciated artists, or suicide survivors, or vampires — relationships with them are always doomed. Beautifully, romantically doomed. Which, of course, is the point. Because deep down, what a love junkie is terrified of is actual intimacy. The illusion of relationship always trumps the reality of “What are having for dinner tonight, honey?”
Next great thing about married men: They are incredibly affectionate and forthcoming about their feelings. They can adore you unreservedly, because they have no fear of commitment to get in the way. They are, after all, already committed. To someone else.
Third, married or otherwise unattainable men (gay guys, for example) are a self-fulfilling prophecy for women with zero self esteem. You don’t genuinely believe you deserve someone in your life - guess what? You don’t have to worry about that any more. The marriage bonus is that if you can snag some other woman’s man, even for a little while, you must at least be better than she is.
And then there’s the whole tragic victim part: If only he had met you first! You two were destined to be together, had not cruel reality intervened! You’re the pitiful plaything of a heartless world. No point thinking about the time and attention you might be stealing from some faceless wife or anonymous children. You’re the one being wronged here, dammit! (Don’t argue with someone in looove. It’s dangerous..)
Let’s not forget the whole Forbidden Love aspect of it. It’s taboo and rebellious and edgy… and, admit it, that’s just plain sexy. In a world where age, race, religion, social class, geography and even gender are no longer barriers to relationship, it’s hard to find a good obstacle to bang your head against. Some of us like banging our head against things. Helps drown out the voices inside.
It was harder and took me longer to get off married men than to get off cocaine. Married men are cheaper, easier to come by, and generally legal. That does not, it turned out, make them a better idea.
So, Carrie, if I haven’t thanked you in the past 20 years for that bit of wisdom, I thank you now. I’m even doing (technically, not doing) what you suggested.