The following letter was addressed to Slate‘s Emily Yoffe, a.k.a. “Dear Prudence.” Read it and then consider my inserted comments and considered response, which I’ve posted under the name “Valentine Xavier.”
“Dear Prudence — Several years ago, after accepting that I’d be alone forever” — VX: Gee, I wonder why that possibility occured to her? — “I met a wonderful man. He was kind, compassionate, intelligent, hilarious, and widely respected. We were true soul mates.” VX: Good God…beware of anyone using the term ‘soul mate’…strictly for lame-o’s! “Shortly after we married he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He fought bravely for several years while I gladly worked full time, cared for him, and basically took care of everything so that he could focus on his health and the things he enjoyed” — VX: Why does this sound more like a patient-nurse relationship than a marriage?
“He recently lost his battle.” — XV: Sorry.
“While searching for information on some loose ends, I stumbled across email responses he had sent to singles and couples seeking casual sexual encounters. The three instances I found were a few months after we’d met and were falling in love, shortly after we’d declared our love, and earlier this year, after we’d been ‘happily married’ for some time. I am destroyed. I’m now grieving for the relationship I thought we had and the man I thought he was. I gave everything I had to him, and now I want to flush his ashes down the toilet. I can’t stand the thought of planning, attending, or acting sad at his memorial. I don’t want to keep his last name. I don’t want to see his family. I don’t want to scatter his ashes in places he loved. I don’t want to tell our families what he did and destroy their vision of him. But I don’t think it’s fair that I bear the brunt of this pain alone and live behind the facade of grieving widow. — Betrayed Widow”
VX to Betrayed Widow: “Good God, how old are you? How naive are you? You marry an older guy who begins his death march right after you get married and you get to be his nurse and care-giver until he passes, and you feel shocked and betrayed when you discover he had a secret online fantasy life that involved a grand total of three inquiries or conversational explorations?
“Guys are only as faithful as their options — ever heard that one? — and it’s possible your ex was just a secret hound, but almost all guys are. In their minds, I mean. Very few are 100% trustworthy if you count fantasies and dark dreams. Most dreamers haven’t the nerve to really cheat, but those that do will fuck a woodpile if they think they can get away with it. And guys who are dying are serious loose cannons because they’re figuring ‘what the hell? I’ll be worm food in a couple of years so I want to savor a last ecstatic encounter in the time I have left.’
“On top of which online flirting and fantasizing isn’t even cheating — there are at least 17 or 18 steps between establishing contact with a would-be casual sex partner and actual betrayal of a wife or girlfriend, and most guys never get beyond step #3 or #4. Largely because there are no would-be casual sex partners out there, only pros, and particularly not for guys with a fatal malady unless they’re stinking with $100 dollar bills to burn.
“The man probably sensed disease starting to envelop him, and he was simply trying to metaphorically prove to himself that he wasn’t finished on this planet, that there was a bit more to life than waiting to die and “being cared for” at home as he watches AMC and Fox News and feels the vitality draining out of him, or to overcome a feeling of futility or depression that almost certainly goes along with knowing you’re on your last couple of laps around the track.”
Thought: Maybe I could incorporate a relationship advice column called “Snakeskin Jacket” into Hollywood Elsewhere? I’ve been around, I know what goes and I could pass along a few insights. “Ask Valentine Xavier…if you want the straight dope.”