The term “love affair” has long signified a sexual relationship cemented by deep profound feelings. But not so much lately, it seems.
Leo McCarey‘s original Love Affair (’37) captured what an affair really feels like. Ditto the hot-and-heavy between Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak, both married to other people, in Richard Quine‘s Strangers When We Meet (’60), or the thing between Albert Finney and the married Rachel Roberts in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (also released in ’60).
Edward Dmytryk‘s The End of the Affair (’55), based on Graham Greene’s 1951 novel of the same name, was partly about a sexual affair between Van Johnson and Deborah Kerr during the London blitz, but primarily about emotional resentments. McCarey’s An Affair to Remember (’57) wasn’t about a sexual thing between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, but was certainly about an emotional entanglement that seeped deep inside.
Affairs are sometimes (often?) more intense and deeply felt than relationships that result in marriage. Glenn Ford has a years-long thing with Rita Hayworth, and from what I’ve read it mattered a great deal to both of them for many years.
I had an affair with a married journalist that lasted nearly three years (early ’98 to late ’00), and that, trust me, was the most painful thing I’ve ever been involved with. If it’s real, it hurts.
All to say that the word “affair” has been cheapened over the last couple of decades.
Time and again I’ve read about an “affair” between JFK and Marilyn Monroe, when most reliable biographers say they got together exactly twice — once at Bing Crosby‘s place in the desert, another time at Peter Lawford‘s beach house in Santa Monica. (And some biographers are unsure about the Lawford thing.) Two boinks does not an affair make. An affair has to involve at least four or five boinks, and even that is only scratching the surface. (I actually shouldn’t use the term “boink” — erotic minglings or spiritual mergings is better.)
Over the last few years the thing between Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels, which was described by Daniels as a one-off, has been routinely described as an “affair”. A total no-go. Even a brief affair involves a few furtive encounters. Three or four, I suppose, but somehow that doesn’t feel sufficent. A classic affair involves a sexual-emotional relationship that goes on for weeks, months, perhaps years.
BTW: Yesterday’s ruling from District Judge Lewis Kaplan in the E. Jean Carroll rape defamation case was bad for Donald Trump, which is good for everyone else. Kaplan ruled that the infamous Access Hollywood tape (“grab ’em by the pussy”) and the testimony of two other women who have accused former President Trump of sexual assault (Natasha Stoynoff, Jessica Leeds) can be used as evidence at the trial.