By now you will have had the talk. I know we have. “Of course I'm not on Ashley Madison!” said the economist. “Think about it for a moment. It costs $350 (for an 'affair guaranteed' membership).” Well OK, then. If only cheapness was a barrier to infidelity for other men. Life is short so they're going to have an affair, dammit. And quite possibly shorten their lives even more, should their wives find out. With the whole 'list of cheaters' thing making a lie of the oft-quoted adage 'nobody knows what goes on inside a relationship but the people in it', women everywhere suddenly find themselves (instead of bored rigid by the very idea) wondering exactly what their men get up to when they're supposed to be down the club/pub/shrubbery. Because they aren't just watching each others' beards grow.
Yes, there were women on the adultery website, but women don't need to go on the internet to find someone to have sex with – they were probably just having a laugh. And yes, women lead covert lives, of course, with a cloak-and-dagger, gated-community mentality around the private business of beauty and fighting off the seven signs of aging. The problem is, we've been so busy buying butt-lifting trousers and waxing to prevent Edwardian handlebar mustachios that men, unchecked, have been running amok, conducting secret man business all over the show.
Men cheat. I once caught a chef boyfriend al dente with two waitresses. “Its not what it looks like,” he had the audacity to say. But it was exactly what it looked like – and not a game of naked Twister gone horribly awry. I've never cheated, although there has sometimes been a certain fluidity between the end of one relationship and the beginning of another, akin to stabilizing water levels in a lock so your boat doesn't scrape its bottom. This is natural, and not, as the economist relishes in describing it, “like a little monkey swinging from one branch to another.”
Anyway, this isn't about me. This is about men not being able to keep it in their pants. “Its an involuntary thing, darling,” said the economist. “No-one's doing it deliberately. Its Nature's way, we can't help it.” This smacked of a 'tripped on the rug with my trousers round my ankles,' Carry On … Up the Khyber sort of excuse. “Try again,” I said, agitating my coffee cup.
“Its not cheating, its furthering the species. I don't think in those terms though, do I? I suppose I would if I wasn't so lazy. Men are pervs. We're looking at pornography, we're looking at your bum. You can't blame a dog for barking. Men are hunters, and what do you think we're hunting? The only reason we are here is to breed.” It had suddenly gone all prehistoric in the kitchen. Deciding to come back when it was less dangerous, I went to the movies with Tall Gorgeous Blonde.
Not that it had anything to do with anything, but the movie was Amy Schumer's Trainwreck. I love Amy Schumer but her script seemed to have been seriously derailed by a Hollywood executive who loved basketball. However, there was one bit that jangled my interest long enough to stop me tossing popcorn: teaching his daughters to chant 'Monogamy isn't realistic,' Amy's dad likened marriage to having to play with one doll for the rest of your life when there are so many other interesting dolls (stewardess doll, slightly-overweight waitress doll) who want to play with you.
I went home to my favourite doll, thinking about Sigmund Freud, who said anatomy is destiny. If my anatomy included a certain appendage, would I be destined to cut a Byronesque swathe? “If you had a penis, you'd probably be in prison,” said the economist. Harsh, and untrue: I've already been in prison once this year without one. Seriously, humans might not be much more than shag-happy animals with nice caves but we also have free will. Some of us just don't have any self-control, a cheating man like an incontinent dog that has to wee on every lamppost it meets. And maybe monogamy just comes down to too much to lose. Or, as the economist put it, “I would, every man would, but I wouldn't because the costs are too high. I'd lose you and I'd feel wretched, so I don't.”
That's true love, that is.