Chapter Three: The Affair

Whatever my father saw the night he walked in on my mom and his best friend affected the rest of my life and shortened my mom’s, so it was nice to see that 91 percent of Americans believe adultery is “morally wrong,” according to The New York Times last May. But evidence points to the contrary. For example, 1 in 6 married American men had an active Ashley Madison account when the site was hacked in 2015, per Forbes, and Showtime’s he-said-she-said series “The Affair” has garnered two Golden Globes, a 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 8 out of 10 on imdb. The latter piqued my interest since TV is escapism. If so many people frown upon infidelity, who’s watching this show and why are they praising it? After all, I may not enjoy chick flicks, but I understand the appeal: They end happily ever after. Nothing good can come of a show titled “The Affair.”

Given the prevalence of free porn full of pretty people, I doubted that fans were watching it for the sex scenes between Ruth Wilson, who plays 31-year-old waitress Alison, and Dominic West, who plays 46-year-old writer Noah, who went to college on a swimming scholarship. Wilson has an interesting face and West has a lean swimmer’s body, but neither actor is centerfold material. In fact, in a clip from the show, Noah tells the auburn-haired waitress that he’s begun writing a book about a waitress and feels compelled to add that she’s a blonde with bigger breasts.

With that out of the way, I pondered whether the majority of the audience was comprised of people who’ve had an affair, people who are having an affair, people who are tempted to have an affair, people like me who grew up in the aftermath of an affair, or people who read tabloids and lack the requisite amount of drama in their own lives. Nielsen doesn’t keep track of such demographics, so despite the fact that Christians are supposed to abstain from sinful entertainment, I grieved the Holy Spirit and rented season one to determine the answer myself. I realize that sounds like a guy who says he subscribes to Playboy for the articles, but a) I didn’t become a Christian until 2014, and God has stripped so many other things from me in the last year and a half that I’m not ready to part with “Luther,” “The Leftovers,” and the like, and b) Elle U.K. said the show “explores the emotional and psychological fallout from an extramarital affair.” Given my upbringing, I was hoping that meant “The Affair” would deter people from interfering with another couple’s marriage.

Nope! Season one presents utopia. No wonder the magazine posted a promo photo from the show and asked Facebook followers, “Should you have an affair?” I lost interest when the cheating characters’ spouses accepted the betrayal with grace, self-control, and maturity. Maura Tierney’s character didn’t start swearing and throwing things until she discovered that her husband and co-parent of four children had brought his mistress into their Pottery Barn-perfect home post-confession. Maybe people from Montauk, New York, are more refined than Richard Gere in “Unfaithful,” the thousands of people who’ve murdered their spouse in a jealous rage, or my father, who doled out his revenge over the course of a decade and a half, but I doubt it. God hates divorce, commands us to forgive everyone for everything, and included adultery in His top 10 thou shalt nots, but even He realized that forcing us to sit across the breakfast table from the spouse who had sex with someone else might be too much to ask, so He added an escape clause to the marital contract.

Unfortunately, not everyone can take advantage of that clause.

My mom divorced my father the year after he bought a house and began beating her, calling her a slut, and dating a woman named Holly in revenge, but she begged him to take her back before we could even move out. My mentally handicapped and diabetic brother had enough problems as doctors tinkered with drugs and dosages that caused more seizures than they prevented. After looking into HUD housing, Mom decided that being strangled and degraded was better than raising her children in a Section 8 neighborhood, bad schools, and a home with a hole in the living room floor. T.D. Jakes would probably call that commitment:

Or, more specifically, being committed to a concept:

I called it hell.

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