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“Why doesn’t she just leave him?”
It’s a phrase often uttered, often in exasperation and sometimes befuddlement, about women whose incorrigible philandering husbands have strayed yet again, with varying degrees of shamelessness.
The exasperation and befuddlement are compounded when the long-suffering wife is leagues classier and more beautiful than the women the peripatetic husband consorts with.
“Why would he even look elsewhere when he has her?”
We’ve all offered a conjecture or two, from the Freudian and Jungian to the Deepak-ish and Oprah-esque: he’s got a restless soul, he’s a sex addict; he’s bored; she’s no longer interested in sex; they have an understanding that as long as he’s discreet, he can play around; he wants a Marilyn and she’s a Jackie; the children have grown and they’ve drifted apart; he has the money and he’ll cut her off if she leaves; she doesn’t care, she spends his money anyway; she mothers him too much when what he wants is a lover; he’s never really grown up; they’re at different stages of growth and she is more evolved while he is more selfish; she still loves him and won’t give up on him; he’s a jerk who always comes back to her anyway.
Then there’s the Milan Kundera school of thought, postulated in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, as to the kinds of womanizers men are, which provides clues as to why they stray. In the novel, set against the backdrop of Russian-occupied Czechoslovakia and Zurich, Tomas, a womanizer who has fine-tuned, or so he believes, the art of erotic friendships, ends up being captivated by Tereza, and they begin living together. He continues to see Sabina, who is also seeing Franz, who happens to be married. Needless to say, Tomas’ infidelity is deeply hurtful to Tereza.
“Men who pursue a multitude of women fit neatly into two categories. Some seek their own subjective and unchanging dream of a woman in all women. Others are prompted by a desire to possess the endless variety of the objective female world. The obsession of the former is lyrical: what they seek in women is themselves, their ideal, and since an ideal is by definition something that can never be found, they are disappointed again and again. The disappointment that propels them from woman to woman gives their inconstancy a kind of romantic excuse, so that many sentimental women are touched by their unbridled philandering.
The obsession of the latter is epic, and women see nothing the least bit touching in it: the man projects no subjective ideal on women, and since everything interests him, nothing can disappoint him. This inability to be disappointed has something scandalous about it. The obsession of the epic womanizer strikes people as lacking in redemption (redemption by disappointment).”
Tomas, by his own reckoning, estimated his conquests to be around “two hundred, give or take a few.” He calculated it as thus: 25 years of involvement with women divided by 200 women equals an average of “eight or so new women a year. That’s not too bad, is it?”
That number pales in comparison to the basketball star Wilt Chamberlain, who claims his number to be in the thousands. 20,000 in fact.
In his memoirs, he was not being braggadocious, to quote someone else who surely inflated his number; he was merely “laying it out there for people who were curious.” And he did have his principles, claiming never to have gone after married women. “I was just doing what was natural—chasing good-looking ladies, whoever they were and wherever they were.”
Mentalfloss attempted to do the math:
“If Wilt started at the age of 15, from then up to the age of 55 (when the book was published) he would have had 40 years to sleep with 20,000 women, or 500 different women a year–easy math. That works out to roughly 1.4 women a day.”
Now, while Kundera was certainly being philosophical, not to mention clearly sympathetic to the male propensity to wander, there are those who don’t give a damn whether the man was an epic or lyric womanizer; as far as they’re concerned, he’s pathetic. Not pathetic in the original sense; in Ancient Greek pathos meant suffering. Pathetic, derived from pathos, means arousing sympathy, pity or compassion. But its meaning has evolved to arousing pity of a scornful, contemptuous kind, often due to miserable inadequacy, according to Wikidiff.com. To call someone pathetic, then, is to label that person a wretched loser, deplorable, despicable, and disgraceful.
Considering the way many womanizers shamelessly flaunt their indiscretions, pathetic is hardly a word they would use to describe themselves. And if it had been a womanizing senator with alleged ties to the drug trade facing a Congressional err, probe, instead of the polarizing female senator who had a sexual relationship with her driver you can be sure his extramarital dalliances would not merit the same prurient attention from his pathetic, spineless, leering colleagues.
Such is the sexist double standard we live in this telenovela of a country every single day. Even Leila De Lima, taking her cue from a bad telenovela, suddenly portrays herself as a woman in love, frail and not in control of her emotions, pandering to a pathetic stereotype in order to gain public sympathy.
Nevertheless, the investigation was about her part in the drug ecosystem that apparently flourished in the New Bilibid Prison while she was Justice Secretary, not how many times she and her lover f*cked, and where and when and how. So intense was the scrutiny into her extracurricular activities that it was rashly recommended by no less than the current Justice Secretary, himself another pathetic loser, that she be charged with adultery, or concubinage or some other offense that, had he a better grasp of the law he is tasked to uphold, do not apply to De Lima at all.
And the female members of Congress who allowed this irrelevant, salacious line of questioning to continue? As women they should have objected, and objected vehemently to their colleagues’ behavior. Yes, misogyny is deeply entrenched in our society, and the female members of Congress, it could be argued, as just as much victims of this rampant sexism as is Senator De Lima. Perhaps, but despite vowing to fight for justice when sworn into office, they allow it to be shamelessly trampled when it happens right in front of their eyes. They may be victims, but the fact remains, they are perpetrators as well.
As for those taking to task Vice President Leni Robredo et al for not coming to the aid of the scorned woman in this pathetic telenovela, the driver’s long-suffering wife, Mrs. Dayan, maybe the question they should be asking is:
“Why doesn’t she just leave him?”
Well, if divorce were legal in this country, she could have dumped his ass a long time ago.
Sadly, we remain the only country in the world where divorce has not been legalized. For a country whose stock in trade is pathos, that is truly pathetic.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published earlier this year by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Art by Dorothy Guya