A couple of years ago, I took my wife out for Valentine’s Day dinner at a nice Greek restaurant. Because of other conflicts, and to avoid the standard insanity involved in getting a table on February 14th, we chose the day before for our romantic get-together. While my wife was in the bathroom, the waiter leaned as he refilled my water and whispered conspiratorially, “So…you taking your other girlfriend out tomorrow night?”
It was a joke, or at least I thought so at the time but later came to suspect that my waiter had seen a few men on consecutive nights with two different women. Sarah J. Symonds, host of the upcoming Slice reality show The Mistress, writes on her blog ‘Pillow Talk’ that the 13th is Valentine’s Day for “The Other Woman.” (Can we please call this St. Jezebel’s day? Please?)
The French seem to have the whole mistress thing down to an art. French kings were expected to have a gang of mistresses with one being side piece #1, or Maîtresse-en-titre — an honour that came with an apartment and an official portrait. (Yes, that’s right: The Germans have a word, schadenfreude, meaning to take pleasure from someone else’s misfortune, while the French have a word for “Favourite Mistress.”) At his state funeral, former French president François Mitterand had both his wife and long-time mistress present, along with his illegitimate daughter. Of course, neither seemed particularly thrilled about the arraignment. Sorry: arrangement.
There’s a quasi-romantic view of the mistress as the seductive, kept woman — the man’s co-conspirator in illicit thrills. I think it’s a fantasy that can seem alluring to many women, particularly at a certain point in their lives. You mean, I get to be desired and spoiled with gifts, and the hours are reasonable? There are worse ways to spend one’s 20s.
I’m sure there are women out there who fit that bill, wearing lingerie under trench coats and whatnot. But I’m sure the majority of “Other Women” are like those Symonds is trying to “rescue” with her Mistresses Anonymous program: morally conflicted, and looking for a way out. It will be interesting to see what kind of waves — and, hopefully, difference — Symonds’s show makes.
Don’t miss the premiere of The Mistress, Wednesday August 29th at 8pm ET on Slice.
Paul Beer is a Toronto writer, actor and comedian. You can follow him on Twitter @pauldanielbeer.