Tonya (not her real name) didn’t think of herself as a jealous woman. In fact, she remembered that while waiting in a long line and talking to the man next to her, when she wrote down on a slip of paper something the man said, a woman marched up to Tonya and demanded, “Did he give you his cell phone number?”
“No. Should he have?” Tonya felt sorry for her.
Item (Associated Press, October 2011): A Wisconsin woman aimed a gun at her fiancé’s head after finding him with another woman in the basement of his home. When the gun didn’t fire, she stabbed him.
Now it was Tonya’s turn to feel deprived, excluded from the goings on in the life of the man she fell in love with. She hadn’t heard from him in a week.
Item: A woman named Corinne stomped on a woman’s belly, killing her unborn child. The father of the unborn child was Corinne’s husband.
Tonya is losing weight and losing sleep. She’s weepy. She took a five-mile walk to walk it off after she saw his vehicle parked in another woman’s driveway.
Item: In the apartment complex where Tonya used to live, a husband sat in his car outside his wife’s apartment building. A neighbor told Tonya, “He’s waiting to catch his wife cheating.”
Tonya read a book that asked, “Why do men cheat?” There were as many answers as there were respondents’ excuses. When asked why, President Clinton replied, “Because I could.” Ms. Lewinsky was quoted as saying, “He told them I was there to provide a service. ”
A Washington columnist quoted Claire Booth Luce as saying, “We have a name for women like that, but it’s not usually used outside the kennel.”
In his book, Leonard Pitts quotes a daughter as saying, “My daddy’s not like that” when she’s told of her daddy’s outside child. “Honey,” an older woman tells her, “They’re all like that.”
Item: A man named Sherman was exiled from Illinois to Minnesota for killing his wife and the man Sherman found her with in corpus delicti. The claim is that this murder of passion is legal in Texas.
In South America, men invited to an American ex-pat’s party asked in all seriousness, “Do we bring the mistress or the wife?” A word to the wise: Your spouse is your next of kin. In Libya it was said the most common wives’ complaints were husbands’ frequent absences from home and general lack of communication and affection. According to the Italian writer Italo Svevo, “The absent man is always wrong.”
Item: After former NBA star Allen Iverson’s wedding, a woman said, “I don’t care! I know where he hangs out!” Jesse Jackson, Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Mick Jagger, Strom Thurman and even the famous aviator Charles Lindberg have all been accused of being active outside their marriages. In The Plague, author Albert Camus wrote, “In our town men and women consume one another rapidly.”
A man that Tonya knew has five daughters with five women. So Tonya asked herself, “Can we love without an agenda? Is it possible? Are we that big-hearted? Or does it add insult to injury that he prefers others to me? That he gives away to others the gift of his time and attention that I thought that I earned?”
To delude is to willingly fool yourself, and in French, mauvaise foi means lying to oneself. Tonya swore she would take the advice of the woman who said, “Never go running after a bus or a man,” but one night Tonya did. She went looking for her ex-husband’s car in his usual hide-outs.
She remembered finding a photograph of another woman smiling at her husband. She remembered the night she threatened him with a butcher knife when his car was parked outside another woman’s house.
She remembered seeking out her predecessor in a love affair. And the day another woman was there when Tonya showed up unannounced at his apartment. When Tonya jumped into his pool with all her clothes on, the other woman asked, “Johnny, can she use your hairdryer?”
Item: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” And, “Man loves little and often, woman rarely and much.”
What shocked and overpowered Tonya was the white heat of her feelings. Intense feeling, Barbara J. Wood wrote, “is normal — the essence of being human,” but, gee, did feeling have to come in red flames that block out sense and rationale? Is the degree of intensity in proportion to the gravity of the investment? The perceived loss?
“One man, it ain’t much,” Janis Joplin sang. “It’s only everything. It’s only ever’ little thing.”
Elizabeth Ellis is the mother of three grown children, a college graduate, a 10-year veteran of the Foreign Service and a native of the Twin Cities. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.