Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Babysitter's Lament

Does anyone make out anymore? You would think that today’s millennials would not be so retrograde, but apparently one of them, at least, is involved in a liaison where she and her paramour make out. And do not take it any further.

The term is quaint and charming. The practice is quaint and charming, harkening back to the times when young couples made out… and did not go all the way. Back in that day, girls were far more fastidious about handing out their favors, so couples learned to stop before advancing to full fledged fornication. And boys showed their respect for girls by refraining from intercourse.

This being the context, examine a letter written by a young woman to New York Times columnists Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. Truth be told, I am less interested in their replies than in the complexity of her case. Not a one of us is going to disagree with their judgment, namely that the letter writer would do better, for the sake of her own sanity, to extricate herself from her make out sessions with the man in question. You see, the man is married and the millennial woman babysits his children.

Without further ado, here is the letter, in its entirety:

I’m a woman in my late 20s, and for the past three years I’ve been babysitting for a family. Two years ago, I began having a strange kind of affair with the father of the children, who is 13 years older than me. By “strange” I mean we make out about once a week. It’s insanely hot: We kiss, our hands wander, clothes get pushed aside and then, after about 10 minutes, he abruptly stops and says he has to go. He also comes to my apartment after work sometimes, but again, only to make out briefly. Nothing more. It’s torture.

I’ve ended this thing many times and he always agrees with me, but we soon find ourselves making out again. I’m becoming someone I don’t like. I can’t stand what I could be doing to the children. If this comes out, I’d ruin their lives. I’m jealous of his wife, who has been nothing but kind to me. I know where they keep their condoms and I count them obsessively to know if they’ve had sex. I’ve considered telling his wife about the affair, reasoning that she deserves to know, but my true motivation is that I want to hurt him like he’s hurt me. He uses me like a toy he plays with then sets aside.

I know I should find another job, but I truly love the children and can’t imagine not seeing them. Yet ending things while still working for him has proved to be impossible. I’m scared that I love him. I’ve dated other people during the course of our affair, but no one makes me feel the way the dad does. Where do I find the strength to leave this situation? I feel sick and hopeless. Why can’t I seem to quit?

Haven’t Hit My Breaking Point

One suspects that she is not the only party being tortured by this regimen. Though we do not know whether she is saying that they stop before intercourse or they stop before orgasmic release. I am sure I do not need to explain this. But, if she is being tortured, so apparently is he.

That’s not all that we do not know. We know that they cannot keep away from each other, but we do not know whether they have ever had a conversation where they tried to define what is going on. We do not know how good or bad the man’s marriage is. We have an inkling that he might be having occasional sex with his wife, but that does not tell us whether or not he wants to leave. If the letter writer cares about knowing whether he is having sex with his wife, she is thinking longer term... about an eventual marital breakup. One that, to be fair, she refuses to think about.

And we do not know how old the children are… presumably they are young… else they would not need a baby sitter. Add to that, we do not know what the man does for a living, and what the wife does for a living. We do not know who the breadwinner in the family is? If his wife is the breadwinner, he might fear that divorce will leave him semi-destitute. If he is the breadwinner, he might fear that divorce will leave him semi-destitute.

To return to the sex issue, consider this. If the man uses condoms at home, he could also use them with his babysitting paramour. If he refuses, and if he does not recommend that she go on the pill, he seems unusually fastidious about avoiding any chance that she will get pregnant. Forget for an instant the torturous side of this arrangement, the real risks are not emotional. Underscore the point. It’s not about emotion; it’s about procreation. A pregnancy would seriously complicate his life. And hers.

The New York Times advisors tell her that she is being used, that she is being toyed with. This might be true, were it not for the fact that we do not know whether they have ever raised the issue of his getting a divorce. For all we know, she is looking for a husband, and has found a husband. I trust that it will offend every fiber of your moral being, but young women have been known to poach other women’s husbands. As long as she keeps telling herself that she is being used, she will not take charge of the situation and walk away. After all, her soft feminine side is an enormous turn-on, for him. Does she find something affirming in being involved with a man who cannot keep away from her? No one considers the issue, so I feel obliged to raise it.

But, why do we consider that the only options are, turning on or turning off? She has already considered telling the man’s wife. She says his wife has been kind to her, but that tells us very little. She says that if it comes out it will ruin his life and the life of his children. Surely, there is truth to that, but then why is he playing with fire. Strangely, she does not seem to want the relationship turn into anything more than what it is. For my part, I accept that she does not want to see herself as a homewrecker, but that is what she is. Other women in a similar situation would tell their lover that if divorce is out of the question, the arrangement is over. Since she apparently cares for the children, she seems unwilling to consider the eventuality.

For the record we do not know who hires her for the babysitting. If it’s the wife, then it becomes more difficult to simply walk away from her job, without any explanation. As for the wife, one would need to be especially naive to imagine that she does not know what is going on. If the wife has any occasion to observe her husband interacting with the babysitter, the wife knows well what is happening. This does not mean that she objects. It does not mean that such things have never happened before. For all we know husband and wife have a tacit agreement, which allows him some dalliances, but only as long as he does not cross a certain line. It might be part of their own arrangement.

Again, we do not know because the frustrated couple does not seem to have defined their relationship. It is fair to say that he is toying with her emotions. It is also fair to say that she would not object very strenuously if he left his wife for her. It is slightly less fair to say that he is using her for sex, as he might use an escort. Anything can happen in this sexually liberated world of ours, but it seems unlikely that he would, when enjoying an interlude with an escort, stop before climax. Few escorts will remain long in the business without providing satisfaction.

The arrangement in question more closely resembles courtly love, an adulterous arrangement where a couple, originally a married woman and a teenage boy, enacted a romantic seduction-- but a seduction that never reached its appointed ending. They were showing their love and devotion by allowing themselves to suffer extreme temptation and not yield to it. These relationships developed in medieval Europe at a time when men had ridden off to the Holy Land to fight the crusades.

To be rational, we also understand that the wives in question had good interest to pretend to have remained chaste. After all, if their knightly husbands had found out, they would have suffered severe consequences.

Consider that to be historical context. We do not know his game. We do not know her game. She does not want to think about what is going on between them. He does not either. The obvious solution would be for her to ghost him and to stop babysitting his children. And yet, one suspects that things are more complicated than we imagine.


Ares Olympus said...

It seems there's a thrill in a illicit relationship, an aliveness that isn't felt anywhere else, and the tension of such a relationship may end after consummation, and then the seducer then feels compelled to go on and seduce someone else. So using his will power to stop before the end keeps it alive, and might even keep his conscience partly at bay, however irrationally.

Ghosting often isn't easy unless you're willing to move far away. Sensible advice to learn how to put up boundaries with him, and that'll make her feel stronger, but it'll also increase her attractiveness, and his desire to seduce her again, and she'll feel even weaker when she gives in next time. You can say no 100 times, and 1 yes erases all of them.

Telling the wife probably would likely stop things, and may not play out as she thinks. And perhaps it would give him an opportunity to try to re-seduce his wife, even despite his transgressions. And what if the wife still wanted the babysitter to stay?! You really can't guess other people's behavior.

Anonymous said...

If she is in her late 20's, she is about 10 years past the point where she can claim to be being used. She is acting like a teenager. He is even worse. Hey folks, we choose our own behavior, AND the consequences of that behavior. As has also been said, "You can't sit on two chairs with one behind." She can stop the whole relationship and never purposely see him again. That will end every negative consequence and every "yes, but" rationalization. Or she can continue until everyone's life is wrecked. Are there no other men in the world? He is despicable; why should she want to be anywhere near him? Oh, yeah: sex. HUGE price to pay for the consequences of this mess. Don't walk, run!...if you want any kind of future. Oh, and telling the wife is gratuitous immature nonsense. Believe me, the very best gift you can give her is to disappear. (Just tell her you have a new commitment and can no longer "sit".)

Sam L. said...

The Great SamIAm sees three unhappy endings for this situation.

Old Canuck said...

You are as young as the girl you feel....

A problematic turn of events to be sure. Of course he will be blamed for any and all things in this scenario but methinks that each party has had a role to play in this unfolding train wreck.

There is indeed something delicious about simply making out with a girl and not simply rushing to close the deal completely.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn’t be my choice, but Hillary C. put up with a lot worse from her husband and are hailed as feminist heroes.

During the 2016 campaign I was excoriated by a group of ardent liberal female Hillary supporters for daring to question her judgement for putting up with that crap. They assured me that they too would “stand by their man” for cheating on them. But, that was two years ago, the ideological talking points may have changed.