The Affair

I am stuck in bed except for times that I need to run out for doctor appointments, so I have become a heavy Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu patron. When Hulu offered a month free of their Showtime shows add-on, I jumped all over that – I haven’t had satellite/cable TV for at least seven years and there are certain shows I was hearing about over and over regarding their quality casting and writing. I powered through “Masters of Sex” and tried to watch “The Affair.”

“Masters of Sex” is fascinating on many levels. First, it’s set in the 1950s-1960’s, when discussion of the nature of sexual response did not occur in public. Second, Masters’ and Johnson’s breakthrough publication immediately preceded The Pill, which as we should know right now, freed a lot of women up to choose if and when to become pregnant, therefore leaving a lot more doors open to pursuing higher education, gainful employment and a variety of sexual partners. Third, it’s fun to see the period costumes and sets; oh, how nostalgic we become in looking back.

If you have not seen the series and you do not know the history of Masters and Johnson, caution: spoiler alert.

They convinced themselves that anything they did to contribute to research – anything – was NOT an affair. Masters was distant towards his wife and children and refused to explore anything sexual with his wife. Johnson was previously divorced with children (also a rarity for her generation) and she took on sexual partners without pretending that the interludes were for anything but sex. So in the name of research, they started an affair. At first, they would run stopwatches and talk about plateaus, but as the proverbial fly on the wall, the audience knows they are making some weak excuses to do the nasty. After a while it just became common knowledge, at least to Mrs. Masters, that Dr. Masters and Virginia Johnson were more than simply researchers to each other.

I could only get about four or five episodes into “The Affair” because it made me uncomfortable. It’s a modern examination of how men and women perceive opportunity. Again, spoiler alert – if you want to see it but haven’t yet, look away. Half of the show is dedicated to the telling from the perspective of the woman, and half is dedicated to the perspective of the man, but it’s not immediately apparent in the first episode until halfway through. When we watch through Noah’s eyes, Alison is a young, attractive woman who wears short shorts and practically throws herself at him. Her face is open, she is giving him bedroom eyes when they interact, there is always a half smile playing around her mouth, she speaks with confidence. Noah is stuttering and fumbling, unsure of himself, but going along with what she is offering because she has invited him. When it’s Alison’s turn to show her perspective, she is perpetually sad because she and her husband lost a child, and she is the one who is unsure of herself and feeling unattractive and lost. In her eyes, Noah is the instigator.

The reason why this particular series gets under my skin is that sometimes when I send another man away, I marvel at the information that comes back to me by mutual acquaintances. Like, were we even in the same relationship? Did he hear nothing that I said? Did he think I wouldn’t catch him lying?

But what if, like in the show “The Affair,” he really believes his version of the story? And what if I really believe my own version? The three men I lived with are no longer in contact, so I can’t ask them what they think now about what happened then. Do they even remember? The first one spent all of his rent money on porn and video games. The second one stole money from me and disappeared for days. The third one was controlling and abusive. What if their version of what went down is to say that I was controlling and demanding, or, I don’t know, wore unattractive socks? How can you even dispute something that the other person takes as fact? Does it ever work to try to change someone’s perception?

And then there’s Josh Duggar. I posted the quintessential meme on Facebook last night: “Marriage is between one man and one woman…and my sisters…and that chick from Ashley Madison.” He’s spending a lot of time now saying he’s sorry. I wonder how he justified all of his actions? When you strip away his church and his parents’ protection, there isn’t much left to hide behind. Duggar can’t claim he was seduced by his sisters. He can’t cry that he was duped into creating two accounts with Ashley Madison or that he didn’t make the profiles himself, since he very deliberately entered his grandmother’s address as his own. Also, is he (or his dad) going to waive the magic penis around and say that Jesus forgives him?