The Affair

I've never had an affair, but recently I was pulled towards one. I found myself not answering texts, canceling plans, and saying to myself just a bit more, then I'll stop. I was enamored, enraptured. I lost the whole weekend to it.

That thing, while not an affair with another human, does bear its name: The Affair on Showtime. I'll only say a bit about the show because you should really watch it yourself. It's essentially the same recollection of an affair from two perspectives, Noah's (Dominic West) and Alison's (Ruth Wilson), each taking up half of an episode. However, things get complicated with and beyond the affair as the deeper, sadder details of these two peoples' lives emerge. You'll notice right away that little, superficial details change according to whose narrative we're in: the color of a dress, who kissed whom, when in the day something happened. Beyond showing us the faults of memory, these little details also highlight each character's worldview and self-perception. This narrative style is why I felt an affair-like addiction to the show, because watching was like uncovering the layers (and the deeper, sometimes sadder details) of the characters like you would a lover. I wanted more, more, more.

So many secrets.

What is it about television dramas that make you feel like you're cheating on your life with your TV set? How can we go hours and hours holed up with only food, sleep and HBOGo like we would with a new flame?

Binge-watching is rampant now that we have Showtime Anytime, Netflix, Hulu, and all the other il/legal streaming sites, but I think the technology is just an enabler for a certain personality type. Not everyone has this desire to tv-marathon. I was talking to a friend recently who said something along the lines of, if he watches more than a few episodes of something in a row, he wants to throw up and then go for a run. Good for him for avoiding atrophied muscles from too much couch-potato time.

I'd posit, at least for myself, that the personality type that can watch tv for hours, even ashamedly, is the same kind that thinks a lot (or too much?) about stories, connection, and possibly also about love and relationships. I've written about media voyeurism before, where I let media teach me lessons instead of experiencing them first hand in the world, and I think we media types like neat, dramatic, and constructed narratives because they are easier to follow than the random events in our lives. For example, how do I even know what an affair looks like? Since I've never had one or known anyone to have one (I'm still in my twenties, and at my age people are young enough that cheating usually leads to a clean breakup before marriage or kids), it's the movies and books and television that show me what the guilt and the illicit pleasure and the heartbreak feel like. While I'm definitely NOT wishing an affair on myself to chalk up to experience, I still use the power of storytelling to show me the truths and authenticity of humanity in the places I haven't gone.

Here's an embarrassing example that might help clarify my point. About a year ago I dated someone briefly (keyword, briefly) who dumped me for another girl. The Facebook message signaling the breakup cited an exclusivity talk with the other girl and not wanting to blindside me when we were going to hang out that night, hence the Facebook message. I wasn't falling in love in the slightest but I still felt rejected and undignified enough by the cowardly message for a good cry. The thing was, this person had made me a really beautiful, wood-carved plaque with a quote from Before Sunrise on it (readers of this blog will know that film is my absolute favorite ever). In my indignation over the breakup I grabbed the plaque, swiped the hammer from my desk drawer, and tried to break the thing. When that didn't work, I took a sharpie and scrawled "Fuck you" on it and threw it away. 

But that didn't make me feel better, only worse. I missed the plaque immediately, not because it was a symbol of our time together, but just because I liked it. What's worse, while destroying it I felt like I was watching my body write the swear as my brain was thinking, this is something someone in the movies would do. Silly, yes. Pathetic, slightly. But the takeaway there was that I should listen to myself instead of deferring to a narrative cliché. I tend to like my rational ability to know what keepsakes and memories to hold onto, however hurtful they once were, and I ignored that disposition in my moment of weakness. Because I watch too much tv, maybe.

Oh well, at least I'll have the Instagram snapshot of the plaque to remind me to listen to the moment. Haha, the irony.

Jane the Virgin & risk-taking

Blue Is the Warmest (Hair) Color