Literary Mistress

on November 19, 2012 in Misc

“When you take calls from women for the Chairman of the Board, make sure you never, ever confuse his mistress with his wife.”

Sounds like a line from a novel, doesn’t it? One of those trashy, dirty tomes we don’t like to admit we read.  But nope, I received this warning years ago on my first day of a temp job in the executive department of an oil company.

I never did meet that Chairman since he only flew in to Colorado from New York a couple times a year.  But the company still maintained a swank office for him, and in it was a framed photo of his mistress.  She was dark haired, pretty, and looked to be in her thirties.  He was around sixty.

Some time later I had another temp job at a bigger oil company, again working with the top execs.  I figured out pretty quickly that the CEO had either a mistress or the occasional, expensive call girl.  Why? Among the many reasons, he was barely on speaking terms with his wife.  One day she called me and asked to speak with her husband.  I told her he was in Canada and would be there for a week.  These two people lived in the same house.

Anyway, the reason I’m talking about mistresses isn’t just because the news outlets have gone gaga over the General Petraeus scandal, although I do appreciate the irony of his biography’s title, “All In” – written by his mistress.

No, the fact is, I’m just happy about how this latest sex-and-power scandal reassures me that I got a similar situation right in my novel, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar (that’s the manuscript I told you I’m editing).  It’s set in New York in 1867-1868, and Charity has dust-ups with several real-life people, including the notorious mistress of the robber baron Jim Fisk.  Fisk was married and lived in New York while his wife happily resided with a female companion in Boston.  Historians assume the wife and companion were lesbian lovers.

So much for the idea that people lived prim and proper lives back in the old days.

Now personally, I love how as a writer I sometimes don’t have to invent anything in order to tell a whopping story.

But on the downside, there are always the sad cases of people like Mrs. Petraeus, a woman who as a military wife moved the family 24 times in about as many years.  Who works like hell.  Who is no longer a hot, sexy young thing that can go on five-mile runs with her husband – the way his mistress can.  I wonder if Mrs P is ever tempted these days to shoot Mr. P?

That’s what happened to Fisk, in a roundabout way.  His mistress cheated on him with a more handsome, dashing man who in a jealous rage shot and killed Fisk.

How about you – is there anything in the news that you can put in a novel?  Funny how even science fiction or paranormal stories sometimes seem to predict a news story or scandal that’s just around the corner.

10 Responses to “Literary Mistress”

  1. Yeah, I feel sorry for his wife. I just can’t imagine doing that to my spouse. Such a betrayal of trust.
    Right now the news of Hostess brings a whole new meaning to movies live Zombieland. What if he doesn’t find his Twinkies?

  2. I get a lot of inspiration from reading the news. And some things never change. Have a great week!

  3. Helena says:

    Alex – As for Hostess, I must shamefully confess to occasionally eating the cupcakes.

  4. Helena says:

    Carol – You have a great week too. And yes, there’s nothing new under the sun.

  5. Just a few things on this topic:

    1) In my own ideology (being a gay male) I snarkily say “I don’t understand what all these men see in women anyway…” But all kidding aside, I tend to think from a scientific view that “monogamy” as a concept of society may be (unfortunately) out of touch with biological instinct since a majority of animals tend to pursue different mates. It may be one reason why marriages so often fail. Now as a caveat to that, my parents have been married for fifty years. But they long ago stopped loving each other. They just never divorced because it was too hard. Imagine living with someone for decades just because you were used to them (that’s my parents). It’s weird and I continuously find myself confused by life choices.

    2) I thought General Patraeus was damn good looking for an older gentleman. Holy cow…I’d do him, and that says to me that he probably got a lot of attention even without all those powerful credentials. I think that’s dangerous to a marriage…when one mate is getting so much attention from others.

    3) Did you know that having a mistress is actually accepted and even expected in other cultures. My mom is Japanese and told me (often) before she lost her mind that she wondered why dad (her husband) never had one. She told me that in Japan, all men have mistresses. There’s an honor system about it. One does not speak of the mistress at home or around the kids. But most wives know about them. I thought that’s odd. But a lot of things in Japan are odd. They are definitely more capable of dealing with sexuality issues than Americans.

  6. Oh and I think I turned in the right email to the lady that’s helping me with my book tour. I know you said you don’t get much traffic, but book tours aren’t to sell books to direct followers. They are to increase your online footprint for google search engine results and something called “Klout.” Anyway, her name is Roxanne. I suppose I could be all authorly and say she’s my “publicist” but honestly, she cost less than some of my more extravagant dinners out with friends and was definitely cheaper than money I’ve lost on the CRAPS tables at Vegas. Simply put, she’s doing a lot of stuff for me while I can focus on holidays like Thanksgiving with my parental units.

    Did you get contacted by her? If no, then shoot me the correct email because I may have sent her the wrong one. Cheers, Helena :)

  7. Helena says:

    Michael — How sad that the love left your parents’ marriage so long ago, but I’ve heard of other couples “settling” like that and allowing for the trajectory for their lives to head slowly downhill. My own parents (only my Mom is still alive) were always in love, sometimes fought (hey, my Mom is a strong-willed Irishwoman and Dad could be stubborn), and she has missed him terribly every day he’s been gone.

    Personally, I’m a romantic who focuses more on people who love only each other and never stray, but the older I get the more reality sets in. I recently read an opinion by a psychologist who had long studied married couples, and he came to the conclusion that people fall into three categories: 1) they are monogamist by nature and faithful to their mate for life; 2) they are not especially monogamist but make the effort to remain so, with mixed results; and 3) they are not monogamist at all and no amount of therapy will change them. He advises that we recognize these personality types and deal with them realistically.

    I have mixed feelings about cultures that give a green light to mistresses, because from my observation they’re invariably very sexist. Notice how it’s the husbands who are “allowed” mistresses but the wives must not take lovers. A “mistress” also implies that the man is in charge because he is the “master” — oh, that drives me nuts! Even in France, where mistresses are allowed in some quarters and women are treated with more equality than in Japan and might be allowed lovers, the country is behind the times in how women are treated in cases of rape by the rich and famous. It’s no coincidence that the IMF chief Strauss-Kahn was arrested for rape of a hotel maid in New York and treated like a common criminal only in this country; this shocked the French, especially the fact that a mere maid could bring charges against a powerful man. But only then did several women in France come forward and say that Strauss-Kahn or other powerful men had raped or harassed them.

    I agree that some other cultures can be more realistic about sex than are Americans, but sometimes I hear stories that would surprise you. I once knew a woman who said that in her small hometown there was an elderly man who was taking care of his wife, who was physically and mentally unable to be any kind of companion to him. So once a week this old man saw a prostitute. Everyone in town knew what he was doing but said nothing, figuring that it was none of their business, and if this is what the poor guy needed to get through the week and keep looking after his wife, then let him be.

  8. Helena says:

    Michael — Thanks so much. I don’t think I was contacted by her, but then I’ve got strong spam filters that may have kept her out. Just to be safe, why don’t you have her leave a comment here on my blog, and that way I’ll be sure to get it.

    Thanks so much for thinking of me.

  9. Robert L. Read says:

    Actually, I know someone who suggested to me that wives have very discrete boyfriends is somewhat accepted in Japan—that’s just hearsay.

  10. Helena says:

    Robert – Well, if the wives have their boyfriends, then that evens things out for them, I guess.