Have an affair? And pay for it!

Secret affairs have consequences, writes Mary Kenny

Every other day I receive emails from so-called ëmatch-makingí agencies which offer to provide the clients with a new and exciting relationship. Some of these agencies are quite blatently selling women ñ notably those which proclaim that there are ìRussian bridesî available for any man so desiring a lady wearing an Anna Karenina fur hat, but otherwise in a state of some undress.

Thereís also an agency which tells the email recipient: ìLife is short. Have an affair!î This is aimed at married people who want a secret affair on the side ñ the secrecy is indicated by a picture of a floosy saucily putting her index finger to her mouth.

A promise of secrecy over the internet is pretty implausible, I would think. Every communication can now be hacked and quite soon every email will be hacked.

Do such adverts lure men and women into cheating on their marriage vows? It would probably be an exaggeration to suggest that. Long before the world wide web was invented, married people found ways to stray, and human frailty yielded to temptation.

In some cases of adultery ñ as with the aforementioned Anna Karenina ñ it was described by great writers as a passion that ended in tragedy. But such failings at least involved a sincere passion, not a cynical affair prompted by an internet pimping agency.

It would be Calvinistic to suggest that such adverts should not be allowed to appear ñ Jean Calvin sought to force virtue on his native Geneva by prohibitions on sin ñ but some form of Trades Descriptions Act might be added to the selling point.

For example – “life is short. Have an affair – and ruin your marriage.” “Have an affair, get pregnant accidentally, and submit to a depressing abortion.” “Have an affair – then watch your lover return to their spouse.” “Have an affair – and betray your children.” “Have an affair, hide the evidence, and suffer the guilt of secrecy ñ or the misery of confessing to your spouse.” “Have an affair – and head for the divorce courts, which, remember, will cost you half your assets.”

Or maybe such agencies should just add, in the small print, the Spanish proverb: “Take what you like says God – and pay for it.” That at least would be truthful advertising.

Words matter

The death of Phil Everly, of the famous singing Everly Brothers duo, brought me back to my teenage years like Proust’s famous evocation of the past via his dipped Madeleine.

There I am again, aged 14, and my pals and I are playing  discs, during school rec (recreation), of the Everlys singing Dream, Dream, Dream and Bye-bye, Love! The Everlys were only teenagers themselves when they made those records.

Teenage angst

Anyone who seeks to understand teenage angst should lend an attentive ear to Bye-Bye, Love from 1958 (which continues “bye-bye, happiness/Hello loneliness/I think I’m gonna cry!”) It is a brilliant evocation of how teens feel – the volatility and sudden despair of their emotions.

I am not sure that pop songs today have quite the same resonence: I am told by those clued up about modern pop music that nowadays ‘the words don’t matter’. It’s all about sound.


But I think the words do matter – as does the narrative. Those words helped teenagers understand that they were not alone in feeling sad, or rejected, or alienated from normal life.

What was special about the Everly Brothers was that they drew on Country and Western Music traditions as well as on pop and rock. Country and Western always tells a story, and does so with a heart.

Politics and religion

I am not sure if it is any of our business to know whether An Uactarán or An Taoiseach are religious believers. The Irish Constitution has separation of Church and State, and persons in public office may wish to emphasise that. Anyway, the New Testament tells us that “by their fruits ye shall know them”, and people can judge according to actions rather than words.

And in the final analysis it may be healthier for those in political life to keep their own counsel in faith. Turning over the pages of yesteryear’s Irish newspapers, it’s sometimes slightly nauseating to see how politicians once fawned upon bishops and archbishops, kissing episcopal rings in the most abjectly deferential way – even the allegedly independent Noel Browne did it.

I came to feel that this was just politicians currying favour, and pursuing a strategy which they believed would deliver votes; and I grew quite cynical about it.

I think I would respect better a politician who led a good life, voted with his conscience and had a reflective personal faith rather more than one who made a great show of it. There’s something in the New Testament about that, too.