Phyllis Schieber Author

Women's Fiction by Phyllis Schieber

Oh, Ye Of Little Faith…

Because I believe that lasting desire results from how someone make you feel, I think it the responsibility of each person in a relationship to make sure the other person feels pretty damned good.  But what happens when that stops? Infidelity is always tempting, always an option. There is nothing new about infidelity, a fact that leads me to wonder if perhaps it isn’t just a tad unrealistic to expect people to remain monogamous to one partner forever.  I recently had a conversation with a South American woman who wisely questioned why Americans are so obsessed with confessing their affairs. She noted that in her culture, when an infidelity occurred, it remained private and everyone looked the other way. In fact, I once read that in France, women recognize that they need one man to be a father figure, another to be a friend, and one to be a lover.  It seems like overload to me, but I understand the point. However, I also understand the lure to cheat.

In my novel Willing Spirits, the protagonists, Jane and Gwen, are victims of their husbands’ infidelities. I used the word “victims” carefully and with intention. Neither woman is prepared for the betrayals that end their marriages. Gwen is a young mother when her husband Theodore has an affair that catapults her into a new life. Jane is in her forties with a daughter in college when Arnold beds a young assistant, an act that propels Jane into action that she most likely should have taken years earlier. Mostly, I see Gwen and Jane as victims of their husbands’ insensitivity. Theodore is positively loathsome in his cruel mistreatment of Gwen while Arnold is entirely indifferent to the consequences of his gross misjudgment. In the aftermath of Theodore’s affair and his subsequent abandonment of Gwen and their children, Gwen is left to rebuild her life. Jane, on the other hand, already has an established life, but she must find ways to live as a single woman after years of marriage, albeit unsatisfactory years. In some ways, the infidelities that confront Jane and Gwen turn out to be catalysts for better lives. However, when Gwen falls in love with Daniel, who is married, she must contend with the emotional and spiritual fallout of her own behavior. Their relationship takes her on a painful and soul-searching journey in which she must confront the impact of her relationship with Daniel on his wife and grown children, as well as on her grown sons. Although Gwen is aware that her relationship with Daniel causes others pain, she is unable to extricate herself. It is a conundrum that is ultimately resolved, but not without heartbreaking cost to many.

In The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, infidelity is a central and inescapable theme of many of the relationships. Kaye, an upright and solid wife, mother and daughter, falls in lust with Frank, an unlikely suitor, who arouses her middle-aged sexual sensibilities and makes him impossible to resist. The sex between Frank and Kaye is at once tender and passionate—a combination that women of any age find irresistible. In fact, it is so irresistible to Kaye that she rashly decides to leave her marriage for Frank. I understand Kaye. Frank is her last chance at the sort of ardor that was once the exclusive domain of the young. Fortunately, it no longer is, and women in their fifties and sixties continue to celebrate and flaunt their sexuality with abandon. However, when Ellen realizes that Bill, the husband she adores, is having an affair with a younger woman in his office, the damage is irreversible. Ellen is traumatized by Bill’s betrayal, but she eventually rallies and is able to move forward with renewed clarity and vigor as she finds the daughter given away at birth.

Whenever my parents went out for the evening, my father always gave the same commentary the following morning. “You should have seen how many beautiful women were at the party,” he said, pausing for just the right number of seconds, adding, “But not one of them was as beautiful as your mother.” Then, he would reach for my blushing mother and kiss her or squeeze her bottom. They were a couple in love, and a couple who managed to stay in love until my father’s sudden and premature death.  My mother was flirtatious, and my father was charming. They made a nice couple.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I asked my mother, long after my father had died, if she ever suspected him of cheating.  She laughed and said it was not something she had ever worried about much, but she admitted, “I wouldn’t put my hand through the fire for any man.” An apt description of the ultimate test of faith, and she was not excluding my father. I stopped asking questions.

I am not an advocate of infidelity, but I do believe that it is best to reserve judgment before jumping to conclusions about why people cheat. I certainly do not support serial infidelity, nor do I believe infidelity is a panacea for an unhappy relationship. Still, I contend that an infidelity can be a medium for long overdue changes in relationships. That is, of course, if the perpetrator is found out, or if he or she reveals the truth. And although women are catching up to men in record speed, I think my mother had it right. I wouldn’t put my hand through the fire for any man… or any woman for that matter either.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | infidelity, marriage, Sinner's Guide to Confession, Willing Spirits | Leave a comment

The Tour Begins… Infidelity…

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June 2, 2010 Posted by | infidelity, marriage | Leave a comment

Kaye from Sinners Guide to Confession by Phyllis Schieber

Kaye studied her reflection in the mirror. Yesterday’s haircut had been a really bad idea, and the true motivation for this trip to the cosmetics counter. She must have hoped that if she cut off all her hair, she would be young again. She would go home to find Ruby in her cradle, and Charlie with his peanut butter breath eager to divulge absolutely everything about his day, punctuated only by kisses and unsolicited promises of his eternal love. Sadly, none of that happened. She was still herself. Her children were grown. She was still married to George and in love with Frank

***

. . . .she straddled him, rocking gently first, tasting his sweat for the first time as she licked his shoulder, and then forgetting everything as he moved her hips with such need that in the end there was nothing more they could do than sit, wrapped around each other, silent and exhausted. Finally, she found the energy to ask, “Why me?” He wrapped a strand of her hair around her ear and shook his head in disbelief. Kaye was suddenly acutely aware of everything she stood to lose.

***

There was no reason not to leave George. Their marriage was muddled by history, weakened by unresolved bad feelings. But from time-to-time, George seemed as if he were fighting his way off of his own dimly lit planet.

***

George did not say his lack of courage was probably the source of all his failings. But then, there was no real need to. Kaye understood, and she stroked his hand. He smiled sort of vaguely, lost in his own reverie, absent to her once again. Nevertheless, Kaye counted it as a small victory and enough of an offering, not to explain why she stayed, but to explain why she did not leave.

***

Sometimes Kaye wondered what her children would think if they knew what she was hurrying off to in the middle of the day. She imagined the horror they would feel if they could hear the words she whispered to Frank. Faster, harder, more. Once, while Frank expertly held her hips, she had moaned, urging him on, and then turned and asked him what her children would have thought if they saw her.

***

Kaye imagined herself moving along the sun baked walk that twisted up to the ancient stone-block structure that housed the tomb of Rabbi Yonatan. Joining the throngs of young hopefuls who had never found love or who had missed opportunities, as well as parents who worried that their children were still alone, Kaye saw herself draping a scarf from one of the olive tree branches. Tucked inside the scarf were several written notes. The first was a plea for Ruby, a hope that she would recognize true love when it came her way. The second note was for Charlie, for a good woman who would love him. And the third note was for George, an entreaty that he would forgive her after she left him.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | infidelity, marriage, motherhood, Sinner's Guide to Confession, women's friendship | Leave a comment