There’s an old Southern expression that was used to describe Bill Clinton when he was Governor of Arkansas: “He’s a hard dog to keep on the porch” meaning of course his well-known tendency to philander. It’s a great way to describe a serial wanderer, but it doesn’t explain why the dog can’t stay “on the porch.” Is it constitutional, part of his genetic makeup? or is it that the porch is boring? Not enough going on to keep him there.
It got me thinking about all the couples I knew during my fifty years of marriage, some of whom wandered off the porch; most of who did not. The odd part was that it was usually the women who strayed. Most of my women friends were artists of one form or another, creative types, while their spouses were often engineers, accountants, doctors; steady and reliable, but boring as all hell. My sweet husband used to say (with a sad shake of his head), “No man is ever completely safe, but I’m about a close as they get.” He was also quite large and unpredictable and no one ever dared come near me. There was of course, one exception but I take no particular pride in that conquest because he tried to seduce all his wife’s friends. Since he was very attractive and macho, (a former Israeli commando), he had no difficulty enticing them until his wife (still my friend) decided she had enough and threw him out. The irony was, that since I never succumbed, he became a friend and treated me forever and ever with the utmost respect.
The women I knew, however, were an adventurous lot. Most were monogamous like their husbands, but there were several who loved to have scandalous affairs; in fact, the scandals were probably more interesting than the liasons themselves. Two close friends had well-publicized dalliances with prominent local officials. They made sure to tell everybody in town their “secret’; after all, what was the point of having an affair if the world didn’t know about it? (I’m surprised they didn’t take out ads in the Advocate). I never heard their husbands complain, so, for all I know, they were proud that their wives were so desirable - and that was what held their marriages together. It certainly gave all their friends lots to talk about. One of them had a lover who died (at home, with his wife, in his own bed) just hours after spending the afternoon with her. While she was wailing about her loss, I tried to explain how lucky she had been; if his heart had given out just a few hours earlier, we would have had our local version of the death of Nelson Rockefeller.
Although if took me years to catch on, my best friend, a glamorous European sculptress was always having love affairs. She never said a word about any of them and I only realized what was going on when I started to question all those phone calls she had to take “out of the room.” She was very wise about men, how to find them and keep them around. She gave me an insight I still find useful: “Women think men are after them for sex, but what they really want is a “warm bed.” She knew that what kept a man in your life was affection and caring: feeding (she was a great cook), loving and listening to him; what she wisely called ‘a ‘warm bed.’
…..And maybe that’s the way to keep the dog on the porch….although in Bill Clinton’s case, I don’t think anything would have worked.