In the context of a relationship, I’m one of those guys that if I’m with someone, I’m with them. It might take me forever to commit, but once I’m there, you’ve got me. If I should get to a point where I’m looking to cheat, it’s the end of the road for me.
I don’t cheat. I don’t do cheats. Since I know what it’s like to date a cheat, that’s enough reason for me to avoid cheating on someone else. That’s just how I am. If they will cheat with you, they will cheat on you. That has always been my viewpoint, and I stick to it.
George (not his real name), I have known since he was a boy. His older brother was my friend who I visited in Ghana on many occasions. Now forty years old, George has a virtuous and steady wife. She is an elegant young teacher like my mother used to be, and they have two smart and beautiful daughters.
Last November, George invited me to Sierra Leone over Christmas. Since I’ve never been to that country before, I said “yes” immediately. A week went by, and one day while we were talking, George let it slip that we would be travelling with two sisters from that region, one of whom he has been bedding. Why? – I asked. He said, “Oh, sometimes you just want Fish & Chips.”
So what would you do, if one of your daughters married a man who was bedding other women?
“I wouldn’t interfere,” he said.
But would you be pleased to know that your daughter had married such a man?
I thought not. And what if your wife did the same thing to you?
George laughed as if the very idea were unthinkable. “Men are supposed to have two or three wives,” he said.
Fair enough, I replied, if they each know the score. But you are cheating on the mother of your children and the woman with whom you share a home. You expect me to collude in your deception?
George fumbled for words for a moment.
Do you honestly see me sitting with you and your wife over dinner again, and smiling and joking with her and the kids after accompanying you on your fucking road trip?
“Point taken!” he said. I had made him think about what he was doing. He wouldn’t go to Sierra Leone after all. Or see either of the two sisters again.
But sadly, George did not stop there. He then proceeded to tell me all about how he had once dumped a former mistress who said she would not abort if she found herself pregnant with his child. “And she knew I was married,” he scoffed.
That was when my disappointment hit home in the boy I had watched grow into a man. It was not my place to judge George, but nor could I ignore that my friend’s brother was a serial adulterer; a man who did not care enough to take precautions against bringing home an STD to the mother of his children and the woman he claims to love. I certainly would not want him married to any daughter of mine, I thought.
Rarely had I felt so disappointed in someone who was not my flesh and blood. But that was about the level of regard that many men on the continent of Africa have for their women. As far as George is concerned, he is merely following tradition.
With my father, on the other hand, who regularly cheated on our mother and sometimes took me as a toddler along with him for the extra bragging rights he might earn from his floozies, I have no idea what motivated his philandering. My earliest memory is of being carried by Dad tiptoeing across our snow-covered backyard at night, and entering into our house through the kitchen, probably because by 3 AM my mother had long since double-locked and bolted the front door. When I mentioned the occasion to Mum at some point in my thirties, she was astonished that I could remember the event. It came to me as a flashback in which I was unsure if it was, in fact, a memory or just my imagination.
As for my mother, she said she bit off her anguish once again, pursed her lips and blinked her eyes to clear the haze of sleep from her vision. When she could see again, there was Tom entering through the kitchen door with little me half asleep in his arms. She even forgot to be angry. She held out her arms and moved as one in a trance toward the small dozing figure huddled up against his father’s chest. She retrieved the still bundle from the arms of her silent husband and squeezed him to her bosoms. The smell of cheap perfume assailed her senses, and she could tell immediately that some other woman had been handling her child.
Within two months of that unfaithful night, my mother and father had separated. Dad took off with our housekeeper and dragged me along with them to a new life in Jamaica. What kind of man tears a 33-month old child from the arms of its beloved mother? They didn’t want my one-year-old sister, so he left her behind without regret and fatherless, a decision that took 39-years to kill her. I’m still learning to live with my scars, but Mum is dead now, too.
I suppose that’s why my response to George and his philandering was so stark. I’ve never had much time for cheats of neither the male or female variety. You might put it down to my past, I suppose. George and I didn’t spend much time together after our talk that day. In fact, we’ve hardly kept in contact at all. He did go to Sierra Leone in the end, according to his father. He went with another dreadlocked chap of whom his father said, “I have no time for that fella.”