Dining out at a good hotel restaurant recently with two girl friends, I noticed the manager was being very friendly. We’d dined there several times in the preceding weeks and he was treating us like valued customers.
A tall, broad-shouldered guy, handsome too, I guessed he was in his late 40s. After he’d poured wine into our glasses yet again and chatted for a moment, one of my friends leaned forward and said “He is gorgeous.”
He seemed nice too, oozing Gallic charm and hospitality. When he came back to the table he asked casually if we all lived in town? My friends said Yes and I said No, a little way out of town. Oh? Where? he asked. In the forest I replied, describing the general area.
How about you? one of the others asked. Are you local?
He said he was from Lyon, a city well north of the little market town where we were dining. Then he added that he’d been here for three years, that he’d left Lyon, sold his home and moved here to manage the hotel and restaurant. ‘I’ he said. I did this, I did that. Not ‘my wife and I’ or ‘I came here with my family.’ Just ‘I’.
We assumed he was divorced.
Definitely divorced, the others said. Obviously sold the house and moved away because of the divorce.
When we left the restaurant, the others left in one car and I got into mine. As I was leaving, he came over from the terrace and flagged me down. “I’d like to invite you to lunch” he said. “I’m still quite new in the area and I like meeting new people.”
Sounded fine to me and I accepted. I didn’t have any particular agenda about the lunch as I didn’t know the guy. I plan to meet new people throughout my life though and make new friends, male and female, so I was happy to accept the invitation.
As it happened, I couldn’t make the date we agreed so I emailed the restaurant to rearrange and met him the following week.
His staff brought chilled white wine aperitifs and fat olives from Nyons out to the sunny terrace. Then tiny glasses of melon soup followed by sea bass with fennel. We chatted easily and he quite quickly asked if I was married. No, I told him, not married. I told him that I’ve been seeing a guy for a little while but it’s a fairly light relationship and that I’d told my friend that I’d accepted this lunch invitation. We then talked about some local characters – a chef, a hotel owner – that we found we both knew and I sensed something a little odd – rather than responding ‘Oh you know so-and-so too’ he seemed just slightly wary that we knew people in common.
Then – peculiar I thought – he started saying he was looking for a soul mate and had a feeling we’d get on really well together. As we hadn’t even got to know one another superficially yet I found that jarring. Still, he said he’d like to take me out one evening in the following week. A little later I asked if he was divorced.
“J’attendais cette question.” he replied. I was waiting for that question.
Well, are you?
Oh. Are you separated?
He launched into an explanation about his marriage being largely a technicality after 22 years. He was free to see other women, he said, and he was looking for a soul mate.
Have you got children?
Intrigued now to see a married philanderer at work (and immune to the ruse) I asked him why, if the marriage was such a technicality, he didn’t get a divorce.
“I’m sure I will” he said charmingly “as soon as I meet the right woman.”
Sloshing my coffee down, feeling slightly nauseous despite the very good food, I said thanks for the lunch, and scarpered. Before I left I said, re. the invite for the following week that I wouldn’t go out with a married guy or a guy in a serious relationship.
A day later I received an email. Would I go out next week?
“No” I replied.
Then came a long email which was expertly manipulative. I had a “petite fixette” about him being married. Bit of a hang up. But he really was free to do as he liked. The most important thing between a man and a woman was the feeling. And he already felt intuitively attracted. We could enjoy so much together – without “worrying about the rest.” And so it went on. He had been charmed by our lunch together. We had the wonderful summer ahead of us. He paid me several fairly strong compliments.
Pretty damn professional!
It was sickening that he referred to his wife and marriage as “the rest.”
I didn’t reply, because that was the response his email merited.
But this fractional experience with a philandering married man was revealing. How often does the ruse work, convincing a woman that the marriage is ‘just a technicality’? How often does that little bit of hope offered – I’ll get a divorce when I find the right woman – convince a young or inexperienced woman, or a lonely woman, to start an affair with a married man?
The rest would be fairly predictable once a gullible woman was attracted. The errant husband would wearily say he had to spend the weekend/holiday/anniversary with his family. Just a technicality of course! Gradually the foolish mistress would realise that she was playing second fiddle – but she’d already be involved. And presumably she’d also already be hoping that her lover, the cheating husband, might one day divorce his wife.
** See also Other Woman, Future Wife? **