I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck, ya know.
Okay, who really says that? Maybe my great-grandmother’s generation…
Translation: I wasn’t born yesterday. I know what’s going on. Reality is, men play around. It’s a truth I learned early and a loss of innocence I would have preferred never to experience. And yes, I realize this is not a gender specific behavior. To be fair, married women stray too.
The older I got, the more prevalent and in-my-face these indiscretions seemed to be, though never more so than when I began working in the Caribbean. I could no longer bury my head in the sand and pretend that cheating was a rarity. When the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal hit the 24-hour newsreels, it was appalling to the Americans I knew though a non-issue to my Caribbean counterparts. Americans were ready to impeach, while in the islands people were asking, “What’s the big deal?” I was told that Americans were overreacting and that many Island Republics had married leaders with “side-chicks” going back a long time and it was a non-starter.
Settling down in The Bahamas in 2011 brought my infidelity-awareness to a whole new level. I began to wonder… Does the word “infidelity” even apply when the action is well-known and accepted even by the wife? I’m talking about the concept of Sweetheartin’, as it is commonly phrased on my rock. Having a “sweetheart” or two or three or six is apparently a juggler’s dream turned reality on this tiny paradise. It’s an activity that many wives indulge and seemingly turn a blind eye to. Me? I een know why she not vex. Listen to any man on his triple password-protected cell phone and you’ll hear the words “hey baby” more than any others. I mean, how else can he keep all those sweethearts straight?
Sweetheartin’ is so much a way of life here that I’ve found it’s preposterous to question. I’ve met lovely couples celebrating their anniversary with friends in a public restaurant who I assumed were married. NOT! Sweetheart. I’ve attended business dinners with executives where I was certain the lady on their arm was the wife. NOT! Sweetheart. I’ve been to company Christmas parties where a lovely woman arrives to partake with the staff. Wife? NOPE, you guessed it – Sweetheart. But, to me, the most surprising place this happens is at church. Yep, I said church.
On Caribbean islands, in general, Sunday worship is an integral part of the culture. God is present in much of the population’s daily lives and Sunday services are a social event requiring your finest couture – a place to be seen and to mingle. This applies to spouse and sweetheart alike. In one pew, the suited-up husband sits beside his lovely wife and line of well-groomed children. Two rows behind, the sweetheart attends the same service, family in tow, equally at home. Fa true! A scene that’s unfailingly awkward for me, yet no big ting for locals.
Does this perspective of mine mean there are no “sweethearts” where I come from? No mistresses? No “other women”? Of course there are. People are people, no matter where you are in the world. But in my neck of the woods, I have always known it to be a whisper-able activity, hidden from view. There, affairs are lived in dark bars, parked cars, and anonymous hotel rooms away from everyone. But on a 21-mile island, one simply cannot hide.
In the islands, to appear in a restaurant or club with your sweetheart, you risk facing friends, colleagues, wives of people you know, and even potentially bumping into your adult children. Though this doesn’t seem to rattle or worry a soul here. It’s me who clearly needs to get over myself. There is no drama here. What am I so worried about? I’m no prude and I do not judge, but I confess that it took me awhile to stop holding my breath in these situations, waiting for a brawl to break out. But I’ve not seen one yet. Well, at least not between a wife and a sweetheart… Though don’t dare let your sweetheart come face-to-face with your other sweetheart or life as you knew it is over buddy. No peace/piece for you!
It has been argued that the Bible condones this behavior for men. After all, Abraham had many wives. But wait – ask these same men if the Bible forgives the practice of Sweetheartin’ for their wives and the response is shock and horror! WHY ON EARTH would MY wife want another man?
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My fellow island women – what are your thoughts on Sweetheartin’?