Make no mistake, Iva T. Louise is not an easy woman, neither in the Jamaican sense nor the wanton sense. She is the author of a book titled : “Secrets of a good mistress” and I happened upon a chance to listen to a television interview with her discussing her life as a mistress. After picking my mouth up off the floor and brushing off wisps of indignation (surprise surprise! as I’d thought I’d seen or heard it all), I watched the interview again and then one more time. Then the strangest thing began to happen. Through the “bleerdneeet!!” exclamations of my husband, I began to pick up small tidbits of a life dedicated to self.
With chapter titles such as ” Don’t barter with a man over his wife”, “Sex is a genuine need” and “Pussy” you begin to understand the perspective of Mistress Louise. How? well before you go riding off on your high horse, think about it this way: Ostensibly, a “good” mistress is a woman who wants to have her own cake and eat it to. She needs sex and companionship. She does not want a relationship to go with that. According to Mistress Louise, she would also like her married man to share in the cake eating.
In her prologue, she decides “Mistresses attend the the university of life, to learn what to discern, which puts us in a pretty good position of being able to make our own decisions”. In other words the mistress is forced to have her eyes wide open in order to maneuver her way to growth and dignity. Yes dignity. She had already experienced being a wife and mother long before becoming a mistress. Therefore she has a clear vantage point and experienced enough to declare no desire to return to the state of “wifedom”.
So then I decided to share this perspective with two widows and I was quite surprised by the reaction. One was in agreement with Mistress Louise and the other, so affronted by the very idea, looked almost green. Looking back on her life inside the state had left one musing on what her life may have been like if she had chosen the route of mistress : the joys and freedom and the unbinding of shackles and responsibility. She finished her reverie by slyly chuckling, “well that sounds like it would be fun”. The affronted one resorted to mumbling about the sickness of people and how disgusting the prospect of being a mistress was. She was of the firm belief that a woman’s role is to bear the burden of being a wife, a mother and chief bottle-washer.A joyless life of dedication and pain in her own words. Precisely the things Ms. Louise was running from.
The glum perspective of being a wife presented before me meandered into thoughts of the generational differences in marriage and the role of a woman in the marriage. The anachronistic duty of marriage in my opinion has evolved into equanimity and mutual respect, I could be wrong but I digress. Back to the mistressing…
With all this mutual cake eating, the one person left out of the loop, to me, was the wife. At home, being responsible with no outlet for any frustrations and left completely in the dark regarding the double life of her husband. I wonder how the relationship would change if wife was aware of the arrangement so she too could take part in the coup?
The other point that crossed my mind was why would a self respecting woman choose the life of a mistress rather than being single or married? In the case of Ms. Louise, the answer is that LOVE STINKS!!
Interestingly enough her romantic history is littered with the rotting remains of loves lost. She declared in her interview that men are not to be trusted and that being in love hurts too much. Choosing the role of mistress allows her to love without being in love, thereby defeat the imps of risk.
Apart from having lost in love , she also revealed that her childhood was fraught with emotional and physical abuse at the hands of a tyrannical mother, and sexual abuse at the hands of pedophiles. She was forced to be a grown woman by the age of 11, independent and working on her own, finding the intolerable circumstance no longer bearable. Tired of living by other people’s rules she learnt how to be a master strategist and survivor. It was here I began to think about how much this history affected her decision to be a mistress for the past 37 years. Our experiences in life teach us many lessons and its up to us to decide which lesson we are going to pay attention to and which lessons to discard.
Think what you will, Ms. Louise has learnt that freedom and a life of picking out only the good parts is what works best for her. Her AHA! moment in the interview comes with her deciphering quite calmly and without indignation that morals are a figment of the human mind. Morals, according to her, change by gender and are not applied equally, and therefore is based on opinion and driven by religious subjugation instead of fact. Very interesting philosophy. It bears the mark of a future post.
At this point I found myself musing on all the would be and current mistresses and how many of them have decided based on similar life experiences. Or is it just a chronic man shortage (at least in Jamaica) and we are all sharing (as one talented makeup artist told me this week)? Ironically, Ms. Louise leaves us with some advice on how to keep the mistress out of your marriage by the end of her book. Life is wonderful isn’t it?
My take on this: Life lessons can lead to several forms of resilience and methods of survival. What I see in Ms. Louise is a woman whose life was ruled by fear and brutal restrictions. Being a mistress may be the only door she could see as an option sincerely because she is afraid of the risks in real love.
I have learned that we are all looking for love and messages abound telling us it is to be found on the outside, in the arms of a man/woman, or children. But real love comes from love of self, while love relationships allow you space to grow and learn about yourself.
Please note, I have approached this delicate topic from a philosophical point of view and I am thankful I’ve reached a point in my journey where I am able to step back and do so.
* on a lighter note, I’m reading a book by Anthony Winkler (Crocodile) wherein a house wife decides to get a mistress for her husband because she abhors sex with her husband. The book turns out to be a hilarious account of how this plan backfires………. (*crickets) I guess you’d have to be there.
- How does a wife feel if her husband use some of the things he did with his mistress in bed with you (wiki.answers.com)
- Elizabeth Abbott: Why Mistresses Have Everything to do with Marriage (huffingtonpost.com)