The Wife with a Double Life

by Barbara Foster for Nerve magazine, 1997

Civilized Frenchwomen — George Sand, Colette and  Simone de Beauvoir are my role models.

   For years, by choice, I’ve sawed myself in half emotionally in order to live a double life: daytimes a married academic, night times a Greenwich Village free spirit. A coterie of friends were hip to the masquerade; the less familiar know me as a librarian scholar engaged in research on women’s studies. One self displays a bookish facade; its shadow craves adventurous travel with lots of fucking on the side. Since each face is fed a nutritional diet, neither feels deprived. The bourgeois and the anarchist have learned to live together.

Before marriage I suffered from mental and physical constipation. Once my soul mate appeared to whisk me away from a stark parental home, the flow started. Not that I was beaten or abused –just bored to death in Philadelphia. Marriage brought me an expensive love out of a Russian novel. For several years we had great sex that precluded outside involvements. Monogamy, the first stage in our romantic cycle, gave way to a “tolerant marriage” then an “open marriage.” Some years later this evolved into a successful working ménage à trois that incorporates our significant other, Letha Hadady.

Together Mike and I met Letha in Paris. Her youthful, blonde good looks swept us both off our feet. Americans abroad, we three walked around the Left Bank for several nights in a row. We finished each other’s sentences, thought each other’s thoughts. This wonderful three-way telepathy continued after Mike and I returned to New York. Alas, Letha could not come home with us then; she was still married to her childhood sweetheart, an attachment not entirely played out. We three remained in touch, hoping for a reunion. With Letha’s decision to leave her husband, the curtain went up on the first act in our ménage drama.

Married young, I have remained an inveterate bohemian apt to dye her hair rainbow colors. The ring on my left hand did not tame the rebellious streak left over from a repressive youth. Therefore, the unorthodox nature of a ménage has suited me. Let the world be coupled off! I side with the Greek philosopher Pythagoras who considered three the most mystical of numbers.

A ménage gives me a solid base from which to explore the Byzantine complexity of male-female relations. Often my “nice girl” side has clucked her tongue at the tramp whose skin she shares.Quels frissons! I dared sample pleasures traditionally denied the married woman. Clothes skin tight, I would saunter into a bar, pick up a well-hung dude and fuck the night away. Next day, respectable in a business suit, I chuckled over these midnight excesses. I preferred dark men, for blondes were too wholesome, without the apparent wickedness that made cruising in New York exciting.

When wounded, I could creep back to my nest to be healed. Instead of a jealous husband, mine understands even my most sublime fuck bouts. His perceptions are always fresh, his insights into my behavior astounding. Meanwhile, I have a trustworthy female friend who has helpd me by editing my writing and advised me about health matters. Her tact never fails, even at moments of extreme stress. When the travel bug bites me, my “baby sitter” takes over. (In the city, our ménage does not live together for lack of space). For years Mike lived more or less with me and then moved in with Letha. I used to get kicks imagining my most beloved partners fucking in my marital bed. Writers are always voyeurs! But we two women have always had separate homes.

Civilized Frenchwomen — George Sand, Colette and Simone de Beauvoir, for example, are my role models. These literary women indulged their sensual appetites in a refined style typical of Paris. In New York, I have settled for men with reasonable looks, sexual potency, an open-minded attitude and a modicum of brains.

In 1997 our three-way synergy produced the epic Three in Love: Ménages à Trois from Ancient to Modern Times, in which we identify the “inevitable fourth” drawn to the electricity threes generate. This extra person can torpedo a ménage if he (she) pushes from the periphery to center stage. Both my monogamous partners are content not to stray outside our triad. Since I have lived with my husband in a smallish apartment, dating others requires finesse plus consummate consideration. Two problems nag: where to entertain a beau? Second, how can I fit in a new attachment with my full time job, triadic activities and writing career? Perpetually worn to a frazzle, I juggle my day and night personas.

Altar-expectant men are off limits. Instead, I have always sought out the bachelor who was prepared to wine and dine me. I cook at home so going out provides a holiday from domesticity. As writers we three have schedules to coordinate, deadlines to meet. A lot of our leisure hours are spent at Letha’s enjoying her home cooking and watching menage movies, classic and foreign films on TV or reading to each other. Since Mike has two left feet, sometimes Letha and I go dancing together. Other nights Mike comes along to applaud our sleek tango or mean mambo from the sidelines.

On occasions, my libido goaded me to take foolish risks. I remember years ago winding up on an unfamiliar street in an outer boroughafter a one night stand soured. My barstool Don Juan proved to be a Caspar Milquetoast in the boudoir. Somehow, my nervous system recovered from a couple of other scary interludes that left me in the wee hours desperately searching for a cab back to Manhattan. These early experiments convinced me to limit my erotic hemisphere to New York, New York.

Not that opportunities for romance abound these days. In these parts a woman over forty (my favorite age) is as likely to be hit by a car as find a lover. The few men I really connect with have a sense of humor plus stratospheric charm. With lovers I have gone to certain bistros, bars, theaters and restaurants. My ménage haunts are purposely elsewhere. We three love going out together, mostly in Greenwich Village and Chelsea where we live. My two lives crisscross but seldom meet.

Most consider the Village a quaint neighborhood notable for its artistic history. To me its streets exude magic. They are an intimate map of my titillating, sometimes transcendent experiences. I walk a lot, an excuse to conjure up memories. How can I forget that blissful night spent in a lover’s walk up on Sixth Avenue looking down on the Halloween parade while he sipped champagne from my slipper. The commotion outside did not distract our attention from the orgasmic madness that caused us to miss the best floats.

Our ménage welcomes every season. Last spring, as the lilacs bloomed around us, we almost had a major “bust up.” I can’t even recall why, but I shouted at Mike, he yelled at me while Letha fumed in silence. As things were about to get physical, we looked at each other and burst out laughing. Our anger evaporated into hugs and kisses. Unlike most women, I’ve lived out my fantasies.

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