No one living in the States has been able to avoid the news of General Petraeus’ resignation upon the discovery of an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. This isn’t a post about the implications of his decision, issues of cyber-security and/or who will succeed him at the CIA.
The press and pundits keep referring to this dalliance as ‘an extra-marital affair’. Isn’t that redundant? If a person is married and is having an affair, by definition isn’t it ‘extra-marital’? And typically the reaction to the idea of something being ‘extra’ is usually positive. “Extra-strength”, “extra-special”, ‘extra-ordinary”. And from where I sit in this instance “extra-aneous”. We got it the first time.
This reminds me a little bit of poorly written street signs. “Caution children at play” – what are we supposed to be warning them about? “Deer crossing” – who knew deer could read and were limited to crossing roads at appointed places? Is a “quiet car’ on a train really silent? I’ve yet to sit in one – snoring is a noise, keys tapping on a keyboard, requests for soda…all emit sounds. I’m sure you’ve got examples of your own – which I’d love to hear. I particularly wonder about signs that say “blind person crossing” – how the heck can they see that? Don’t you think it would behoove us just to keep our eyes out for someone who may have visual limitations?
I wonder if that’s why there are so many possums born dead in the middle of the road. There are no signs for them.
Somehow though, the idea of duplicative language seems particularly hurtful when it comes to the actions people take outside their marriage. Just say ‘affair’ and let it go. It hurts enough – we all get that whatever happened, occurred outside the marital construct. I’ve come up with some other messages that would elicit more explicit reactions and understandings. “Smile” – the here and now is pretty good”; Give people the better side of yourself and see what happens”; “Children – if you’re playing, be careful of the monkey bars and stay away from the street”; “Deer – cross wherever the heck you want, but look out for cars”. Let’s keep them easy and clear and to the point. Oops, I guess that was iterative. I guess this is something we all have to work on. And I leave you with this one which I think is priceless..