Voices

Williamson’s ‘affair’ wasn’t wrong – but monogamy is

Williamson said he didn’t know how his wife could forgive him, but I do
(Reuters)

Honestly, who’d be an MP? As a comedian, I find that the more skeletons you have in your cupboard, the more Edinburgh festival shows you can conjure up. Meanwhile, poor old Gavin Williamson felt he had to clear the decks and come clean about an affair he had with a woman he used to flog fireplaces with before he ploughed forward with his political aspirations.

This “confession” was made to the press, so in my book, it’s a bog standard kiss’n’tell. I don’t know what his ex-colleague, who is also married, thinks about him wailing about his “terrible mistake” all over the press. I imagine she’s itching to tweet: “Was no picnic for me either, sweet cheeks, don’t build up your part” but instead has to quietly manage whatever ripples this dredging-up of an office fumble splashed all over the papers (including now this column, I know, I am nothing if not self-aware) has caused in her life.

I imagine Williamson has told his story publicly because he’s ambitious and wants to go further in his political career but doesn’t want this affair biting him on his married bum. Perhaps the story was about to break anyway and he thought it best to get there first, declaring all the usual blather about “I love my family”, “I’ve let them down” and “I can still get you a good deal on a free-standing wood-burner.”

The sordid affair has been called a “fling” but, according to Gav, it was just “flirting” which led to “kissing a couple of times”.

Do we really want MPs representing us who can’t even manage to conduct an affair properly? If it hadn’t even got to dry humping, is it even news? So he and a consenting adult acted on a mutual attraction before they remembered some promises they made to the love of their lives in front of their family and friends and a big cake. It’s 2018 – why do we still care about this stuff?

Yes, yes, if politicians are representing us and promoting family values and telling the rest of us what our moral boundaries should be, they should keep it in their pants. I understand all that – but the bigger picture is how we still absolutely vilify people, especially men, who are unable to resist an intoxicating mutual attraction to a person they do not share a laundry basket with.

We still seem to think that monogamy is the only natural way to be in a relationship, that those who stray from its path are to be pilloried and nothing they say or feel is valid unless it’s a grovelling apology to the woman they have “wronged”.

Williamson met his wife at sixth form college. I imagine she knows him inside out, so who knows how much of a shock his “revelation” was to her? He said, “I’ll never truly understand how she found it in her heart to forgive me” – well, I can. It’s because she’s a grownup and understands that the love he has for her didn’t disappear when he kissed someone else and the whole thing isn’t worth splitting their children’s lives in two.

Marriage is hard. Raising children with someone is hard and, being honest, the biggest passion-killer. When you’re sleep-deprived and earnestly discussing the texture of poo, you know that the tearing-each-other’s-clothes-off-with-your-teeth part of your union has well and truly passed.

Monogamy is not for everyone. Not everybody is able to forever forfeit the whoosh of excitement when you flirt with someone who fancies you back, the deliciousness of kissing someone’s lips for the first time. It’s fun and exciting. The only thing “wrong” about it is if you are being duplicitous.

If you’ve promised to only ever kiss your spouse for the rest of your life, then it is bad manners to go off and snog someone else. It’s disrespectful, rude and hurtful. But imagine if we allowed ourselves the freedom to accept that love doesn’t die if someone else sees your partner’s bits. We’d save a fortune on crockery.

Studies have shown (probably) that just as many woman have extramarital affairs as men – but it’s men who are most tainted by the revelation of an affair. This insistence on anything other than monogamy being deviant causes heartache and can end reputations and careers. If someone’s partner forgives them, maybe it’s not because they are a doormat, but that they understand something that we don’t and we should mind our own business.

My tour show, Mistress and Misfit, is about arguably the greatest affair of all time. Emma Lady Hamilton and Horatio Nelson were both married, and both fans of fireplaces. Emma’s husband even travelled with them and they never hid their love. He was mocked for being a “cuckold” but his understanding and acceptance of her love for the admiral, was, to me, admirable.

Shappi Khorsandi is a standup comedian who is currently on tour in the UK. She is also the author of ‘Nina is not OK’