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Stories of the Unfaithful...
For two years I led a woman's group focused on love stories, fulfilled and unrequited. The women shared the pain of their affairs, their lover's affairs and the prospect of ending what they thought was the real thing.
The boldest woman in the group was an actress in her early 30's, newly engaged to a shy and talented artist. Her daily schedule was earmarked for workouts, acting classes, therapy, and writing poetry. The group was formed shortly after her mother died of stage four lung cancer. Each week she arrived late, her face powdered with grief and her mouth firing nonstop about the unfairness of life. The other women didn't wilt under her feisty commentary about the "ugly bitches" she met at auditions and the vast amount of alcohol she put away on every shift.
They let her rip until she cried. After one of these emotional breakthroughs, she shared a story of a man that came into a hotel restaurant where she waited tables. He was from Florence, worked for a clothing retail company and traveled to New York every month for one week. Her description of him wasn't flattering, but his shortage of hair and his below average command of English didn't discourage her from venturing into danger.
Over the next few weeks, the women in the group leaned in as she read his emails and texts.
Everyone, including myself was captivated by this foreign Man.
He promised her, "I will wait for you till my last breath." He wrote that he fell in love with her laugh and beautiful eyes. "Do you accept my true sweet words?" He swore, "If I do not honor this divine and powerful force I may as well die. Ciao Bella un bacio!"
One of the women who had recently moved in with her girlfriend laughed out loud: "You have to sleep with him, you don't want his divine death on your conscience."
With every opinion and reflection shared, no one said "end" the relationship. Instead, they encouraged it. Everyone in the group remarked on how much happier she seemed and how radiant she looked.
The little Italian man continued to court her and plan cultural excursions on his days off. They went to the Met, the MOMA and drank champagne at the Peninsula. He planned to take her sailing in Croatia and Italia. Yet, they still had not consummated the relationship.
The fair skinned and provocative Violinist in the group told everyone that this little man was "poetically inserting himself into her life so he has something to look forward to. She's a safe bet, she's engaged, and looking for a distraction from her unsuccessful existence." Then she mumbled, "he probably has a really small..."
The lunging happened first and then a real fist and face slapping fight broke out in my 300 square foot office. Screaming, hair pulling and the C word vibrating off the walls.
"That is enough!" I shouted louder than I ever have in my life. "Sit down and don't say a word until I am finished. This group was not created so we can sit here week after week formulating judgments about one another. We are here to actively listen and genuinely share our lives with each other. We don't always agree with each other, because our personal experiences inform the way we analyze and perceive each moment. Feeling compelled to blatantly hurt or undermine someone is not only unproductive, it is cruel. We are also here so we can safely make mistakes and then apologize and move forward. Let's begin again."
The violinist stood up and walked over to the chair where the actress was sitting and reached out her hand. "I behaved like a little $h!t and I'm sorry. I think I'm jealous of you. You are engaged to a nice guy and you have this International unrequited love affair going on. I have such a boring life and I'm angry at myself...not you. I didn't mean what I said."
The actress nodded her head and said, "He does have a really small..."
The group roared and we were out of time.
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