• Today’s ‘other woman’ isn’t a vamp, she’s not desperate, and she has no qualms about poaching what’s yours
For two years, Dina* and Brandon, both thirtysomething account execs at a Chicago marketing firm, were work buddies. They sat together through snore-inducing meetings, bounced client ideas off each other, had lunch together in the cafeteria several days a week, clinked countless martinis after long work nights, even swapped stories about their love lives. Dina had been in and out of a few relationships–some of them “really good ones,” she says. And Brandon, outside of a few minor gripes about his wife’s quirks, described himself as happily married. Dina had met Brandon’s wife of four years several times at office parties and really liked her. “If she’d worked at our office, she and I would probably be good friends,” Dina says. Still, there was undeniable sexual tension between her and Brandon. “It was always there,” she says, “but we both made a point of remaining platonic.”
Then one night, the two decided to grab a couple of cocktails to destress after a long, late meeting, and everything changed. “He grabbed me first, I think,” Dina says of that initial kiss. “All I remember is that it was an incredibly hot moment. We just surrendered to it.” And just like that, Dina, an attractive, successful, sensible, independent woman, launched into a year-long affair, stepping into a role she never thought she’d play: The Other Woman.
The media has traditionally depicted the Other Woman as either a lonely psycho (Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction), a young Lolita desperate for male approval (Mena Suvari in American Beauty), or a dimwitted bimbo plotting social advancement (Gennifer Flowers). But now there’s a new breed of Other Woman who, like Dina, doesn’t fit the stereotypes of slut or sad-sack. Angelina Jolie was anything but hard up when she allegedly poached Brad from Jen. Film producer Rielle Hunter didn’t boil any bunnies after she and political bedfellow John Edwards ended their affair. And this year French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s bride, ex-model and Euro-pop star Carla Bruni, scored both a glowing profile in Vanity Fair and a girl-talk interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20–despite having replaced Sarkozy’s ex so quickly.
If the other woman is no longer a wanton villainess and social pariah come to tear your marriage to shreds, then who is she? According to a recent online poll WH conducted, she might be you. Though 79 percent of respondents said that it was never acceptable to fool around with a taken man, a surprising 46 percent admitted to having done it–and more than half of you said they felt no regrets. Even more intriguing, when asked whether you’d rather be a mistress or a deceived wife, more than 62 percent of you opted for the former.
What gives? Is being the Other Woman truly losing its stigma? Are husbands no longer off-limits? And, hey, whatever happened to the vaunted sisterhood–aren’t women supposed to be watching each other’s backs? All excellent questions. So WH went in search of answers.