December means we're decking halls and doing things we wouldn't usually do. Like focusing on family values above all other forms of social connections, for example. These holidays are about home, hearth and happiness. And this is a good thing because family is a core thread in the fabric of a well woven society. Without clans, civilisations can collapse. So too can someone's sense of self.
Which is why I wonder, what do cheaters do at Christmas? How does the adulterer handle the one time of year when there's even less forgiveness for their choices than usual? Including - and especially - the forgiveness they administer to themselves. Christmas can be a very lonely time. Even those surrounded by love can feel socially isolated. But there's little quite like being a homewrecker come the time when homelife is sacrosanct. And there's little quite like knowing you are wrecking the home you had built.
Yet there are a lot of bad girls and boys about. What do they deserve?
I know somebody who's having an affair. They're colleagues. It's a fairly typical situation. On one hand, this seems to make it less offensive - sometimes it seems like everyone's doing it, so what's the problem? But lately, she's been feeling more remorseful than usual. And it's important to note feeling guilty is a usual feeling. Not totally without morals is my mate. Few cheaters are.
"I feel like a fraud," she wrote to me, on the strict condition of anonymity. "I go home to him and the kids, I make lists, I wrap presents, I decorate, and I think 'what the hell am I doing - why the hell have I let this happen?'
"But then I'm with him, and I can't pretend my husband makes me feel the same way. It's only been since winter - spring was beautiful - but now summer is here, my home needs me, and I don't know if I can do it anymore, either with my lover in the city or my life in the suburbs. But is Christmas the right time to call it off? What about the kids? What about work? What about family - all the relatives are coming - my parents... his parents.
"I'm scared. I don't know what to do."
A compelling confessional if ever there was one. What to do indeed?
Christmas can be very lonely, but it can also be very confronting. Notwithstanding New Year's and the obligatory need for new beginnings, the inescapability of festive relatives makes this season challenging for cheaters and non-cheaters alike. But I can only imagine the extra layer of discomfort someone might feel sitting down to feast, belly full of lies, head full of deceit. Especially if a whiff of their wrongdoing was sniffed at by someone likely to launch an inquisition. Like the spouse. Or worse, a kid.
However we all know no-one is perfect. Few people will look back at the year that was and confidently confirm Santa would have no problems with their behaviour whatsoever. Some of us will look at our family and pretend things are better than they are. We'll say we're fine when we're not. We'll fob off concern and create and excuse. We'll lie. We'll cry.
We shouldn't, should we?
In the spirit of the season we should be honest. We should be frank with the people we love. We should face up to our own truths. We should come clean about our sins.
But would we? Would you? Will you?
Here's the other thing we need to remember about Christmas. It may be about family. But at its heart is the message of love. And what's love without truth, and forgiveness?
- Sydney Morning Herald