created by a smug idiot delighted to profit off other's pain. Adultery did quite well on its own, of course, long before Noel Biderman created a site with the tagline: Life's short. Have an affair. (If life's so damn short, how hard is it to stay faithful to your spouse?) But to encourage and facilitate cheating takes garden-variety infidelity to a new low.
So it was with a certain glee that I heard about the hack of Ashley Madison and the threat by a group calling itself the Impact Team to expose the 37 million male subscribers (female subscribers don't have to pay so they're largely exempt from exposure, at least for now).
I couldn't resist a few tweets about the irony of guys who paid to join a cheating Web site expressing outrage that the site that had promised them anonymity and security had betrayed them. Or wonder aloud if life probably mightn't seem so "short" now that there's the possibility of spending years of it without your wife and kids by your side.
My glee, however, was short-lived. Because for every jerk who gets outed by this hack, there's a wife whose life is blowing up. And don't we all know her pain and the long journey ahead?
However this plays out, I hope that even the threat of exposure has made more than a few AM subscribers reconsider just what the hell they're doing. To ask themselves why they're risking their marriage for a not-necessarily-discreet encounter. To examine why they're going outside of their marriage rather than spend some time and/or money to fix what's wrong inside their marriage. Or, if they're really miserable and hopeless, spend some time and/or money to work toward an amicable divorce.
Cause that's the thing with cheating: you can't un-cheat. Once you've crossed that line, whatever the line is (texting dirty photos, confiding in a "secret" friend, or sex in a hotel room), you've betrayed your partner.
Maybe "cheating dirtbags who deserve no discretion" is a bit much. I doubt all of them are dirtbags. I imagine some are guys who are lonely and at a loss for how to reconnect with their partner. Some of them likely believe their partner has lost all interest in them, which may or may not be true.
Some might be struggling with their sexual identity. They might have bought into the promises of porn – quick easy sex that makes them feel like a stud.
Most have convinced themselves that what they're doing is a victimless crime. Nobody has to know, after all. So nobody gets hurt, right?
Until, of course, they do.
And then, if they have even a shred of integrity, all their excuses sound ridiculous. In the face of a loyal wife's bewilderment and pain and outrage, none of it really seems worth it. Not the thrill. Or the excitement. Or the novelty. Or the ease.
And certainly not the $19 fee that promised to protect your identity but did nothing of the sort.
So yeah...maybe these guys have it coming. They made the choice to cheat.
But not their wives. They don't deserve to discover that their husbands have betrayed them by reading about it on the front page of a tabloid. They don't need the additional pain of having to explain to their children just what Daddy has done and why the kids at school will be whispering. Or to face the embarrassed silence of their colleagues at work.
I wish these Ashley Madison subscribers would think about that when they're fuelling their self-righteous fury about their security being compromised. I hope it hits them like a slap in the face that the terror they feel right now about being exposed is nothing to the terror of realizing that trusting your husband was a mistake. Or the humiliation of sitting in a doctor's office to be tested for STDs when you've been married to the same man for two decades. Or the paranoia of wondering how many people have known and for how long and why did nobody say a thing.
So while the Impact Team is ostensibly threatening to take down a company on the basis of some high-handed moralizing – to embarrass the corporation and anyone who trusted in it – I'll be thinking of the millions of women about to join our ranks. Because they are the only truly blameless ones in this whole mess.