Cheating is not only a common topic brought up in media and literature, but it’s also a situation that will affect you or a friend at some point in your life. A statistic I found stated that while 68% of women said they would have an affair if it meant they were never going to be caught, 74% of men stated the same (Statistic Brain). However, no matter how you view it, the pain caused from infidelity can be caused beyond the main people involved. While the cheater, the cheater’s significant other, and the homewrecker are the immediate thought, it can be much more complex than that. However, maybe the person on the side was never aware that they were the mistress. Perhaps they were always aware, and hoped that they would be with the cheater in the end. In “Never Marry a Mexican” by Sandra Cisneros, the different sides of infidelity are brought up when the main character, Clemencia, is not only the young mistress but also ends up being the girl taken advantage of rather than the cheater’s wife. She not only retells her experiences of cheating in her life but continues to obsess over Drew, her teacher and the unfaithful husband. Today’s culture has the habit of focusing more on the broken relationship, along with hating the person involved rather than the perpetrator. I feel that while Clemencia has taken many actions that comes across as crazy to the readers, her awareness of the immorality are a clear sign that there could be more to her than the “obsessive ex girlfriend” that comes across to us initially.
Within the first few paragraphs, Clemencia herself states that “I’ve been an accomplice, committed premeditated crimes. I’m guilt of having caused deliberate pain to other women. I’m vindictive and cruel, and I’m capable of anything” (Cisneros 68). While I can see how the first few paragraphs could make anyone hate this woman for ruining relationships, she gives us more to go off of. Soon after these statements, Clemencia talks about her life growing up. She begins to explain that her mother cheated on her father when she was young, and when her father was dying in the hospital her mother was still having an affair with this man and married him soon after. When her mother is discussed, you begin to notice that she views her mother in a negative light for this. Going as far as saying that “she stopped being my mother”, it’s clear that she couldn’t view her the way she use to. While Clemencia demonized her as if she’s been neglected, you notice that for a brief moment that her mother was trying to rationalize what she did to Clemencia and reach out to her. After this, the only comment that is made is “Then I’d stop listening” along with other claims such as “she stopped being my mother” and “Ma always sick and too busy worrying about her own life, she would’ve sold us to the devil if she could” (Cisneros 73-74). What Clemencia’s mother did may have been immoral, but despite how lowly Clemencia spoke of her mother you can see in this brief moment that she sincerely didn’t want her cheating to affect her relationship with her children.
When Clemencia tells her story of her relationship with Drew you begin to notice more about her mindset based on the way she speaks of the relationship and her involvement in the birth of his son (Cisneros 74-76). Not only does she talk in such an arrogant way, saying phrases such as “You’re nothing without me”(Cisneros 75), but she has the habit of taking the claim and responsibility of situations that would normally be outside of a person’s control. Throughout her retelling of her experience with Drew, Clemencia speaks as if the people involved are inferior to her and she has total control over them. A good example of when she spoke like this was when she said “I created you from spit and red dust. And I can snuff you between my finger and thumb if I want to. Blow you to kingdom come. You’re just a smudge of paint I chose to birth on canvas” (Cisneros 75) as well as “I can tell from the way he looks at me, I have him in my power… My stupid little bird” (Cisneros 82). Going from this talk, if we were to assume that the credit wasn’t hers to take, anyone could at least agree that Clemencia displays an inflated sense of self-importance.
Now for the interesting point, according to a study done at Arizona State University when they brought a group of adolescents in to discuss infidelity, one common theme brought up about cheating involved getting revenge or even immediate apathy towards the cheater and future relationships. What was discovered was that when these teens were discussing relationships, they began to talk about “the range of outcomes cheating might produce in a relationship, including revenge: “Other couples just like cheat back. They would be like, ‘Oh, he cheated on me, I cheated on him back.’ They just keep going on and on. like, ‘Oh, he is cheating on me, so it doesn’t matter.’… While describing vengeful behavior, this response reflects some apathy towards the infidelity” (Williams 1013). At the very beginning, Clemencia explains “I admit, there was a time when all I wanted was to belong to a man. To wear that gold band on my left hand and be worn on his arm like an expensive jewel brilliant in the light of day” (Cisneros 68). Soon after she also tells us that “I’ve never married and never will… Marriage has failed me… Not a man exists who hasn’t disappointed, whom I could trust to love the way I’ve loved… Better to not marry than live a lie” (Cisneros 69). It’s clear that Clemencia’s relationship with Drew hurt her so much that she’s afraid to trust a man with a long term commitment, so rather than striving for a long term relationship she chooses to enjoy “the sweetest part of the fruit, without the bitter skin that daily living with a spouse can rend” (Cisneros 69). She also shows very little empathy for hurting others and focuses the most on herself. While it’s a natural to deny that you’re experiencing grief, she goes even further than this by drowning out her emotions by sleeping with men who are already in a relationship and even admitting that she gets a thrill out of it (Cisneros 76-77). To bring up the same University study, it also mentions that apathy was a common response to cheating (Williams 1013). So after experiencing her mother’s cheating and being taken advantage of by an older man, Clemencia gave up on marriage and ever finding love. She’s unable to get over the fact that Drew took advantage of her so easily and now does anything she can to give herself a sense of power and control, whether it’s by being a homewrecker or through “Making the world look at you through my eyes” while even confirming that “if that’s not power, what is” (Cisneros 75)?
Clemencia is a complex character, but not a good person. When you look at it from this perspective Clemencia is not crazy, she’s hurt and has lost faith in the world and the people around her. Her actions may not be the best, but her pain is valid. She desires the control she never had when she’s with Drew and now she takes it out on his son, whether it’s through having an inappropriate relationship with him or even claiming to play an important role in his birth. So the next time you read a story of someone taken advantage of by a cheater, try to see the person who was hurt instead of the person who played a role in infidelity.
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek and other stories. London: Bloomsbury, 2004. Print. To quote the story.
Statistic Brain. “Infidelity Statistics.” Statistic Brain. Statistic Brain, 08 Sept. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. <http://www.statisticbrain.com/infidelity-statistics/>. To use accurate statistics in the intro.
Rankin Williams, Lela, and Kristine E. Hickle. ““He cheated on me, I cheated on him back”: Mexican American and White adolescents’ perceptions of cheating in romantic relationships.” Science Direct. Elsevier, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017. <http://postpresby.org/jkoch/Intro/Spring%202012/Cheating.pdf>. To discuss the psychological effects of cheating while connecting it back to when Clemencia began to have an affair with Drew when she was 19.