It all began in the spring of , after several bellinis at a Milestones with my best friend. She giddily whispered in my ear that she was having an affair with someone she had met on AshleyMadison. She pulled out her iPhone and surreptitiously showed me a picture of her paramour.
He was attractive, with a chiseled face and a broad smile. I felt a pang of envy. She and I had met years earlier while working for the same PR firm and had bonded over a shared crush on an extremely handsome younger colleague. Sometime after that, we started to share pulpy erotic novels with titles like Wicked Ties, Fantasy Lover and Strange Attractions.
I had recently turned 46 and dreaded hitting the half-century mark. I visited the gym more often, lost some weight and even underwent some laser cosmetic procedures, all in attempts to delay the inevitable.
My husband and I had married in our early 20s, fresh out of university. We live in the suburbs and have two children, ages 10 and Our marriage is relatively healthy—we love each other and we still have sex. But over the years, the frequency had decreased from three times a week to once a week, and it was routine and predictable.
I was ready to have an affair. The site listed dozens of available married men in my general vicinity: But before I could view their profiles, I had to create one of my own. One of the pictures captured my blond, shoulder-length hair falling over one eye, my lips full and glossy, a tight, low-cut shirt emphasizing my cleavage. I was careful to crop out name tags and anything that could reveal the location in each photo—anything that could identify me.
My husband had been nothing but supportive of my new job. He never complained when I got home late, which happened often. I should have felt guilty embarking on this betrayal. Instead, I felt turned on. The ages of the men contacting me ranged from 27 up to the mids. But quite a few of them were intriguing: I was approached by a surgeon at the Toronto General Hospital, a finance director with a branch of the Ontario government and a detective with the Toronto Police Service.
I was startled when I opened one AM email and discovered it was from someone I knew. I will pay for everything. I hope to hear from you. But the fact that we knew each other ultimately stopped me. I began to spend at least an hour every day on the AM site. I would stay up with my iPad after my husband and kids went to bed, reading and replying to messages late into the night, careful to clear my browsing history after every session.
My first date was with a realtor on a Wednesday afternoon. The man who arrived was at least a decade older than his profile photo. His intensity frightened me—he seemed desperate and a little unhinged. Another day I met an online journalist at a downtown Starbucks. He was seven years younger than I, handsome and sweet, and he drove a motorcycle.
We kissed at the end of the date and agreed to meet again, but never did—he claimed his wife was ill and he had no free evenings. Half a dozen disheartening first dates later, I heard from a doctor with a practice in East York.
The photos attached to his message showed a man who looked much younger than his stated age of He was tall, with dark hair, a square jaw and broad shoulders. He smiled easily in the pictures, some of which had been taken on a boat, others in various parts of Europe.
It was mid-summer and hot, and I agonized over what to wear, settling on a fitted skirt and jacket, with the top buttons of my blouse undone. I made an extra effort to primp, refreshing my hair colour, polishing my nails and fake-tanning my legs. As I made my way down Cumberland Street, I felt giddy but apprehensive. I spotted him right away, sitting at the back of the restaurant on one of its white banquettes. He stood to kiss me on the cheek. For the next three hours we talked nonstop over glasses of white wine and plates of oysters, then walked around Yorkville, en route to the University of Toronto campus in search of a more private place to end the evening.
Near the law faculty, we found a deserted walkway, and he backed me against a brick wall. He leaned into me with an arm on each side of my head and pounced on my lips.
I responded with equal enthusiasm, and unbuttoned his dress shirt while his hands lifted my skirt and tugged on my panties. But we heard two joggers approaching on the path and quickly pulled apart. He walked me back to my car, and we made plans to reconnect after his upcoming two-week Caribbean vacation with his wife.
We stayed in touch all through his vacation, exchanging information about our lives and describing in great detail the many ways in which we wanted each other. We scheduled our second date for a few days after he returned, a muggy August afternoon. We met for lunch in Mississauga followed by some time at a nearby secluded park, where we lay down on a blanket I had brought along. After some kissing and heavy petting, I unzipped his jeans and discovered his penis was completely flaccid.
He said something about feeling shy and quickly zipped himself back up. We left the park, and, after an awkward goodbye, I drove home, feeling confused and uneasy. The next day, he emailed me saying he was embarrassed and blamed our surroundings. Next time, he said, we needed a bed. Since we were meeting around dinnertime, my task was to pick up some snacks and a bottle of wine. As I made my way over, I received a text: As I rode up the elevator, I thought about my husband, who at that moment was probably cooking something for our kids in our kitchen.
I had about four hours before I had to make my way to my car and start the drive back home. Pushing all those thoughts out of my mind, I knocked on the door. The doctor greeted me by putting both hands around my waist and pulling me into a kiss. I wish I could say that auspicious beginning ended in amazing and satisfying sex for both of us. After a couple of hours of trying, we found ourselves lying on the king-size bed, my head resting on his chest, his fingers caressing one of my arms.
We liked each other but perhaps lacked sexual chemistry, he suggested. I asked if there was anything else getting in the way. He admitted he felt guilty—his wife trusted him completely. We got dressed, in the now familiar awkward silence that had become our end-of-date routine. As I replayed the evening on my drive home, I started to feel guilty, too. What was I doing, getting naked in a hotel room with a man I had met online and hardly knew?
What would my husband think if he ever found out about the other men I had met in bars and darkened restaurants? Would he ask for a divorce? I knew I could lose everything: When I arrived home, my husband was luckily out walking our dog, and I was able to take a long shower and clear my head before he returned.
Two days later, the doctor contacted me again. Even after our awkward encounters, I was still attracted to him and had begun to feel emotionally attached.
I agreed to meet him once again, this time at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville, on a Saturday afternoon in early September. But that encounter ended the same as the last. Saying goodbye once again, we both knew it was finally over. We had one last email exchange in which he apologized again for his inability to perform and urged me to try again with someone new.
But first I took one last look at the page of currently available men and spotted the doctor. It only confirmed my decision. Late last fall, I met my best friend at a Second Cup. Her own affair had ended after three months of countless cancelled dates and broken promises.
We postulated that half of the men on AM are players and the other half are just damaged in some way. We laughed at the absurdity of it all: Yes, most of my days were still mundane and I was still getting older.
But the experience had given me a chance to evaluate what I did have. Always one step ahead of me, my friend had been looking into sex workshops for individuals and couples at a Toronto sex store, with titles like Joystick Secrets and The Art of Feminine Dominance.