Sunday, May 08, 2005

Infidelity II

I've been thinking about this.

One of my colleagues, a nurse, joined us recently at Florey (the good emergency department I currently work at) having moved from Shipman (the evil emergency department I used to work at).

I bumped into her a few weeks afterwards and asked how she reckoned it was going, and said "It's good here - everyone gets on well, there's not much gossip".

She smiled sadly at me, with that expression usually found on saintly daughters of demented parents, and informed me of the following:

The senior doctor on for the day was a lesbian, as was the red-headed RN, the new EN with the glasses and today's outpatient nurse. The pharmacist was gay.
The head of the resus team had just broken up with one of the security guards
The blonde paediatric registrar was shagging the Vietnamese triage nurse
The tall, strongly built Sri Lankan Indian consultant who was taking us for pathology tutorials was bonking the blonde paediatric trained nurse and wanted to leave his arranged marriage but his wife had told him she would take his children off to darkest Sydney and he would never see them again.
The new gangly, morose looking orderly was having it away with the lisping, eminently bonkable Greek radiologist
One of the emergency interns had done an infectious diseases rotation at Glasson Street, the sexually transmitted infections ward at the Royal, and was in the back room getting a coffee when her boyfriend checked in with a panic and a list of names, and a story that she said would have qualified for the British Fantasy Award.
The anaesthetics registrar had been caught applying what I will call genital CPR to one of the surgical registrars in the store-room

and so on. Apparently there are loops, and I am out of them.

I don't know if that counts as a lot of stuff. For a start, it's all hearsay, and as anyone who has ever gone camping in the Deep South in midwinter knows, there can be a hell of a lot of smoke without fire. The other month one of my friends told me his wife of six months was leaving him and taking their child, because she had thought that marrying him would make her love him but it didn't. He cried, and I put my arm around him, and if he'd been a she the nest day the story would probably involve the two of us smeared in chocolate pudding and wearing fish suits.

I don't know what kind of environment infidelity blossoms in. I don't know if it's more common where people are bored or people are under stress, not that the two are mutually exclusive. Emerge seems to have a steadily rotating crop of nubile and virile nurses and doctors, who have to work closely under emotionally trying circumstances. People cry and people get tired and people need comforting, and everyone tries to be supportive, and there is that "we happy few"cameraderie, and plenty of secluded places to duck into. Anyone who reckons sexual attraction is not a risk in medicine is dangerously ignorant. And the other relationships, the openly acknowledged ones, the husbands and wives and partners... shift-work is notoriously difficult. If you look long-term, many doctor's marriages do not survive ten years. Infidelity is easy.

Me, this is something I have historically had trouble with. I am the kind of person who goes weak in the presence of beauty. In my younger days I always had hold of the next relationship before letting go of the last, like a gibbon swinging through trees. From fifteen to over thirty I seemed unable to function without at least one, and ideally two or three, sources of some kind of comfort, sex-on-tap.

I was a horrible teenager, and a worse twenty-somethinger. I'm not such a good person now.

I read somewhere that improvements in health and the other cosmetic sciences mean that the average high-school class contains more concentrated, weapons grade beauty than Michaelangelo or Renoir would have seen in his lifetime.

I know this sort of thing gets to me.

Occasionally I find myself staring. Sometimes I pick myself up spending slightly more time working up the slim, tearful, big-eyed girl with the fever and the headache rather than the fat, aggressive, pug-nosed boy with the fever and the headache. Once in a while I will catch myself staying a bit long over coffee with an earnest, big-eyed brunette, especially when discussing some aspect of the days work which shows me in a favourable light.

I think that as long as I find myself checking up on myself, as long as I regard my own actions
with a jaundiced and deeply skeptical eye, I should be okay. This guy I know is an alcoholic. He didn't drink for fifteen years, one night he went back to it, had three days of incoherence, came home to find his suitcases packed in the hallway. He adopts the alcoholics anonymous approach to alcohol, none of this "alcohol management" stuff, prohibition all the way. Even after ten years alcohol free he considers himself an alcoholic who hasn't had a drink today.

Without wishing to go into inappropriate amounts of detail, I think if you know your weaknesses, if you keep it in your eye, you can live with it. I am not one of the people who can risk that kind of thing. I try not to touch anyone at work. I don't stay in the same room as a single female. I try to look out for my favourites and avoid them.

Not feeling the attraction would be good. But if you can't not feel it (and what I mean by the attraction is not something cerebral, some deep apprecation for their wit and charm and the structure of their personality, it's skin and hair and uniform and the like, some momentary flare) the next best thing is to make sure you are never ever at risk of acting on it.

As for now: I know I would not survive life without my earnest, big-eyed, brunette wife. I know something vital would be gone from each of us without the other. It's not something I can risk.

It sounds like melodrama. But it works if I think of myself as someone who hasn't had his first drink today.



Blogger Benedict 16th said...

You must unlearn what you have learned." "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will..."

"Whassamadda widda dark-a-side eh?" - El Papa

10:46 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home