Just as one fallen woman fades from the headlines, another’s arrival is hotly anticipated. I have high hopes for Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina. I’m expecting Russian decadence, Keira doing what she does best and an Oscar-snaring rescue of a heart wrenching love story from the prolixity of the original. I know a Russian historian who might skin me for such blasphemy. However I imagine I’m not alone in having once scanned chapters of Tolstoy’s socio-political musings in search of an update on Anna and Vronsky.
The female affair never fails to grip our attention. The dominance of the Kristin Stewart saga across worldwide tabloids is case in point. True, the woman is one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses and has starred alongside her now ex-boyfriend in the top grossing Twilight saga. And yes, infidelity always sells. Recent coverage of Jen and Ange’s ‘wedding rivalry’ – seven years after the latter was pictured with her arm around Aniston’s ex-husband – is case in point. But notice that it’s the women that we’re still talking about. Back in 2005, Brad’s motives and emotions were barely discussed. It seems we’re willing to accept the simple rationale that men cheat when they succumb to temptation. A glance at AskMen.com‘s 10 Reasons Why Men Cheat confirms that view. While ‘I don’t love her’ weighs in at number 1, the list also includes ‘because I could’, ‘because my girlfriend doesn’t put out’ and ‘because it was exciting’. The old analogy that the grass is always greener never rang so true. It seems that for men there is always green grass to admire. Tasting it is just a matter of excessive greed, dissatisfaction with the lustre of one’s own crop or the opportunity of an open gate.
Women on the other hand are somewhat more complex. Hence the confusion as to why? Kristin did what she did and hence the longstanding popularity of a novel that can at times border on tedium. At first, Anna’s experience reads like that of the dissatisfied bull. Having married a man twenty years her senior, she approaches the age of 30 with the feeling that her charms and beauty are being underappreciated and wasted. In waltzes Count Vronsky – a handsome, accomplished and attentive officer. Such green green grass Anna never did see. And yet, unlike her male counterparts, indulgence doesn’t equate to satisfaction. While her brother bumbles and smiles through a number of infidelities, Anna is wracked by her “happiness and unhappiness”. True, the entire affair is shackled to Tolstoy’s religious motif, but Anna’s confused and irrational emotions are entirely believable.
It is quite possible that the female affair is fundamentally unnatural. We are, after all, designed to nest and nurture while our menfolk sow their wild oats. So it stands that whereas the male affair often arises from opportunity, the female equivalent stems from force. The force of unhappiness propelled Anna Karenina into the arms of another man and similar sentiments have deprived a proportion of AskMen.com’s readership of their former girlfriends. Leading the charts of 10 Reasons Why Women Cheat is ‘to seek revenge’, while ‘lack of intimacy’, ‘feeling neglected’ and ‘low self esteem’ appear closely behind.
So was Kristin Stewart unhappy in her relationship with Robert Pattinson? Given that surly media face of hers it would be impossible for any of us to ever know. Some reports claim that she’d become jealous of Pattinson’s friendship with the former Lost star, Emilie de Ravin, whilst the couple’s hectic work commitments make it perfectly plausible that Kristin was left feeling a little neglected…
There’s one more possibility. To return to the green grass analogy, let’s accept that the male bull is accustomed to the sight of luscious, green grass. For the female cow, on the other hand, the sight of temptation may not be so common. She may have spent her life in a barn, in a well-hedged field or, in Stewart’s case, on a film set with her very dishy boyfriend. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. So when the hedges are finally trimmed and the cow gets a glimpse of some sumptuous blades in the distance, she doesn’t do as the loyal bull does and think ‘that’s nice but better not’. Instead she looks across and says to herself ‘wow I’ve never seen anything like it… it must be fate… hmm I really better try it’. Whether due to a closeted lifestyle, a choosey attitude or basic physiology, women’s experience of temptation is much rarer than that of men. As a result, they’re more likely to treat it as something spectacular. Until her ill-fated part involvement in Snow White and the Huntsman, Stewart had probably never met anyone who was a patch on Pattinson (let’s face it, no amount of press ups are going to make Taylor Lautner grow any inches taller…). So upon finding Rupert Sanders attractive, the girl was knocked off her feet. Pattinson meanwhile must have undoubtedly noticed that Aussie babe, de Ravin, is a good looking girl, but having been well practiced in the art of self restraint he stayed well away.
The moral of the story needs no introduction. Just as Anna Karenina discovered that Happy Ever After wasn’t built on lies and deceit, Kristin’s liaison with Sanders amounted to a short lived fling and the actress is now the victim of twitter-wide ‘Trampire’ bashing. Like Anna, she’s learnt that the grass is most certainly not always greener.
So is remembering that maxim the recipe to romantic success? Probably. But between the buzz of urban life, the effects of Happy Hour and the ease of modern communications it can be all too easily forgotten. The 60 years of marital bliss that my grandparents enjoyed was undoubtedly aided by their isolation in 250 acres of farmland. Surrounded by muddy fields and demanding cattle, there wasn’t any allegorical green grass to speak of. However, if eloping’s not your gaff, all you can do is find yourself some sweet tasting greenery and trust that satisfaction will keep temptation at bay.
Anna Karenina is released on Friday.