Sisters’ Keepers

Mary-Kay Wilmers

  • Kept Women: Mistresses in the Eighties by Edna Salamon
    Orbis, 182 pp, £8.99, March 1984, ISBN 0 85613 606 9

Keeping women, like keeping horses, is one of the many things the rich can do that other people can’t. They may do it for reasons of financial prudence but if so it’s the sort of prudence that only the rich can afford. One of the girls Edna Salamon talked to met her man in a lift: ‘I told him that I was really hard up and if he wanted to go out with me he’d have to pay me ... He asked if £500 was enough.’ She said £50 would do and hasn’t been hard up from that day to this. There must be men who don’t find it easy to keep a mistress as well as a wife but the ones Ms Salamon met in the course of her researches generally claimed that ‘it made more economic sense’ than going through a divorce. ‘He didn’t want me to have any less luxury than his wife,’ a middle-aged Texan said of her lover: ‘I always had a new car to drive – lovely clothes – memberships at the best private clubs.’ The prudence may be as much emotional as financial: an abandoned wife whose former husband didn’t want her to have any less luxury than his girlfriend would have less reason to feel grateful. Or it may not be a matter of prudence at all. Even the nicest husbands must have more fun buying zippy cars for their doxies than sedans for their wives.

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