Swinger's Tale

Coby Ben-Simhon
Coby Ben-Simhon
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Coby Ben-Simhon
Coby Ben-Simhon

"I wanted to publicize it, to put a large mirror in front of myself," says Gidi Shaprut, explaining why he decided to write a revealing story about an open and tumultuous relationship he had three years ago. The short story by Shaprut, 33, a presenter on Army Radio who writes for the men's magazine Blazer, is now being published in the collection "Pashut Zeh Lo" ("It's Not Simple"; Am Oved, Hebrew), edited by Boaz Gaon and Efrat Michaeli, in which 19 Israelis write about the concept of the family and its disintegration.

Among the many confessions made by parents, grandparents, single mothers, lesbians and singles, which reveal the changing nature of the family unit, Shaprut's is the most provocative. The relationship lasted for six months. Shaprut was 30, she was 26. He lived in Hod Hasharon, she lived in Tel Aviv.

"Wild hedonism, full of passions and orgies," he says about what went on. "There was something fun and defiant about this relationship; it was extroverted, and therefore it's almost natural to expose it. We felt at the time that we had found a way in which passion could be combined with the framework - that there was a proper mix between the two, that we were victorious over the entire world. Neither of us had been in such a situation previously. There was a kind of power that gradually drew us in. On the one hand we wanted to live together, and on the other we wanted to continue to live our single lives. Before that I didn't think that such a relationship could suit me; all my previous relationships were routine and ordinary."

How do you find partners for orgies?

Shaprut: "The orgies were always spontaneous to a certain degree, and yet also planned. We went to bars in order pick up girls, both of us, she and I. To bring someone back to our bed. On boring nights when you sit together and nothing happens, we would go out to look for something new and refreshing. We chose a girl who looked like fun, and the truth is that it wasn't hard for us to get someone to join us. It's true that occasionally there were disappointments, when we said to ourselves that it was a shame it didn't work out, but most of the time we succeeded. There were also cases when someone told us that she was waiting for her boyfriend and in the end four of us went home [together]. There were times when we saved phone numbers and sometimes invited someone who had been outstanding."

Gidi Shaprut grew up in the faculty housing of Beit Berl College; his father was a lecturer on theater and his mother, a stay-at-home mom. He explains that the journey he took began with some penetrating soul-searching.

"At a certain point I stopped my life, after years of doing the same thing. Right after high school I did my military service on Army Radio, I was in the same group as [Channel 2 news presenter] Yonit Levy ... I was dragged deep down into a demanding world: The work at Army Radio drew me in, the schedule was crazy. I was the presenter on programs such as 'Four in the Afternoon,' 'We Don't Want to Sleep,' 'The Silence of the Roads.' It was a system that operates 24 hours a day and during this entire time I was at its disposal. It was an exhausting race and I was quite lost within it. There was no real separation between my youth and my adulthood."

What was the turning point?

"At the end of my service at Army Radio, I began to study holistic psychotherapy at Reidman College in Tel Aviv. I was searching. At the college they gave me a teaspoon and told me: 'Walk around your backyard and begin digging.' I did it in a very intensive way. I dug into the fears that drove me - it was very strong spiritual work. I understood that my life had evolved without my having control over it, and that's why I decided when I finished my studies to fly to New York for half a year."

You met her right after you returned to Israel. Did you love each other?

"That's a tough question. I have no doubt that there was a great and good love between us. The genuine kind. But apparently love was not enough for us and we needed additional tension to complement it. When she would say to me: 'Tonight I'm going out with a girlfriend,' I would go to a pub to find a girlfriend, too. That's how it went; it was self-evident for both of us. The tension was the force that made us stay together. There was excitement all the time, both internal and external."

Did you believe at the time that this was an ideal type of relationship?

"Not really. It was clear to me that it was a wonderful and excellent default choice at that point in my life. I understood that we were presenting those around us with a different type of relationship, even though we never talked about it in depth and didn't set clear boundaries for ourselves as to what was permitted and what was forbidden. We simple proceeded with it."

What did you say to those who looked askance at the nature of your relationship?

"We live in quite a crazy world and that is just another alternative open to everyone. I sometimes feel that people, because of the myth of the family, rush into this hell as though there were no tomorrow. I constantly see family units falling apart around me. I know a couple who have found quite a strange solution. They live in the same house, but in separate rooms; sometimes he sleeps in her room and sometimes she sleeps in his. There are some who divorce. Everyone finds their own solution, and in this chaos nobody can tell me that my choice was so crazy."

If it was so good, why did it end?

"There was jealousy. In the end we couldn't avoid it, in spite of everything. That's what unraveled the relationship. Everything became more and more mixed up, with too many people. I no longer knew if the guy she was talking to at the pub was someone she had been with or would be with. While she was a student, she had no job and things happened to her all the time. She went to the beach in the afternoon, met someone and had a great time. I usually didn't want to hear about it. It aroused jealousy. Nor did she want to hear when I slept with someone else. I felt that telling her about such incidents was not right. We didn't tell because of a mutual understanding - not because we had decided on it. But even when she didn't tell me, I knew. Suddenly she returned glowing from something else, and it was clear. Within all that I also met my present partner, Hadas, and there something began that I understood was much better for me, that made me feel safe. Today I'm in an entirely normal relationship."

So the whole thing about the man's right to stray within the relationship ended with the standard couple relationship, which you had criticized so much?

"I gave up the right to stray in favor of other rights. I chose great security, love that can exist on a different kind of tension. It wasn't clear to me that one man for one woman is a model that works for one's entire life. If it works it's a great miracle. Today I'm working on this: to have one monogamous relationship."

Is it hard for you?

"On the one hand it's hard and on the other there's something to gain from it. It's rewarding work."

It's not cheating Excerpted from Gidi Shaprut's short story, in the collection 'It's Not Simple'

"... I know quite a number of couples who conduct the ordinary display of an ideal relationship and fuck on the side. All the excuses they invent to explain this betrayal are amazing, but they don't for a moment touch this word: trust. When I explain to them the understanding and the mutual trust that exist between me and my regular girlfriend, who enables me, just as I enable her, to fuck outside of the relationship - they don't believe me. Instead of believing, they ask questions like: 'How can you know that when you're sitting here with me she's not fucking someone else?'

And I reply like a boomerang with the same question. And I also add that as far as I'm concerned it's okay, as long as she uses a condom. 'Aren't you jealous?' they ask me.

I usually answer that I accept it. If they continue to interrogate me, I admit that I'm jealous. Sometimes. After examining the subject thoroughly, I have come to the conclusion that it's better to be jealous than to ignore or suppress or lie. Jealousy, as difficult and painful as it may be, is far better than betrayal. And furthermore, it's better than a sense of being betrayed. In the world in which we live, trust is a rare commodity.

In one of the surveys that editors like to put on the back pages, it said some scientist discovered that the average Westerner lies about 200 times a day. You sit in front of the bank clerk, ask him if that's the lowest interest he can give you for the loan you're taking, he lies to you with a smile and says it's a great interest rate and there's nothing lower. You smile a false smile, thank him and promise to come tomorrow to close the deal. Ten minutes later you go into another bank where they lie to you about a somewhat lower price.

You tell your boss that the horrible lipstick she's wearing is very sensual. You wish success to your greatest rival, drink a toast with people you would prefer to see dead. We lie all the time, mainly to ourselves but to those around us, too; we round out corners, scatter white lies and sometimes betray the trust of those whom we care about.

She and I, on the other hand, as part of the understanding between us, don't betray each other. How do we do that? Like everyone, by defining rules and boundaries. We have defined the limits of cheating, for example, in such a way that a random fuck doesn't enter them. If the price is to be jealous occasionally or to face potential jealously, we're okay with that. The main thing is not to lie, to deceive, to hate.

To an outside observer such behavior between a couple may seem unusual, perhaps even dangerous. What will happen if some day we want to start a family? What kind of example would that be for our children? Well, stupid questions should receive stupid answers: What will happen if some day after we have children we get divorced? What kind of example would that be for our children?"

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