The Mail on Sunday - Event
Is Monogamy Dead?
Rosie Wilby Accent Press £8.99
If you’re not cheating, then your partner quite probably is. So goes one of the quips in Rosie Wilby’s stand-up routine. But like the best comedy, it’s rooted in an uncomfortable truth: as a 2015 survey revealed, we Brits take more lovers than the French.
Stand-up, Wilby admits, is an ‘extreme form of very public therapy’, and she decided to bring sex into her act having strayed into a dry spell in her own love life.
A self-confessed, middle-class, serial monogamist who is also gay, Wilby had leapt into a relationship with Jen while still pining for her ex, Sarah. She and Jen are unbeatable as domestic partners but theirs is a strangely chaste union. As Wilby realises, ‘I was too monogamous. My body ached to stay faithful to someone that my rational mind knew was no longer there.’
She’s also craving the energised creativity that trails a break-up. ‘Drowning in compromise,’ she wonders whether there isn’t something ‘deadening’ about long-term relationships. Yet another break-up seems unnecessary because she really does love Jen – like a sister. What if there was an alternative?
And so she begins questioning her commitment to monogamy. What actually counts as cheating? Is sex the ultimate in intimacy? Can a couple become more faithful by opening up their marriage?
As she and Jen tentatively move towards an ‘open-minded’ if not quite open relationship, Wilby looks to science, psychology and sociology for guidance. She also conducts her own experiments, resulting in a hilarious scene at a lesbian sauna night, complete with chilly corridors, showers on timer switches and endless polystyrene cups of milky tea. Along the way she learns the meaning of words such as metamour, monogamish and bread-crumbing.
In memoir writing, Wilby has found an equally public form of therapy but her book is as entertaining as any comedy act, and if she overstates the relative ease of straight relationships, she also dishes up plenty of provocative food for thought.
As for monogamy, by the book’s close, she’s met someone who makes it seem the most thrilling item on any menu...