1. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Secretary or Babysitter?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Homer Potvin, Feb 27, 2017.

    I have a Happily Married Man character who is the perfect husband/father/friend/humanitarian except he's banging the bejeezus having an affair with either his secretary or babysitter. The story has a trashy, Lifetime movie vibe to it--either a secretary or babysitter is going to seriously fuck up his perfect life. If it's the secretary I can write more work scenes and show his respectable profession side. But if it's the babysitter I can riff off his tranquil domesticity side and write all the trashy sex scenes in his house with all the creepiness that implies. He's not an important character, he's kind of setting up something else, but I can't figure out which way to go. The babysitter (legal age) is obviously grimier, but the secretary implies a logical, work vs. home/church vs. state separation that is more calculating. John Irving had great success with babysitters, but the secretary has a low risk, happily married man simplicity to it. There's no deep literary meaning with this one, but is better to have an affair with the secretary or babysitter?
     
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  2. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Does it have to be one or the other?
     
  3. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    I assume you're using a cliché on purpose, so I think your decision depends on what you want to say with the character, and also if you have ideas how to use the places the affair happens to move the plot forward or set up a conflict, that might also help you make the decision. Say, you want him to get publicly humiliated or something, then it might happen at work. Or if you want to make him look even worse for the reader, have him have the affair at home with the babysitter. You know, in the "sanctity" of his home.
     
  4. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say the secretary might be more 'acceptable' in some ways, in that workplace romances are quite common. It would be unpleasant if it's a power trip for him, though. (She has to put out or she loses her job kind of thing.)

    Babysitter? Definitely more icky, at least in concept. She looks after his children. This happens in his house (with children present? Not sure of the dynamics of this scenario.) There might also be a more pronounced age difference between the babysitter and your perfect gentleman here, although I presume that if his children are young enough to require a babysitter he's probably not all THAT old himself. But if she's just an older teenager (legal age) and he's in his 30s, that might be ...erm ...well.... And if she's older, in her mid to late 20s, why is she working as a babysitter?
     
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  5. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

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    Perhaps "nanny" rather than "babysitter?" And, of course there would be a variety of other less stereotyped female work roles that a businessman might have working for him: a computer techie, office manager or personal assistant, accountant, sales manager, etc. Good luck
     
  6. Megalith

    Megalith Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know... but this definitely sounds like something that would show up on Lifetime, depending on the ending, but it has all the necessary parts. I would say babysitter because that is a lot more morally challenge able. If the secratary respects the distance between job and home, then she wouldn't have a strong motivation to interfere with his perfect life. While a young babysitter who is caught up in his passion, might be more motivated to ruin his life to snatch him up herself.(love blinds the young and so forth)
     
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  7. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    A few thoughts about things that may impact on the story you want to tell.

    Any woman who is having an affair is going to want him to leave his wife; an older one (secretary) is more likely to have the self-confidence to push it; even to the extent of "letting" the wife find out.

    With a woman as young as a baby-sitter, there's probably an element of abuse, even if the girl is of legal age, and she may have sufficient respect for authority that she puts up with it.

    Similar problem with a nanny/au pair; she's probably live-in, and probably dependent upon the family (and especially the bread-winner) for her job, so an even more abusive element to the relationship...possibly exploitation of an alien, possibly an illegal, possibly from a culture where women are not respected, thus she may not object because she knows they won't believe her if she tells.
     
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  8. Megalith

    Megalith Contributor Contributor

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    I think it really depends on the woman and her motivations for the affair. I think it can go either way in most situations, but where is the option for the woman who just like to cause trouble or have fun? I'm sure those are equally possible.
     
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  9. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    If you aim is to just have someone to be an agent of chaos then babysitter is a more natural fit. Workplace romance can certainly lead lives getting ruined but in general both parties have a reason to not want to start telling people that it's happening. No self respecting woman wants the rest of her colleagues to think she only got the job by shagging the boss even if she is shagging him. While she might eventually become dissatisfied that he won't leave his wife for her (for example) and thus start taking matters into her own hands, that's a different kind of story. That's a woman scorned and she's going to feel like the protagonist; your happily married man won't be even vaguely sympathetic.

    Someone like a babysitter feels more natural as someone who sort of doesn't care about the consequences. This isn't her career and it's not going to blight her life that everyone knows really so if for whatever reason she gets it into her head to mess with him (blackmail?) then what does she really have to lose? She also has access to his house and that gives you lots of ways to ramp up the tension from her leaving subtle little hints that he has to explain away to letting the guys wife find her naked in the bedroom, supposedly waiting for him. That way you can slowly work him up into a tornado of panic and failure and he'll at least maintain a little edge of sympathy because she's just doing it to mess with him and whatever bad stuff he's done he doesn't deserve quite what she's doing.

    I'd make her a babysitter in the classical sense here; not a live in because that's so obviously dangerous that I think even a cheating bastard is going to see it. That's the kind of secret you just aren't going to be able to keep for a long time no matter what, doubly so with kids in the house. If they do it at home then the kids can just walk in. If they go somewhere else then who is watching the kids? It just doesn't quite fit. If she's a babysitter who watches the kids a night a week or so then goes home then that's a way that they can meet, and yes it's sleazy of him, but no-one is going to be asking where she is when she's not on the clock. She's probably a college kid; young, horny and stupid and perhaps willing to take the chance manipulating this sleazy jerk.

    To address @Shadowfax specifically; there's only abuse in these extremely broad strokes because you want to see it there. It absolutely could be written such that "she [has] sufficient respect for authority that she puts up with it". But that's you projecting onto it. It could equally be written that she's extremely manipulative and threatens and cajoles this guy to sleep with her or she'll tell his wife he did anyway. We don't have any details to say which. Again; yes a live in nanny could be an illegal immigrant that the employer has undue control over that he takes advantage of. These things certainly happen. But equally she could be a free born citizen who has built a career as a live in nanny with lots of good references from the families she's worked for and charges a lot of money for her full time services who would kick someone squarely in the balls for treating her like a piece of meat. It's a bit weird to me to see 'a happily married man having an affair' and jump to 'he's pretty much raping her'. That's not really what affair means; affairs are extramarital romances.
     
  10. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

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    So they both have...um...advantages depending on what you want to do with the plot.

    I almost hate myself for suggesting this but you can probably get the best of both options if she's like a college-student intern at his office rather than his secretary. That gives you all of the work/home aesthetic separation and also the more "oh dear, that is SO wrong" element.

    Okay, I'm going to go take a shower now that I've said that.
     
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  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Yeah. Both would be gratuitous...

    Oh, yeah... there are not enough cliches in the universe for this...

    Of course there are! Not here there though... it's either a secretary or a babysitter...

    This is just a small scene in a potentially larger work. I was in a very crowded bar the other day when a bunch of people started to heckle the television. The news was on with no sound, and the bartender couldn't find the remote. One guy yelled: "Let's find a game." His wife yelled: "No, let's watch Lifetime." Then somebody else yelled: "Yeah, the one where she kills her husband." Next thing you know the entire bar was yelling Lifetime cliches at each other, including a half chant thing where one guy was saying "He's screwing his secretary" and another "No, it's the babysitter" and so forth. This went on for awhile. I asked my wife where she fell on the secretary/babysitter thing and she thought secretary for sure, but then that made me think of the babysitter thing in The World According to Garp and how it made me laugh at the time.
     
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  12. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Because she's a millennial.
     
  13. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Zing!

    But even in the wider sense there's reasons why a young woman is still babysitting. College kid who wants some extra beer money for little effort, friend of her parents needs a hand with the kids, wants to go into a child connected field and wants to get some hands on experience with kids while she studies, spoiled brat drop out with nothing better to do. You can make it work.
     
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  14. JE Loddon

    JE Loddon Active Member

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    Wife's sister...
     
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Voice of experience ? :D
     
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  16. JE Loddon

    JE Loddon Active Member

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    We've all been there, right?

    Using this would definitely make him the most unsympathetic, vile character. Use with caution.
     
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  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    there are of course various other options - girl next door, best mates wife , female friend, girl from a night course/hobby/church, someone he met on line, random hook up via tinder or ashley madison (or fictional equivalents), case of the ex with someone from his past, friend of his daughter's (for extra eww)
     
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