In 2003, Amy Winehouse released What Is It About Men – a bass-heavy jazz number that catalogues all the ways men eat the hearts of the women they claim to love.
"Understand, once he was a family man so surely, I would never ever go through it firsthand," she says upon the discovery of a nameless lover's infidelity. I found myself thinking of the line when I watched Mgedeza's love triangle come to a boil during a recent episode of DiepCity.
Mgedeza (Mduduzi Mabaso) has been walking the tightrope for an incredibly long time. In a particularly arresting episode earlier this month, his wife Maureen calls him moments after he's had sex with his parallel girlfriend, Zola. Anxious, out-of-breath and audibly distraught, Maureen (affectionately known as Momo) summons Mgedeza back to the house in between a fit of tears.
"Do you still find me attractive?" she asks Mgedeza when he arrives. "Because I've heard some men find other women attractive when their wives are pregnant."
Of course, Mgedeza responds with a lie, calling his wife – the one he's cheating on – the most beautiful woman in the world. The scene ends with Maureen stopping short of asking whether her husband is cheating on her.
It's a question that would ultimately answer itself a few weeks later.
In another recent episode, Momo finds Zola and Mgedeza in the act. This leads to an explosive face-off, in which Momo pulls a knife on Zola. "You've messed with the wrong woman," Maureen says. "I'll show you. You sleep with other people's husbands just because you're light skinned?"
It's a heart-rending moment that captures the mechanics of infidelity and the mental gymnastics employed by betrayed spouses who choose to stay.
There is a banal and frustrating idiom about the truth and how it supposedly sets people free. In the moral universe of DiepCity, this isn't true: the truth causes more trouble than it saves.
After finding out about Mgedeza's infidelity, Momo paints her face in a light shade of make-up in hopes that it'll awaken her husband's desire. When that doesn't work, she sobs, "but I thought you'd like it [given that your mistress is light skinned]".
At some point, she promises to lose weight after delivering their baby, if that'll make Mgedeza stay with her.
Anyone who's been cheated on will often speak about this perverse need to look attractive to your partner after the infidelity. There is a dissonance at play here: you want nothing to do with this person because 'how dare they ruin the sanctity of your relationship by cheating? But on the other hand, maybe if I looked better, they wouldn't have strayed?'
By the time the truth comes out in the intervening days or weeks after infidelity, it's too late to save anything.
There is a difference between confessing you've cheated because you feel guilt and seek forgiveness, and 'confessing' because you’ve been found out. Mgedeza chose the latter. And watching his wife come undone at the knowledge of this, one can't help but look at it and think: what is it about men?
- Catch DiepCity weekdays at 8.30pm on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161). Episodes are available on DStv Catch Up.