The makers of superglue could never have imagined these creative uses by scorned women seeking revenge on cheating exes: spread around the rim of a toilet seat, the king’s throne becomes a more permanent resting spot. Rubbed over a thermostat turned on full blast, it really gets him feeling hot and bothered. And a delicately applied glaze affixes a sleeping man’s prized possession to those legs that led him to the mistress’s lair.
Such scenarios are copious in a new book provocatively titled The Down and Dirty Dish on Revenge: Serving It Up Nice and Cold to That Lying, Cheating Bastard by Eva Nagorski. She got the idea after being hired by an ad agency for a viral marketing campaign to promote a Court TV show called Parco, PI. It had her blogging as a fictional wife with a straying husband. “It hit me how much revenge touches everyone’s life somehow,” she says. “People get hurt and they want payback.”
The book, which is aimed at women even though Nagorski acknowledges men suffer the results of infidelity too, vacillates between outlandish stories and commentary by academics on the merits and dangers of getting revenge. Imagine a mélange of self-help (the “Revenger Quiz” gauges your level and style of vindictiveness), satire (a recipe for “the cold dish of revenge” includes “one hot thong he’ll never see you in”), history and psychology, written in the tone of a chick-lit novel. In the book, Nagorski offers the Bridget Jones generation of women advice like an Ivana Trump clone. Where the divorcee espoused, “Don’t get mad, get everything,” Nagorski quips, “Conquer or die.”
The best revenge, says Nagorski, targets a cheater’s dearest possession or hobby and makes for a funny story—if only in a sardonic way. For the philandering sports fanatic who brings his new lady to the games you used to attend with him, take advantage of the Jumbotron: picture his face framed with a message alerting fans that the man sitting in row eight, seat 75 cheated on his wife with the woman next to him. BOOOO! A wine-collecting ex may have his premier vintages doled out to the neighbours or plunged into water so that all the labels slip off. Restock the cellar with these no-name bottles and watch him reel. Cheers!
Among the most common objects of revenge are cars. Damaging them provides a double whammy: his status symbol is ghettoized, and until he gets it fixed, he’ll be reminded of his trespasses wherever he drives, including to her house. That “car guys” may refer to their vehicle as “her” or “she” and spend more time and money souping it up than on their former lovers only adds to the exhilaration. Vandalism, however, can have serious consequences, Nagorski cautions, and if people aren’t careful they could land in jail: “Legal revenge is what I condone,” she says.
There are, of course, horrifying tales of revenge, ones involving a lopped-off penis or even death. Nasty voice mails can go public; there could be harassment charges or worse. One woman who fell asleep while spying on her ex from under his SUV nearly died. Those seeking a more muted form of revenge may consider putting up posters of their ex with the line “Lost Dog,” which happened in the fictional wife blog.
Then there are the epic urban myths, like the one about the woman who stuffed fish inside hollow curtain rods after her unfaithful partner refused to leave their apartment. She took off. When, weeks later, he couldn’t figure out the source of the stench, the man was forced to move out, too—and he took the curtain rods with him.
No matter what form the revenge takes, Nagorski says, if it’s done well and legally, the experience should be therapeutic—one expert in the book even suggests revenge is the first step toward forgiveness. One of Nagorski’s hopes for the book is that it will lift the veil of shame people experience for feeling angry and vengeful. In fact, shame is something that revenge and cheating have in common, says Nagorski, “It’s hard for people to admit [to] it.”
Half the fun of reading this book is being seen in public with it. All the better if the ex catches you reading it. Nagorski, who says she’s happily married, muses about her husband’s reaction to hearing the tactics his wife learned during her research. “He’s scared,” she laughs, before quickly adding, “Nooo, he’s not!” You can bet there are plenty of husbands who will be.