I was born here. I have spent the majority of my life here. I live in a county with roughly 164,000 people. It’s not Leiper’s Fork Tennessee with and estimated 650 people, but it is a good sampling of small town USA. Florida is funky because we are a very large state. My county is composed of three city/townships that span 680 square miles of land. We have three high schools, three hospitals, one court house, and tons of small businesses and parks. It’s not Mayberry, but it’s and an average small town.

Last month I wrote about the Ashley Madison hack. I had no idea that the site existed, and I was a bit stunned to learn about online “Married” dating. I don’t live under a rock in this small town, I know people cheat. What I didn’t realize was how many people in my small town cheat. I didn’t realize how many people had given up on monogamy and chosen to stray, while posting happy family photos on Facebook.

It’s not what you know, but who you know. A friend, of a friend, of a friend, that I know handed me a hard drive with the first Ashley Madison data dump. I spent Friday night pouring over 2,600 excel files with millions of names. My source was kind enough to provide delimited data from two of the three cities in my small county. I sat face to screen with the harsh reality of “Married” dating.

Names of small business owners, community leaders, doctors, youth sports coaches, and friends. It was a very different feeling from finding out that Josh Duggar and Sam Radar, two Christian evangelists, were on the list. I don’t personally know those cheaters.

I am not writing this article to be the town crier. I have no interest in sharing the files or divulging names. However, based on a small sampling of the data, if I went to Walmart and 160 people were in the store, two of them would be Ashley Madison clients. Soon enough everyone will be able to see the full files and do their own search. Companies are already setting up websites to do email searches, in a matter of days you will be able to do a name check. I am writing this because it is the sad reality that we now live in. My opinion on “Married” dating, whether on Ashley Madison or in a local bar, is sad, deceptive, fraudulent, underhanded, and sleazy.

What hit me like a ton of bricks was seeing people who had recently gotten engaged, newlywed couples, and  20 year married veterans, were listed side by side in endless rows of excel data. Did this hack expose the death of monogamy? Should we stick a fork in it? Perhaps everyone who gets married from now on should be required to write their own vows.

New Marriage Vows should look something like this:
I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded(husband/wife), to have and to hold, when I’m not holding someone else, from this day forward, or until you catch me cheating, for better, for worse, probably not for worse, for richer, for poorer, definitely not for poorer, in sickness and in health, not if your sickness is a strain on me, until death do us part, are you up to date on your life insurance?

I myself have been married for 12 years. My marriage is not perfect. We fight, we fail each other, but we try. We don’t “Married” date. I am not here to throw stones from the porch of my glass house. I am here to say that life as we know it will change from this event. This hack will go down in the electronic history books.

This hack will change the way people live their “Online” lives. There is no such thing as privacy anymore. If you though what you did in the deep dark crevices of the internet was safe, you are mistaken. This hack will cause a “cyber” fallout with global ramifications. It has officially been announced that divorce attorneys will be experiencing “Christmas in September,” as millions of petitions for divorce will likely be filed.

I am concerned that this will mark the end of the institution of marriage as we know it. And to think that right wing politicians and religious evangelists wanted to blame gay marriage for the destruction of traditional American values. Traditional American Values in small town USA did that all on its own.

7 Thoughts on “Shame, Shame, I Know Your Name: What does the Ashley Madison Hack Look Like In Small Town America?

  1. Kathleen on August 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm said:

    I think the institution of marriage will change, but it is for sure not the end. That’s a pretty broad statement to make – the institution ending. My marriage is nothing like my sisters, neighbors, parents, yours… It has and always will be that way. Different strokes for different folks. You do make a good point though. It’s not perfect but you and your husband try. Just like so many of us who have taken those vows and actually take them seriously. I have no doubt many deceived partners will be calling attorneys in the next few months. But marriage will continue to go on. Significant others will continue to honor each other the best they can. Cheaters will continue to cheat. Terrible people will continue to do terrible things. Good people will continue to do good things. This is a simple blip on the screen, getting media attention and ratings for now, and will soon fade away from our days and thoughts to be replaced by the next earth shattering news story.

    • Kathleen,
      This one hit close to home for me. I guess seeing the names and knowing the families made it a tough pill to swallow. I hope that it brings attention to the importance of the institution of marriage and why it is so important. We shall see soon enough. Thank you for reading.

  2. Frittzie on August 22, 2015 at 4:33 pm said:

    You message is Direct, Honest, Heartfelt & so Painful for all those who made such an Idiotic CHOICE !!!!!!!!!! And it will be in just about any-town USA as you have already discovered…….. So sad for the Spouses and families who now will pay the price for such selfish behavior ! How is this decision working for you all now???

  3. maureen d on August 23, 2015 at 7:15 pm said:

    Ha! I had the same thought relative to gay marriage. Interesting read.

    I don’t think it exposed the death of monogamy as much as it shed a light on how naive people are about technology. I don’t think anything is going to change. Maybe some people from this generation will learn a lesson, but in my experience, people really don’t change, When it comes to sex, people will never change. It may be the one thing that rivals the power of money.

  4. There is a lot of ill-informed and naive discussion of the Ashley Madison hack out there. Sadly, the real issues that 30+million users could be raising are hardly seeing the light of day, though Glenn Greenwald has written some good pieces on this and shared stories he’s got from users. I will share mine, briefly. I found out after 12 years of marriage, and 2 kids later, that I was in the wrong relationship; and in fact, that marriage is not for me, and I think the same for my wife. You have heard it before I’m sure: we are roommates raising kids. We aren’t intimate, haven’t been with the exception of the once or twice a year when I agree to it. If it weren’t for our kids, we would have divorced a long time ago, but I stay in it for them and for her.

    I don’t drink, smoke, gamble, go out with my guy friends, I don’t even watch TV hardly. I cook, clean, get the kids breakfast, lunches, pack them on the bus. I do homework, I pick them up, I do laundry, I vac the floors, do windows, bring home flowers on occasion and wine. I am the devoted, doting dad, and play the loving husband, even though every day I live a lie. I don’t love my wife in the same way that I did when we got married; I don’t want to stay with her, but I do and I live the lie everyday because if I didn’t it would be devastating to our kids and to her. I fear for her well-being if we split. I am the parent that takes the kids when the going gets tough. I’m the one that gets the phone calls with crying on the other end that she can’t deal with them and I leave work to take over parenting. On the surface, I am a model husband and dad, the only difference from the ideal being that we aren’t intimate. For several years I’ve been slowly falling apart inside, sometimes crying myself to sleep at night knowing that I can’t leave for the damage it would cause, but that marriage, culturally and socially at least, means that I can’t ever have the type of relationship with another person that I deeply want. Not just a physical one, but an emotional one. For 3 years off and on I tried AM, and what I found was that there were plenty of WOMEN in the exact same situation. They couldn’t wreck their marriages and family lives because of their concern for children and their spouse (in one case he threatened to kill himself if she left). I’ve met DOZENS of otherwise perfectly moral, upright, normal women who are in the same situation. I didn’t meet them all personally, only a few I met for lunch or drinks, but we all want the same thing: we want a connection, a loving connection to another human being. Sex isn’t the important thing, in fact, it rarely happens in my experience, but having a real relationship that gives you some happiness is what I and all the women I spoke to really want, and we don’t see any way to do that except in hiding. You can’t hold someone’s hand or kiss them without it being seen as philandering… and I’m just talking about hetero relationships of course… The real problem for so many people, and the reason I think AM is so popular, is that marriage does not work for a lot of people, as we all know, but there is NO way out without typically, without causing massive damage. So those of us who were on AM searching for something, we made the decision to try and alleviate some of our own personal suffering privately, without causing suffering in others. And now the moralizing, scarlet-letter like witch hunts are pushing to punish us. So now what? I hope that all of this blows over and I am left unscathed? I go back to my own private hell, therapy and xanax, and keep soldiering on because that’s the “right thing to do.” Or, do I act selfishly and get a divorce and destroy my family and push my wife to the point of possibly self harming? There is no good outcome to any of this now for anyone, except maybe divorce attorneys, therapists, and IT security companies.

    • Robin,
      Do you truly believe if you divorce it will ruin your life and family? I have seen divorce bring the best out of people in certain situations. Have you tried couples therapy? If you are this miserable, maybe your wife is feeling the same way. I have no idea what this is like for your family, but living a lie will not end well for any of you. I wish you guys the best. You may have been placed together to have those beautiful children and nothing more. Divorce may be what is best for some families. I have never been divorced so I have no frame of reference, but living without love can’t be good for anyone involved. I wish you the best.

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