The Guide To Being A Dictator's Mistress
by Cedrick Mendoza-Tolentino
1. Never fall in love in love with him.
2. Do not give in to his initial advances, no matter how insistent he is. Ignore the tramps, whores and prostitutes who think that the path to riches lies somewhere beneath his sheets. He will be generous with them—initially—bathing and covering them with scented oils and floral soaps. They will think that they are being pampered—loved even—while he will wonder why he cannot make them smell like his wife did when they first met. When he realizes that he has done everything he can with them, explored everything there is to discover, he will dispose of them like a used Kleenex. The moment he casts them aside, his guards and “trusted” advisers will swoop in for their turn. No, you must not give in immediately. Instead, reveal yourself slowly, as if you hold all the power in this most paternalistic of courtship rituals. The longer it takes, the more he will look at you differently than the rest of the women he respects even less than the woman who shares his name.
3. But do not take too long to grant him access to that space between your legs, or any other space to which he wants access. If he feels as if you are stringing him along or that there is another man vying for your affection, you are just as likely to be beheaded and have your head mounted on a pike outside the palace as being pushed aside and ignored. Let Aristotle’s Golden Mean be your guide. If you manage to play your cards right, you will have guaranteed years of comfortable living. Yes, there may be evenings where you are forced to do unspeakable things, the kinds of things that most people can only watch on a computer screen or television set. But ultimately, those evenings are worth it if for the remainder of your time with him, you are treated as his “special one.”
4. Once you are “in”, or rather he is “in”, you must never travel in public unless you are dressed for an evening out with him. Those in his inner circles will whisper and bemoan how unbecoming it is for the father of our great Republic to be seen bedding some plain-faced commoner. You will not have the benefit of Photoshop and people in the media who wish to make their displeasure with him known without eliciting retribution will attack you whenever they have the chance. Take the first few sums of money he showers on you to invest in some make-up and simple dresses. You will thank me later.
5. Tread lightly around those who have reason to hate you. His wife, of course, will tolerate you the way she tolerates the rats and insects she knows sometimes creep up from the cellar into the palace kitchens. Like those vermin that manage to find their way back to the dark shadows below the palace floor, be visible as little as possible. That is the only way to avoid being squashed by her. His family will look at you as a sign of his vices, which will not be the worst of things because it is the other vices people fear, the ones that result in people disappearing or counting their blessings when they lose only an arm or a thumb. Her family, though, will be different. They will hate you and every other woman who shares his bed that is not their little girl who loved her pigtails and her doll Krystal. Be wary of them. They may not have the power to do away with you—only he has the power to do that—but they can certainly make your life difficult. Best that you eliminate contact with them altogether. The rats and insects certainly do. Or at least the ones that live.
6. Unless absolutely necessary, never be away from him for more than a week at a time. He will inevitably spend a night or two with his wife, though that is fine because her frigid reception of him will only make him lust after you more. Allow him the occasional dalliance with someone else. It will further distinguish you from everyone other woman in his life and he will come to see you as a true companion, one that truly understands him. But be careful. If he finds someone who intrigues him more than you, you may find yourself barred from the palace after taking a short walk to get some air. The guards will look at you as they do the other discarded Kleenex girls, available to do with as they wish. No matter how much you protest and threaten (“He will cut off your balls for this”), nothing will stop them. This is why it is of paramount importance to continue to live Aristotle’s Golden Mean, keeping enough of a distance so that he continues to think of you as mysterious and desirable, a woman who will continue to amaze him, but never so much that he forgets you altogether.
7. Accept every bauble, every trinket that he gives you. Never wonder where these came from or how they were paid for. If you were to learn they were his wife’s, what would you do? If you were to learn that they were stolen from a shopkeeper, would you return them? And if you were to learn that their former owners were now buried 6 feet under, what would you do then? No, better that you accept everything he presents you with a smile and a kiss. If ever you are uncomfortable with those items, have someone sell them for you three or four cities away. You never want to be in the position of having to explain to him why one of his soldiers was able to purchase one of his gifts to you for his own mistress.
8. Reinvent your life history. Arrange for someone you trust to continue to send money to your family and loved ones, someone who is discreet and understands that while your family and loved ones need to know that you are fine, they do not need to know how you got that money. If your family did not need it, you would look at him as everyone else does—a lunatic drunk with power—rather than as a source of income. Few in the country live above the poverty line unless they have found some way to work with him or exploit him. You have merely found your own way to do so.
9. Nod your head and smile whenever he says he loves you. Stroke his chin and giggle like a schoolgirl when he says that he has fallen deeply and madly in love with you. Tell him that he makes you happier than you have ever been when he tells you that he is going to leave his wife for you (“She is too close-minded. If only I had met you earlier. It should be you at my side.”). Enjoy the feelings that that come with so powerful a man falling in love with you. But never forget that these are merely words, one of the many weapons he wields as easily as the sworn and pistol he wears on his belt. He will never leave her for you no matter what he promises. A man like him does come into power by keeping his promises.
10. Under no circumstances can you get pregnant. Too many terrible things can happen if you carry his child within you. His enemies will look at you as a way to hurt him, while his family will try their best to make tragedy strike. If your family ever heard, they would disown you. And this does not even account the most dangerous reaction of all—his. There is no telling how he will respond with the knowledge that you will be another incubator for his seed. He will have sent away all of the others careless enough to get pregnant, who are forced to battle morning sickness and the thickening of their bodies. You will be no different—once your belly swells, he will no longer have any use for you. The only way that you can ensure your safety and your livelihood is to ensure that nothing ever gains a foothold in your womb. Do whatever it takes to ensure that never happens.
11. When you hear that he has been killed, that his body has been torn asunder, remain cool and indifferent to the news. When the whole country rejoices and the world’s papers speak of a new era of hope and change, do not celebrate with them, but do not mourn his passing either. If you do, the mobs will come for you too. If you rejoice the way everyone else will, they will look at you as a hypocrite, someone who will do anything or say anything to be spared. You do not want to find yourself dangling from a rope. Take a cue from his enemies that managed to survive—stay quiet and whenever someone keeps pressing you, say that you are not comfortable discussing the subject matter. It will mean that when it is finally safe to say something, in those final years when people will make any excuse to be patient with that terrible man’s favorite mistress, you will never have to fear the angry shouts, insults and spit that those who stepped forward in his defense had to bear.
12. And if you forget any of the preceding, you have nothing to worry about, so long as you remember the most important rule of all: Never fall in love with him.
© Cedrick Medoza-Tolentino 2103
Cedrick graduated with honors in the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program at Columbia University. He has had work published in or has work forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine, Joyland, Slow Trains and Plain Spoke. He keeps up a little blog with a friend who wishes to remain anonymous atwebloggedit.com and is currently working on a novel.
The Guide to Being a Dictator's Mistress was read by Margi Sharp-Douglas for the Teachers & Students Show on 4th September 2013