Cheating Myself

By Olivia Ford
@STEM_OliviaFord

“All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.”
Scott Alexander

Infidelity has a lot of different meanings. It shouldn’t, but it does. One needs only to check a thesaurus to get a feeling for the range of different connotations the loaded word deviates between. They’re all there. The good (hanky-panky, liaison, amour); the bad (affair, cuckoldry, two-timing); and the ugly (disloyalty, falseness, deceit).

I have never cheated on a boyfriend, but quite possibly only because I haven’t been in very many established relationships. Part of me has to wonder if this too is only a symptom of the monstrous romantic disaster I’ve become. Because even if I don’t have a significant other of my own to deceive, I’ve at some point been involved in the deception of other’s who are more (and at the same time less) fortunate. What does that say about how much I value and deserve any level of intimacy?

There was a boy last year with whom I briefly entertained the idea of a fling with. He had a serious long-time girlfriend that I knew very well of, but somehow a flirtation began regardless. We were drunk one night, started dancing together and had lots of fun. When his friends left the bar without him, he asked if he could sleep in my bed, but nothing happened. Not even a cuddle. Then the next weekend rolled around and we found ourselves texting to see what each other’s plans were. We danced together closely the whole night again and I wound up in his bed with his arms around me. We didn’t kiss but the next morning he did roll over on top of me, as if toying with the idea of what could be done. Things ended when I blacked out one night and pursued his good friend instead (an Olivia Ford classic, it seems) and then the idea was toyed with no longer.

Yet another time, I slept with a guy who, although technically single, was secretly still hooking up with his ex-girlfriend. She had cheated on him with his best friend a year ago but wanted nothing more since then than to make amends and be with him again. Naturally, the offense was difficult to forgive. He refused to re-establish the relationship she had broken but was not above casual physical interactions now and then. When I found myself out with him and friends who had witnessed the whole debacle between the two, they drunkenly advised me, “Ugh. So what if you hook up with him? They need to get over each other. Seriously.” His ex-girlfriend, unfortunately, did not share this same sentiment. We were never very close at all ourselves but she and I shared a lot of good friends, and this was enough to make her hate me. At a bar she shoved me, threw a drink in my face and then sent me a text to inform me that I was a “skank ho” and should be embarrassed because he went back to her after sleeping with me.

They are now happily dating, and I am happy for them. It’s a more difficult situation to assess because while I was accused of home wrecking, it ultimately led to home making. His sleeping with me had enraged her to the equal degree of anger he felt when she had betrayed him, and so, wasn’t I instrumental in putting them on even terms? In that sense, perhaps the whole ordeal is a lesson in why not to cheat from her perspective. It was only after she groveled for a year and was subjected to a similar hurtful revenge that she was able to make it back into his good graces.

Most recently, my married 42-year-old boss has been hitting on me. I’m closer in age to his daughter than I am to him (yes, he has a daughter). Putting it like that makes things pretty clear about how I should and shouldn’t respond, but when he first came on to me, I wasn’t so sure. He’s stylish, foreign and I’ll be damned if there isn’t something alluring about a man with an accent who dresses in well-tailored suits. But those reasons for ruining a family are just as stupid and frivolous as the things he sees in me: someone young, pretty and un-tethered.

“Would it be crazy for me to ask you out?” he asked as he was leaving the office one night.
“I don’t know…” I said smiling. “That’d be very dangerous.”
“You’re right. But is that a yes or a no?”
“I don’t know. You’re the one with more responsibility and more at stake, so if anything it should be a maybe for you.” I tried to explain.
“Okay, goodnight then.” He said, nodding, seeming almost defeated as he quickly turned and went out the door.

It was one of those rare moments where I surprised myself by being so honest and saying something completely appropriate. It surprised me so much, in fact, that I suddenly wondered if it was the right thing. Should I have given him more? Was I too dismissive? Was I closing an opportunity I should be taking?

Of course any sane person would answer no to these questions, but I am not always so sane.

“It’s not that I wouldn’t want to, I just know I shouldn’t,” I texted him a few minutes later, reasoning that this would leave us on even terms.

As the week has gone on, however, I feel myself feeling sick over it. There is a drawing his daughter made for him taped up above his desk. He left his blackberry on my desk accidentally and I noticed a photo of his wife set as his background. Seeing these and recognizing his lies to those people, made me see the lies I’d been telling myself. Not only do I know I shouldn’t, there is nothing in that proposition that I want and nothing that will or should put us on even terms.

Infidelity isn’t wrong because it’s cheating on the other person. It’s wrong because, in most cases, what the person cheating wants is sex, and that’s too easy; too stupid. You can get sex from anyone, but to share a life together, that’s what’s hard, maybe harder than anything else. So if you’ve already found someone to do that with (and isn’t that great? Someone to brush your teeth with and read in bed next to, the things you can’t do with just anyone), why would you want to blow it all on a thing as stupid and easy as sex?

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