Is This Cheating?
A friend at work; who has assumed the hierarchy of being my best friend, primarily because it is her ear that I do the most complaining to about the boss; has only just found out that her husband of eight years is gay.
No surprise there, truth be told. The first time I had met him, I decided unmistakably that he was gay.
So, how does one react when a best friend ‘breaks the news’ to you?
Do you shrug your shoulders and candidly admit, “About time you caught up to speed, Love!”?
Absolutely, unequivocally not! Instead, you feign disbelief and try to be as perturbed for your friend as possible. Granted though, it is a perturbing scenario. For both.
Imagine being a minister of an orthodox church (did I mention that he is a minister?), with homophobic parents? Suppressing your orientation, even marrying a girl, believing her to be your panacea?
And, imagine my friend. Shattered, feeling every shade of rejected and unattractive as a woman. As if her feminine reservoir has been unkindly leached. Naturally she needs to feel alive again, sexy, desirable. And so, she has begun online sex-chats with an ex-classmate of hers. It’s nothing serious, she maintains; and probably will never result in anything physical. But since her divorce has yet to go through and she is still living with said gay minister, this makes me wonder: Is this cheating?
I ask only because, with increased constancy over the past few years, I have toyed with the very word itself. I discovered, with deadening betrayal, that the man I loved had indulged in a fling, which led me to contemplate licentious revenge. But the moralistic prude in me worried that an eye for an eye would give the whole world gonorrhea.
Besides, I’m not an incredibly sexually motivated person. It would take a lot for me to find myself attracted to a man. I could be in the very room with Hugh Jackman, (yes, he is the current Gold Standard) and only if he were in full Wolverine mode, with glistening torso, feral machismo and claws, will I consider being turned on. Probably turned on.
You see, I’m a cerebral person. A thinker. For me to be attracted, a man has to have one heck of a sized brain, and he has to be a thinker himself. And we would have to share the same vision.
However, as I grow older, I find that the pickings are meager and dull. Not that I am looking. I am married after all. (Did I mention that I am married?)
But it is a depleted and uninspired marriage. There are no big explosions and fireworks anymore. We’ve outgrown each other. Like two snakes, we’ve scratched and shed our skins over and over again. Until all there is, is the two of us. Two separate entities that simply exist as a part of each other, yet ultimately apart. Our tongues and hearts – scaly and forked. Even this does not perturb me.
Very little seems to dent my veneer these days. My walls are strong and impenetrable. They do their job. They hold.
Perhaps this is an undeniable truism of age. The more one ages, the more impervious one becomes. Things don’t seem to matter with the fervor and intensity that they once did. It’s easier to let go of some things and easier still, to accept others. I think the new age word for this phenomenon is world weary. Or perhaps I feel this way because I am depressed.
However, I do still care about my looks. Age, depression, a mediocre job and an insipid marriage do not seem to detract from this.
If I were a more astute and diligent student of ‘the life school’, perhaps I would stop to consider this idiosyncrasy, this foible. But I do not care. I do not care about much these days.
Except my vanity. I stare into the silvery depths of my mirror each morning, searching for flaws… and the answers to life. This seems important to me.
If I were to look good, could I feel good too?
Perhaps I am not so unlike my friend. Wanting to feel desirable and alive again. Maybe a generous dab of make up could cover the lines and even jump-start my heart?
I feel very much like Meryl Streep’s and Goldie Hawn’s character, in the movie Death Becomes Her. Where to quote a line from the film: “You’re scared as Hell… of yourself. Of the body you once knew.”
I am not with artifice. I know I am not the glory of the bouquet. However, I have had my share of wolf-whistles and come ons. And I am grateful for them.
In fact, in a marriage gone tepid, and a heart gone cold – an appreciative look from a stranger or a compliment from a colleague – could be reviving.
This brings me to my current circumstance.
A man with whom I work has started to ‘come on’ to me very strongly. Initially I greeted his attention and flirtation with a breezy sense of humour and not too comfortable laughter. Ignoring his bumblings and paying him no real heed.
He is not very literate, cultured or cerebral. He has never used a word or a phrase that has sent me hurrying for my dictionary. And I know plainly that I am not attracted to him. We certainly do not share any vision.
A few weeks ago, I decided to thwart his advances.
And it worked. He eased off.
But then something bizarre happened.
There was no one to compliment me, to tell me I was pretty, to say I looked lovely today. And I began to miss it.
Not because I missed him… but simply because I am a narcissist and need the affirmation.
And so I have allowed him to admire me again. From a distance, off-course.
It’s all an ignoble game, I know.
We’re both married.
And he is a glorified maintenance man at the place in which I work. (Did I mention that he is the maintenance man?)
He is not unattractive. But he is no oil-painting either.
Have I stooped this low? Is my life so utterly mind-numbing and depressing that I acquiesce my kicks from the maintenance man? Have I allowed him to say flattering things to me because they assuage and stroke my ego; and because in my lonely world, this gives me a fan base?
So I reiterate the question I asked earlier.
Is this cheating?
Or is this what it comes to at the end of an indefatigably lonely existence?
Wrinkles, a neglected marriage… and the advances of the not-so-intelligent maintenance guy?