Is This Cheating?

April 13, 2010

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?

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5 Responses to “ Is This Cheating? ”

  1. Kiren on April 13, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I read somewhere that in the early 1900s, like really early, turn of the century early, the average marriage lasted 19 years and the average life span was around 45 years. That means when you got married you on average were married for the rest of your life, or nearly.

    Today, the average marriage is 7 years and the average lifespan is 76 years. So, paradoxically, as medical advances and technology have prolonged life, it has actually made the likelihood of remaining married till death very very low. For even if the average length of marriage remained the same from 1900, our lifespans would determine that death would not come until much later than one would expect to be married.

    Of course there are many many many holes in this argument, one being that these independent events and therefore cannot even really be correlated in any way. But it’s interesting to think about.

  2. IanCaithness on April 15, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    This is perhaps the highlight of the modern relationship: the immediacy of a blossoming relationship, the steady maturity of engagement and courtship and the inevitable decline as marriage progresses.

    Or, at least, that’s how it appears. The truth of the matter is that marriages have not changed in the last century. The religious doctrine associated with it has been removed, marriage has now become an open term to describe both homosexual and heterosexual couples and ceremonies are frivolous and decadent.

    Despite this, I do not believe that it should be considered ‘cheating’ if one is merely engaging in the activity of flirtation. Psychological studies have suggested that interest from others acts as an agent in the release of hormones linked to pleasure. This leads to happiness in the relationship because of the idea of ‘self-worth’.

    It is only cheating once the barrier is removed between flirtation and action.

  3. Girl.Interrupted on April 16, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Kiren, off-course! What you’ve said makes perfect sense, and it helps put modern marriages in a new light (Or is an old light… Turn of the century old? :)

    Laura Kipnis suggests that marriage belongs on the junk heap of human folly. “It is an equal-opportunity oppressor, trapping men and women in a life of drudgery, emotional anesthesia, and a tug-of-war struggle to balance vastly different needs.”

    Ian, I agree! Self-worth impresses heavily upon my circumstance. The man who flirts with me is my magic mirror on the wall. The one who tells me I’m the fairest of them all!

  4. Ian Caithness on April 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    What is the harm in taking the simplest of pleasures out of this? We are all too often concerned with the social impact/consequence of our action but independence and individualism is crucial to a successful life.

    Take pleasure in his compliment of your figure, your face, your personality, your everything. It will give you the glowing smile that people need to notice.

  5. Girl.Interrupted on April 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    We try so many ploys to cover up our emptiness, but ultimately we are all alone…

    Thanks Ian

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