a cheating heart

Although I keep this essay online, I also have a copy of the most previous version of it on my hard drive and it seemed okay at first, but the more times I went back and read it, the more I cringed. I had hoped I was done with acting the fifteen-year-old, but clearly not.

Also, what would have ended up happening had I not heavily edited it is that I will wind up telling some of my relationship stories twice, and nobody likes redundancy, even when it’s necessary. (I shudder to think how many of you would sell one kidney if it were made legal right fucking now.)

So I’m debating whether to have this here at all. So far the answer is yes, because it answers a key question I think some people, or maybe one important person someday, would want answered. I don’t know that the answer will still be yes in, say, three more months… but let’s find out!

I might change the title, though. Cringe. Cringe. Cringe. [ding]

The short answer to the question Dana, have you ever cheated in a relationship? is Yes. I don’t know how to contend with this, given that at this point a single act of cheating would be a dealbreaker for me in a future relationship (I am not in a relationship now). Am I being a hypocrite? Do I get a pass because it’s been so long since I was last involved with someone (2006 or 2007), and even longer since I actually cheated (1996 or 1997)? I don’t know. I cannot answer those questions. I’m sure you could, but your answer is not important unless I wanted to be involved with you. If I wanted to be involved with you and you go swanning off because you read this, I guess that’s that.

I will say that I did not start out a cheater. Also that when I went on to cheat, there were usually bad feelings involved somewhere: I was not happy where I was and I did not feel I could move on and stand on my own two feet, so I needed a place to land before I made that leap. And for most of my adult life, this was true. My parents neglected to ensure I got my driver’s license before I left home and even when I eventually learned to drive, I still had so many problems with cars that I was always on the knife’s edge of disaster, economically speaking. Given how I feel about relationships now — and though the problems with cars never ended, I’m learning to cope — I think that if I’d had any emotional issues with being single when I was first starting out in life, I would have outgrown them fairly quickly. It wasn’t not being able to be alone. It was not being able to support myself. But I told myself I was looking for love. I actually thought I was. It was so stupid. I think the unconscious logic was that I did have feelings for the guy, so it would wind up okay one way or the other. No one told me that our culture trains us to mistake lust for love and that you can’t know you love someone until you know you can live without them. All people ever told me was “don’t move too fast.” All the while being in relationships THEY had moved too quickly into. The dirty fucking hypocrites.

I mentioned “given how I feel about relationships now.” I’m still not sure I’m in my current emotional place for good reasons. I WANT to think I’m choosing to be single because I’m okay being single. It’s just as likely I force myself not to look for someone because I know I look like a troll and I’m too old and no one will want me — no one I’d WANT to want me, anyway. (You fetishists and sociopaths can fuck right off.) It is not a question I need answered right fucking now. It’ll keep. But the fact is I’ve been alone for more than two years (as of September ’21) and actually single for a lot longer than that, and somehow I have failed to melt into a glittery puddle of goo while wailing “What a world! What a world!” It probably doesn’t matter why. I’m pretty okay, and okay will do.

But yeah, I’ve screwed around. That I quit doing that more than two decades ago probably doesn’t matter to most of you. I don’t know if it would matter to me if the situation were reversed. That’s the best I can do.

[Last updated: 18 May 2024]