a cheating heart

When I was fifteen I got my first boyfriend. Daniel had previously been dating my friend Tammy and suddenly they were over. Almost as suddenly, he moved in on me. I am not sure how it started but next thing I knew he was writing me love notes that smelled of Polo. Original scent. Green bottle. I kept them for a long time afterward just so I could keep smelling them. One of the last notes he wrote me was about how he could see us married and living in a house on Highway 14. (This was south Tipton County, Tennessee and I think he was referring to an area outside of Memphis. This was also more than thirty years ago so who the hell knows what’s there now.) He was also my first kiss.

Unfortunately, I got my first F’s in high school around that time and got grounded until the next report cards came out.

Unfortunately, I guess he got bored not being able to take me out.

Unfortunately, next thing I know Tammy’s telling me Daniel is seeing our mutual acquaintance Maria behind my back. Possibly Tammy had nefarious motives in telling me, but it didn’t really matter. I dumped him, sent Maria a hate letter, and went on with my life.

(Mostly. I kind of wanted him back, but I was young and stupid. He knocked Maria up the next school year and then knocked her around, so I suppose I dodged a bullet.)

I never screwed around when I was in high school. One, I didn’t actually start screwing until I was seventeen, and might not have even then had the guy in question not been sexually aggressive. (I wanted him back so it worked out, but it easily might not have. He went on to go to prison for raping another girl at knifepoint, for what it’s worth.) Two, you know how morally rigid teenagers usually are. It might not be the same moral system their parents subscribe to, but they have very firm opinions about everything. My opinion was that I didn’t even want to have a crush on another guy while I had a boyfriend. To me that was wrong. I actually broke up with a guy over it because I was hung up on my friend Damien at the time. I felt terrible, but I would have felt worse keeping the boyfriend strung along for nothing.

After high school and in the Army was when things changed. I got myself into a risky situation and then had to ride out the consequences to minimize the potential danger another young woman and I were in. After that, things went downhill for me for a few years. Let’s just say I lost track of my body count. Before that, I ended up breaking up with the guy I’d been engaged to when I first enlisted. That was more because he was a fucking hypocrite than because I cheated, but well rid, really.

By the time I met the one guy I ever married, I was disgusted with myself. I don’t think it is wrong to have a sex life but mine was very chaotic and pointless and risky. I wanted to get back to something that was safer and made sense, and I cared about Mike a lot, and I wanted kids. I wanted to start over doing everything right and move on with my life. Whatever reasons he had for popping the question, I accepted.

I was mostly okay after that — with the exception of Conversations with a certain guy I met on AOL and then, within a few weeks, lost track of — until I met and befriended some local people and one of them wanted into my pants. I mean, if I’d been single I’d have been down for it, but I told him from day one that Mike wasn’t out for an open marriage and I was going to respect his wishes. Local Guy wasn’t having it. Two incidents later, I cut off contact with all my local friends so I could avoid him. I sometimes wonder what Mike suspected because he never questioned it.

I’ve been seriously involved with three guys in person since Mike and have had other flings of varying amounts of importance and physical contact. I’ve only significantly been with three guys, physically, in person, in the last twenty-one years. Some of it is low self-esteem because I look like shit and I know it, and I’m in poverty, and between one and the other I am well aware I’m not a catch, so I don’t even try. Some of it is just making an assessment of when I cheated in the past and why, and how I felt when guys did that to me regardless of why, and finally getting my brain the correct end up. I don’t have the same issues I had back then. I don’t feel a need to be partnered like I did a few decades ago. And I’m straight the fuck out of patience.

This doesn’t mean I’ll waste my time moralizing at men I meet. It means that if the impossible happens and I get interested in a guy I actually might have a shot with, I will spend the early days watching and assessing and checking to see if he trips any red flags and if he does, I’m going to bail. If he trips them later, I’m going to bail. If he makes me regret meeting him at any time in my acquaintance with him, I’m going to bail. The common denominator is I’m going to bail. That’s it.

I tried to get away from my daughter’s father several times before he finally got me pregnant and every time, he’d ask me to take him back and every time, I’d cave in. I’d be lying if I said part of the reason I caved in wasn’t because it was economically easier for me. So I ended up going through a lot of shit that could have been avoided had I just been willing to be poor without help for a while. So we’re not having this fucking song and dance again. If I even think “my” guy’s eye is wandering, he won’t be “my” guy, he’ll be sitting alone in his fucking house wondering where the hell I went.

Or he’ll be fucking the other woman. I really don’t care.

Because that’s the other thing about me and dating. I’m never the first choice, it seems. I’m always the Meantime Girl and some other woman is always the preferred choice. It’s hard to care whether I’m being fair to someone who doesn’t even see me as a valid life partner.

But we’ll see if this ever even becomes an issue again. As in, I will get on with non-relationship things and if something happens it’ll be like, “Oh. Huh. Did not see that coming.”

I’d say “I’ll keep you posted,” but don’t expect much.

[Last updated: 19 January 2024]