iván BRAVE


On Cheating: a Day’s Meditation and Confession

21 March 2019
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(art attributed to Gerrel Saunders)


If you don’t count sleeping with someone you shared a bed with before your current girlfriend, then I have never cheated. If you don’t count video sex as intimacy, then I have never cheated. If you don’t count it as cheating when you are single but the other person is in a relationship, or married, then most certainly I have never cheated.


Who casts the first stone? My eyes are on you.


Double certainly, if you are clear to the one you go on dates with that you two are NOT dating, meanwhile you sleep around with other people, and that is not called cheating, then no one in the history of human relationships has ever cheated ever.


Imagine those expanding-brain memes: Cheating. Betrayal. Extracurricular sex. Side-dee to side-pee. “It’s not what it looks like.” <For the sixth time> “I’m sorry.”


Hm. Let us pause a moment to ponder the question that interests us today: What is cheating?

Try a sports metaphor.


You want to win, it’s basketball, and you double dribble. You get to move forward, backward, or recalculate your advance without losing the ball.


You want to win, it’s football, and your defense crosses the line before the hike. You get an advantage over the other team’s quarter back.


You want to win, it’s karate, and when the arbiter calls the start of the fight, you step up to your opponent and kick him in the balls.


All of these are forms of cheating. Generally, we would call them bad plays, no good, unfair.


Fairness has a lot to do with this subject. Should we talk about it now, or let the word sit for a minute in the mind while I type / you read onward?


You could argue that in sports we have reestablished rules, and that cheating is breaking those rules. You could argue that the reason basketball, football, or karate are fun is because of the limits we place on the sport. Imagine the opposite, if basketball were a run around and hold the ball kind of game, what fun would that be? Or if in football the offense had no chance to score, then what fun would that be? Or karate, what would that martial art dissolve into without any sort of discipline? Without rules you don’t have sports, you have playgrounds. Not for nothing do these fields focus on fairness.


And love, ladies and gentlemen, plays by a similar reestablished understanding. Two teams, I mean people, both want to win: happiness, social points, blood flow, whatever, but WIN! No one loves to lose, or loves losing — by definition. If you loved it, then that would be considered winning. Got you there, logicians. Anyway . . .


Two people get together either by or against the rules; but, no matter what, <winks> my dear readers, there are always rules. In the most immature of cases, the ones in grade school for example, the rules are prescribed. Adolescent lovers make decisions based on what they think or feel is right, at a time in their lives when what they think or feel stems from a less-broad understanding; so they lean, rather, on what other people have said is right or wrong, or on what other people have done or still do. Real unprofessional, these teen dramas are. People get injured.


As we get older, fortunately, or unfortunately, the game goes pro. People learn the real rules first-hand, learn various love techniques to execute willing strategies, so to speak; but, most importantly, lovers grow adept at expressing the rules they play by, and in the best of cases they enforce the rules — or at least make sure not to break their own rules, right?


The good pro basketball player won’t foul. The good pro football player will keep an eye on the first-down line. The karate kid will not shoot below the belt.


Have I drilled this sports analogy into the ground yet, or what?


You get it.


Today, knowing, you’re ready to go off into the love-world and play whatever game you want to play. One-on-one games. Team sports. Tag-in / tag-out kinds of games. Play the love game you want to play, and make sure the teams know the rules.


So easy.


Nevertheless, we all get hurt and will continue to get hurt. Why? As the French, who know a thing or two, say, c’est la vie.


I started off the post being elusive, and a little personal. At this point, I’d like to end the post personal, but still a little guarded. Why?


My fiancée and I came together from messy past relationships ourselves. She was the one who requested this post, in fact. For a few days I figured it was to gauge what I believe, to keep this thing we’ve got pure. But, maybe, there is, in truth, some necessity to purge the demons of our past.


In any case, as tempting as it might be to spill our history on the page, to slice into the aching scabs of old amours, there must exist some sense of sacred personal truth between us against the rest of the world. All lovers deserve a bedroom in which no one enters. Plus, what is the point of holding secrets, or of smiling instead of running your mouth when some impertinent curious third-party asks you a personal question, if you are going to blabber about intimate secrets ear to ear. That’s not intimacy. Intimacy is sacred. Intimacy is shared, but only with the one intimate. Her and my story is sacred. I wouldn’t ask you to open your closet! Have I made a case for privacy, yet?


But I understand. We turn to people with big mouths, or pens, or microphones, or a stage, to put our fears on display, for us to exorcise the one inside ourselves from the comfort of our seat. This way it feels like the singer or actor has more to lose, while we have more to gain from their “vulnerability.”


Is it about empathy, about confession, about sharing a feeling? I don’t know. But I will say a little, fine, since it’s near the end of the post and there’s nothing to do but be honest at the 1000-word mark.


That’s why we made it this far, right?


On the one hand, I was in a relationship when I switched to my fiancée. That’s the kindest word I can think of. My last (and trustfully LAST) split caused a lot of heartbreak, and mixed feelings, and confusion. Even if it was “for the better” rarely is what’s for the better a goody-goody feeling. Now, <cough cough> on the other hand, my fiancée was coming out of a marriage herself. When we met, two months had passed since their dissolve, plus they weren’t living together anymore, but . . .


Technically, they hadn’t signed their separation papers yet, not to mention any divorce papers either, so she was still married when we “learned each other’s names” — to put it obliquely. (Though it didn’t feel that way, since she talked my ear off in Naples about how over over over it was between them.) Why didn’t her and her ex work out? Ask her. All I can say is, and this is my humble opinion, there wasn’t enough wood to keep the fire burning — and if you’re the only one venturing far into the forest, again and again, you might realize there’s little to go back to, after all.


“I. Don’t. Cheat.”


It is too easy to say, as my opening alluded. But not one is perfect. Yet, we must agree: Fairness matters. Love can and should heal. Cheating isn’t fun, when you know how it hurts. Sigh with me.


In the end, I, and everyone else with some semblance of maturity, is very good at “setting up what’s right” in their relationship (or head); but, like schoolboys and girls setting up his arbitrary playground-rules, even if no one is guilty, somebody gets picked last, or tagged it forever, or worse.


(It occurs to me just this instant, as a p.s., that perhaps we should uphold objective rules, that is other people’s rules, wiser people’s rules, sacred definitions of what cheating is and a good love looks like. Established rules, or something. Objectivity is alluring. It wipes away self-responsibility to define right and wrong. Cleanses us of autonomy, authority. So I’m not sure. Maybe we should keep defining right and wrong, and just do our best. But again, just a quick thought.)

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