Maybe Next Time S/He’ll Think Before S/He–

A pretty decent subtitle to this blog in its entirety would be “What Evoked An Emotional Response From Laura Today.”

Today it looked likely that it would be an article about pedophilia as an ingrained sexual orientation, linked to biological factors and neurological development. That’s a complicated issue, but at bottom, I feel like I don’t have a ton to say beyond: If children are all that you are attracted to, I am sorry, and I do give you credit for not acting on it, but you just can’t act on it. The harm in your life that comes from not acting on your desires is less that the harm that would come into the life of the child you assaulted.

Then I was clicking through a bunch of links, with link leading to link to link as they do, and through a discussion of women hating on other women (sadface), I hit this article: “Why People Cheat.”

The context through which I found the link was a Jezebel article that savaged the writing and the personal character of the author, but I found myself more engaged in–and saddened by–the content of the original Esquire article. So that’s what I’m going to talk about.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you just might have picked up on my ambivalence toward romantic love. I don’t mean to say that I don’t really care about it one way or the other. I mean to say that I have both desperately wanted it for as long as I can remember and that I am very wary of the message (especially aimed at women) that romantic love is the only thing that will fulfill us, and that it will or should fulfill us entirely.

Frankly, to depend on someone else for my entire fulfillment is a prospect that terrifies me. I don’t believe that that is what love is or should be. I also think that trust and intimacy are beautiful things, and I would like to have both of them. Which leads me to a new fear: The specter of infidelity.

As a little girl who grew up reading science fiction and fantasy novels about gutsy women who knew their own worth, I decided long ago that I would have a zero-tolerance position toward infidelity in my own life. One strike and you’re out. Turns out you were a secret scumbag the whole time. Obviously I deserve better, and I’ll ensure that I get it by demanding it. At the time of this writing, I have never been unfaithful to a partner or (to my knowledge) participated in anyone else’s infidelity. I’ve been in a position to do so before, but even when intoxicated, I can’t justify going through with it. Whatever the thrill, it’s not worth the potential hurt to another person. It’s not worth losing some self-respect.

But then–

As I get older–

The world continues to complicate itself, and I see good people do hurtful things and truly regret them, and I see a friend in a long-term relationship struggle with resisting the temptation of a late-night text conversation with an ex (if you’re reading this, it is not your significant other, don’t worry), and I think about how much time I have left to live and my longest relationship topping out at nine months and how often new crush possibilities can crop up in a life and how easy it is to take what is routine for granted–

And I just don’t know.

I don’t know who to believe. Are humans monogamous or not? Are some? Is it worth trying to be? I think that I am, but do I know? Does my partner know? Can s/he? Is the idea of fifty years of happy fidelity a naive fairytale? Should we allow for some indiscretion when the relationship as a whole is worth holding on to? How do we know when it is? How do we talk about this, before and perhaps after it happens? How do we let go of our fears and give someone our heart knowing that one day they might drop it because they’re distracted by something shiny and new?

And as for articles like this one: Are we giving our men enough credit?

Popular wisdom would have us believe that many, if not most, men would be unfaithful if they could get away with it–or even that they already do. This seems to me to be uncharitable toward our guys. I don’t like the idea, that we continue to perpetuate, that men are motivated by sex drive alone, or that they regularly lose control of their brains when the little dude in their pants wakes up. As if men aren’t rational creatures and human beings. As if women don’t have desires and temptations. As if guys can give up personal responsibility when a pretty girl walks by, and also (temptress, Jezebel, slut, whore) as if that girl is the one primarily at fault if and when infidelity occurs.

Here I am, a 25-year-old woman walking around with so many different things in my head: close friends who have cheated in the past and are now model significant others, divorce statistics, celebrity breakups and makeups, Esquire articles written from the point of view of someone who admits that she fears intimacy, office flirtations, Hollywood love stories, Jane Austen novels, and friends getting married. Hillary Clinton, a woman to be admired, who stayed with Bill. Other politician’s wives who maybe shouldn’t have stood by their men. John Edwards. My grandfather, completely in love with my Nana through Alzheimer’s and to his grave.

A young–still so young–woman who has never been with a partner for over a year. Who has been holding out for something special. Who’s never really dealt with the novelty of a relationship wearing off, and who fears it desperately. Who knows that it’s better to have loved and lost, but also has seen how hard it can be to miss something once you’ve had it.

I want to dismiss this article. I want to say, “I’m a creative, engaged, passionate person, not some Lululemon-wearing, weight-obsessed, secretly boring and shallow woman.” I want to see a difference between the nerdy, sweet people I date and the hair-color-obsessed, temptation-prone men who end up kissing reporters in restaurants. But I also don’t want to be naive, and I don’t want to be a snob, and I especially don’t want to be trapped by the fallacy that I’m better than other people, that their mistakes will never be my mistakes, and that I’m worth more respect/understanding/kindness/forgiveness/love than they are.

So I try to keep my eyes open, and I try to let go of what I cannot control, and I take baby steps forward. And just for good measure, I make sure to listen to my Beyonce, as I stay on the road’s straight dividing line, trying to keep myself from focusing too hard on that area “to the left.”

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