“Running a mile in under five minutes and thirty seconds”
This was my response to an interview question about the most difficult thing I’ve done as an adult; a “safe” answer that 1) allowed me to segue into some faux self-depreciating discussion about my star-crossed college basketball career (I started off with “Oh yeah. I played ball in college a long, long, long time ago.” It’s not a game with my faux self-depreciation game.), and 2) was a lie.
Ok, it wasn’t a total lie. The 5:30 mile — a somewhat pointless feat of mental and physical anguish my college coach forced us to complete before we were allowed to practice — still haunts me. While others have nightmares about death or falling or getting chased by groups of especially irascible midgets with full clown costumes, thoughts of track shoes and stopwatches give me cold sweats.
But, while running the mile was definitely daunting, it’s nowhere near as difficult as breaking up with a woman — a completely draconian task I’ve (unfortunately) had to do twice.
What makes breaking up with a woman so hard for a man to do? Well, it’s always difficult to give bad news to a person you care about. More importantly, though, much of a man’s life (and much of a man’s “success” in life) is predicated on convincing women we find attractive to say “Yes.” — “Yes, you can have my number,” “Yes, we can have sex,” “Yes, you’re allowed to cum there” and so on. This ongoing socialization has left most of us somewhat ill-equipped to say “No” to a woman we’re even marginally physically attracted to and completely ill-equipped to deal with the guilt-ridden emotional fallout of telling a woman “You know those things you do — the things I practically begged you to do when you still weren’t sure if you wanted to do them to me? Well, I no longer want to do them with you. Sorry!”
But, when I reflect on each of those failed relationships, I can’t help but come back to this one act, an act that could have saved each and prevented my break-up anguish if I’d been willing to do it.
Yup, you read that correctly. The general sense of relationship melancholy preceding each of the break-ups? Solved if I spiced things up by occasionally stepping out. The feeling of “This isn’t working. Maybe I need to end this and explore other options” the aforementioned relationship melancholy eventually leads to? Not an issue if I decided to explore other options while still attempting to work things out. The inevitable frustration with the idea of monogamy? Cured if I completely eschew the entire notion.
This issue goes well beyond me. Even the oft-cited reluctance of many “good guys” — and “good guys” in this sense are eligible men interested in healthy and monogamous relationships — to commit can partially be traced back to how most good guys feel about cheating. Basically, you can argue that it takes longer for a person invested in monogamy to commit because they understand that commitment to be somewhat final, whereas a person not concerned with monogamy will “commit” at anytime to anyone.
In fact, if I’d been willing to cheat — and assuming I was either clever enough to never get caught or with someone willing to forgive my repeated transgressions – not only would I have “saved” myself from having to break-up with a woman, I’d probably be married (with children) right now.
I’m assuming these last couple paragraphs — which can be interpreted as pro-cheating — comes as a surprise to those familiar with my work. From “five completely selfish reasons why i’ve never cheated” — an entry listing, well, five completely selfish reasons why I’ve never cheated on a mate — to “35 reasons why he cheated,” I’ve made no secret my absolute abhorrence for cheating.
That feeling hasn’t changed. I still abhor cheating, but I’ve began to wonder if this abhorrence is less due to what I thought was some moral code than just plain ole envy wrapped in a layer of self-righteousness. Maybe I just hate the fact that while I’ve had to deal with relationship acrimony and break-up anguish, cheaters seem to take the “easy” way out.
I mean, if you’re spending countless hours and sleepless nights cramming for a final exam while your roommate has a cheat sheet with all the answers, how soon before you either start hating that roommate or just say “F*ck it” and ask him to make you a copy?
Who knows? But, do you know why I lied when asked to name the most difficult thing I’ve done as an adult? I knew the real answer would lead to a conversation I just wasn’t interested in having, and I wasn’t prepared to share what it would say about me.
Hmm. Kind of reminds me of the reasoning behind the lie we tell ourselves when saying “Cheaters never win.”
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