I haven’t written anything recently because, frankly, nothing has happened. My work has absorbed all of my attention since my last interaction with Pretty Grad Student. In fact, this is really the first moment of free time I’ve had since then, and I only have it because I wanted to do something other than think about animal movement at different spatial and temporal scales. I can only keep my mind in movement ecology for so long before I start producing equations for things that don’t need to be solved. (For example, I once spent two hours writing an algorithm to calculate the most efficient route home, taking into account traffic lights, effort based on landscape characteristics, and my average walking speed. A fantastic waste of time, to be sure, but I now have the optimized route for my daily commute.)
However, given that nothing has happened recently, and I don’t feel like sharing an old memory at the moment, I checked my e-mail for inspiration. And it didn’t disappoint. One reader wrote:
I enjoy reading your blog, and I think your stories are exciting and erotic. But then I remember the truth of your marriage, and it makes me sad. I don’t think what you’re doing has to be wrong because everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do, and I can’t judge you any more than anyone can judge me. But I have to ask, how can you be so comfortable living so dishonestly?
I think this question might have offended me if the sender hadn’t been so polite and/or couched it in what strikes me as genuine concern. So, firstly, thanks to the reader in question for giving me a certain degree of understanding/sympathy before jumping to conclusions.
Now, as I said, this question might have irritated me, but given the circumstances, it actually gave me pause. I often consider what I do as a betrayal of trust, and I frequently talk about the guilt that arises from my extramarital activities. I’ve also talked about being a good conman, on working the long con to make sure you can pursue sex outside of a “monogamous” relationship, and I think I’ve even mentioned that what I do is essentially lie to Ashley to get what I want. But for some reason, when the question is presented so bluntly—How can you be comfortable living so dishonestly?—it stands out and makes me consider what I do from a perspective not wholly dissimilar from my usual approach, but with enough subtle differences that it changes things.
Am I a dishonest person?
I was prepared to write several paragraphs on this question. I was going to talk about the continuum of honesty, and how I fall somewhere in the middle, not an honest person but not dishonest either. But upon consideration, I’ve decided that would be utter bullshit. There’s no sliding scale. You’re either honest, or dishonest. It’s pretty black or white. I tell the truth here, and to the women I’m seeing, but I lie to Ashley, in words and in practice. Therefore, yes, I am a dishonest person.
But, I posit the following: Who the hell isn’t?
Certain among my family are highly religious, conservative people. (Strike that—most of them are. Hell, I may be the only non-conservative in the lot.) They strive to live according to a set of morals and values they identify as Biblically mandated, and admittedly, they’re good people. They don’t participate in the backbiting so common in the church. They take leading roles in its direction and organization. They go on mission trips. Hell, my family owns and operates a free medical clinic back home, where they treat anyone, with the understanding that they will also minister to the sick. They’re good people. Honest people.
But I’ve also seen these people do what I’ve come to call “The Hotel Shuffle”, wherein they rent a single room with a maximum occupancy of two people, then take people inside in shifts to make sure all six can share the room for the night. Would I consider that being dishonest? Yeah, I think I have to. They’re effectively taking coin out of the hotel’s pocket, for their benefit. They don’t want to rent three rooms, so they break the rules and stuff six into one room. That’s dishonest, but it’s socially acceptable dishonesty, something that most people are likely guilty of doing. (And it probably can’t help that they can say something like, “Oh, it’s a silly rule, we should be allowed to sleep in whatever manner we choose. At least we’re still paying them!”) That’s the distinguishing characteristic: the ubiquitous nature of the behavior. Everyone does it, and if it’s saving you a few dollars while still giving some away, what’s the harm?
Now I don’t intend this to be a justification of what I do, nor a condemnation of the more harmless dishonesties. I present that admittedly clumsy comparison to circle back to my point—everyone is dishonest. No one is ever completely honest and virtuous. The difference, then, is the level of dishonesty we’re willing to accept from our own behavior, and whether said dishonesty accomplishes some goal for ourselves. In my case, I love Ashley immensely. Her support and simple presence are enough to get me through just about anything. But I’m weak, and I need sexual gratification to be completely happy. So, to get the things I need to be completely happy in my life, I perpetuate the necessary untruth, that I am a happily monogamous husband. It’s a level of dishonesty that I’m comfortable with.
That’s not to say I’m proud of it. I’m not. Just comfortable.
Alright, that’s enough moral prattle for one day. Back to the ever growing mountain of GPS data. I’ll hopefully be back later this week to divulge my latest shenanigans.