I woke up with a knot in my stomach on Wednesday morning. Slowly opening one eye and looking around his room in the 6am light I could see a neatly folded pile of clothes, lacy thong on top. They weren’t mine. They belonged to his girlfriend.
The evening before was less hazy than I would prefer to admit. If I had made the decision to have sex with someone else’s boyfriend after copious amounts of whiskey, I could at least blame mental impairment.
But I had been tipsy yet fully cognizant of the decision I was making at one in the morning when he kissed me outside the bar and whispered, “Want to come over?”
We’d dated for a little while six months ago. It didn’t work out for one hundred different reasons. We were not a good match. He’s was kindof a douche. And since we’d stopped seeing one another, he had begun dating someone else in a more than just casual way. I’d never met her but knew about her existence. He had actually brought her up as we walked hand in hand home. We’ll just call her Mandy.
I’ve never been the other woman.
“That’s not what I want to talk about right now,” I said. I knew exactly what I was doing. But I didn’t know how I would feel about it in the morning.
I’ve been cheated on by two different boyfriends. One of them I was living with in a studio apartment in the East Village and the other was long distance from New York to Chicago. I’d endured the blow-out fights, breakups and broken heart that result from infidelity. I don’t like women purposely hurting other women. Men do enough of that. We need to stick together.
But like I said: I did it anyway.
She wasn’t on my mind so much during the during. It was after. It was when I laid my head on his chest and saw a woman’s gold-enameled bracelet on the night stand. It was when I went to the bathroom and saw an expensive whitening toothpaste. It was when I saw an invitation on the end table addressed to her. And it was in the morning when I noticed that carefully folded pile of clothes.
That pile told me this woman was also nothing like me. I don’t fold. I toss. It was some kind of a workout get-up all perfectly color coordinated -- in orange. Orange shirt, orange shorts, orange sports bra and even a lace orange cosabella thong. Who color coordinates a thong? I’m lucky most days if I remember to wear underwear much less something that matches my pants.
Then there was her copy of Country Living magazine laying next to the bed. I had helped someone cheat on Martha Stewart.
When I wandered into the bathroom to put on last night’s dress, I noticed that fancy toothpaste was sitting in the ring of a black pony tail holder. Even though I was alone I looked left and I looked right before taking the elastic band. I needed to do something about my sex hair.
I whispered an inaudible thank you to Mandy under my breath before worrying that somehow the perfect placement of the pony tail holder might not be some kind of booby trap to measure whether anyone had moved her things. I almost put it back. But I didn’t. I’m a dick.
I was wracked with guilt at work. But I soon learned I was alone.
I Gchatted Mandy’s boyfriend to unburden myself.
“I don’t approve of cheating,” I typed. “I don’t do it and I don’t usually support it.”
“Just be breezy,” he wrote back.” I sucked in a sharp breath. Girlfriend or not, this is someone I should not let put their penis inside me again.
I asked my friend Eliza if I should feel bad.
“You had sex with him before so it’s fine,” she said.
“Is that the rule?” I asked.
“Yes. Everyone knows that,” she said back to me. “Repress it. Put it in a box on a shelf. No biggie.”
I texted my friend Megan: “I was a dirty whore last night. A dirty mistress whore.”
She wrote back. “Me too. But I cooked everyone dinner first, so I think that cancels it out.”
If no one else thinks it is a big deal, should I? Maybe I am a puritan. Maybe the modern relationship doesn’t require monogamy. Maybe I am the only only one who cares.
But in the back of my mind I know Mandy would care and I know she is the only person that I hurt.
She’s also going to be pissed next time she wants to put her hair up.