Dating online can feel like sticking your hand into a bag and pulling something out at random. You might think the bag is filled with stuffed animals, but then you realize a rabbit has sunk its teeth into your fingers.
About four months ago, I had started talking to a guy online who seemed like a promising dating prospect. From what I could surmise, he was exactly my type: handsome, older, and knew the difference between “its” and it’s.” According to his profile and our textual exchanges, he was 45, worked in finance, and spent a lot of time at the gym. I should have suspected that someone that attractive and seemingly well-established would not come without strings attached. As women well know, any man who’s never been married after a certain age poses red flags. When something seems too good to be true, it almost always is.
We had arranged to meet on a Sunday night and I was shopping for a new pair of shoes in anticipation. It was right around the time I was completing my purchase that he texted. Being that it was only a few hours before our scheduled rendezvous, I assumed he was flaking, as common in LA as palm trees and Botox. Instead, he wrote that before we met, he wanted to tell me that he was married with children. And yes, to a woman. If I didn’t want to see him, he’d understand.
Maybe it was because I had already spent the past few days fantasizing about him, or that I had been in a dating Siberia, but I still wanted to meet. I was curious about what kind of man stays in the closet and pursues extramarital affairs with men. I thanked him for his honesty and said, “see you at 7.” It didn’t mean it had to go anywhere beyond a drink, I told myself.
He was already seated at a booth in the discreet wine bar he had chosen when I arrived. He was more handsome in person than his pictures, the reverse of which being the typical case. His eyes lit up in unabashed attraction as soon as he saw me. (The feeling was mutual. Let it be known that I am powerless to resist a man in a tailored suit.)
Over the course of a couple glasses of Pinot Noir, he proved himself to be charming and intelligent. He was what I would have wanted in a husband, minus the cheating. I didn’t want to think about the fact that he had a family he was abjectly betraying.
After the bill was paid, he led me back to his car under the pretext of driving me to mine, which was parked across the street. We kissed while straddling the front seat of the car that he probably used to transport his kids to and from school. His hunger for me was ravenous and exhilarating.
After that, I wasn’t sure I wanted to ever see him again. But the following day, he did all the things I wish guys I like would do after first dates: he called, and he told me how much he liked me and how much he wanted to see me again. He called me beautiful, complimented me profusely in a way that gay men rarely do because they are too insecure to praise someone else. His marriage and family gave him the self-confidence and security that is sexy and magnetic in a man.
I let myself be seduced into allowing him to see me again. He asked to see me at 5:30a.m. on New Years Eve, when he was able to leave home under the guise of going to the gym before work. Despite my better judgment, I wanted him, and badly enough to set my alarm clock to wake up and be ready for him.
That morning was like a fantasy. I left the door unlocked and he came into my apartment before the light of dawn. He was already dressed for work in a grey suit. The sex was passionate. This was not his first time with a man. Afterwards, he stayed in my bed for an hour and we talked. He told me he wanted to go away for a weekend with me. He wanted to know me.
He also talked about his wife. I pictured her as some wantonly oblivious woman until he mentioned that she had read him something from Out Magazine. I then suspected that it was possible she knew her husband was gay and didn’t care.
He went away with his family to Palm Springs later that day and sent me pictures from his New Years celebrations. I kept thinking that he should at least give his family his full attention while he was with them. By that point the fantasy had passed and I felt dirtied by what had transpired. I may have lived for a year in France and while that was long enough to master the language, it wasn’t long enough for me to be comfortable with being someone’s maîtresse.
When he returned, he asked to see me again. He was relentless in pursuing me. I had already mentally signed out and was lax in responding to his messages. Then he called me from a different number, causing me to answer.
I agreed to meet him for lunch, though I had no intention of sleeping with him again. Sitting across from him at the table, I felt none of the initial attraction I did at the bar. Now I only saw a desperate cheater in a good suit. If I had less scruples, I might have allowed it to go on. But ultimately he wasn’t offering me anything I couldn’t get from less morally murky places: sex. This could never go anywhere anyway. I never expected, or would have wanted, him to break up his family.
And so that was the end of it. He tried to see me again after that for sex, but I told him I wasn’t interested. I never felt guilty about our liaison; that was for him to feel. After all, if it wasn’t me he was cheating with, it would be someone else and it probably is someone else now. I betrayed no one, except maybe myself by engaging in something that was manifestly wrong.
One goes through periods where it feels like there are so few men worth dating, and then you find one who seems perfect, except for one major flaw. Some choose to overlook the betrayal and limitations since the feeling of being desired by someone you want is so intoxicating that at the time nothing else matters. In my case, my married man represented exactly what I was looking for in a partner, which is why I was originally so vulnerable to his charm.
When one enters into an affair, one takes the highlights of a relationship, weaving a loose fantasy around romantic lunches and clandestine sexual encounters. There is none of the reality of worrying about packing the kids’ lunches, the mortgage payment, or Grandma’s macular degeneration. Some people like this — it fits into a neat compartmentalization where sexual needs are fulfilled without further complications.
Eventually, one comes to the realization that the tradeoff is one-sided, the married man has his family and his lover on the side; and you’re still alone for the majority of the time in your apartment, waiting to be taken out and played with at his pleasure.
Who’s to say where it would have gone if I had allowed it to continue — if my mornings began with him at 5:30a.m., if we shared sexual encounters in dirty gym showers. Maybe there would have been weekend getaways in hotels, more lunches, and gifts. Ultimately though, I realized I wasn’t cut out for a lover if these were the tradeoffs. I am not as blasé or irreverent as I thought I was. And I hate waking up before 8a.m.