After I broke up with my sweet college boyfriend, a decent man who never ran me through the ringer, who responded to my bouts of recklessness and immaturity with compassion and sympathy, a guy who never did me wrong, I desired nothing more than desire itself. After years of slow and steady, I yearned for spark and drama. Conveniently, along came Matt.
Matt was British, a very recent London transplant, and I was still inexperienced enough to equate his lilting accent with worldly sophistication. Like me, he worked in the magazine business, so we had that in common, though I’m not sure we ever went so far as to discuss the intricacies of that bizarre industry. In fact, we spoke very little, as we were highly preoccupied with having fabulous, mind-blowingly awesome sex. We did it everywhere—the Natural History Museum, a New York City alleyway, and, of course, all the more traditional places such as on the kitchen counter and in my bed. The sheer quantity and quality of the sex should have been my first indication that something was rotten in the East Village.
For example, as well as we got on, I didn’t have Matt’s phone number, which, looking back, all makes sense now. But, keep in mind, these were the days when, shockingly, not everyone had a cell phone. I certainly didn’t, and Matt assured me that he had been too busy at his new job to bother getting a phone installed, but he would forward the digits the moment he did. I think I had also just read The Rules (shameful, I know) in order to educate myself about dating—after all, I’d had a steady boyfriend for years—and hoped to convey the idea that I knew what adult dating was all about. Wide-eyed, I read the “rule” about how one should never call a man, so the fact that I couldn’t call him anyway seemed ever so handy at the time. I couldn’t make that mistake. Besides, I had his email address, and he went out of his way to regularly schedule our dates, which were always filled with fun and mischief. Oh yes, and did I mention lots of sex?
After a little over a month of serial dating, I was shocked that he suddenly and inexplicably went M.I.A. Whereas for weeks we had emailed each other several times a day (when we weren’t IM-ing), and he called frequently—from pay phones, ahem—things screeched to a halt that gave me whiplash. Certainly, I wasn’t expecting that we were on the marriage track, but it seemed to me that we were growing rather fond of one another. After a couple of weeks of moping and carrying on about it—“Why, why, why?” was my constant refrain, which must’ve driven my girlfriends bananas—I started dating other emotionally unavailable men, which in my boy-obsessed early 20s was distracting enough to keep my mind off of the curious case of Matt the Disappearing Wonder.
Flash forward three years: I was working at the same magazine, yet we obviously had some new staffers, and one just so happened to have worked with the infamous Matt. You see, it’s a small industry after all. One night, after post-work drinks, a secret was spilled. “So you dated that Matt?” she slurred, as wide-eyed as I had been reading The Rules. “But he’s had a girlfriend for like, ten years!”
Suddenly, I felt dirty and ashamed, though, technically, I had done nothing wrong, to my knowledge at least. To me, the ultimate act of sisterly conduct entails, “Thou shalt not dally with a married, betrothed, or otherwise involved man.” Oh, I’d watched friends do it, and always condemned their behavior with an air of superiority. I would never stoop to such treason against our sex. And there I was, joined in that lowest of low ranks: the inadvertent mistress.
Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t embrace this news with just a smidgeon of relief. After all, apparently his disappearance, as we co-conspirators calculated, coincided perfectly with his London-based girlfriend’s arrival in New York. Still, when I relayed the news to some, they insisted I get in touch with his girl, easily enough done with a bit of investigative journalism, and yet I balked. Did I want to protect him? No. But I suppose, somewhere in there, a part of me sympathized with A) the naughty desire to have steamy sex when one is in a comfortable yet predictable long-term relationship and B) what that girl doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
I’m still not sure if I did the right thing, but, well, there it is. I hear they’re married now, and to the lady I never met: I wish you the best, and if you’re bored of Matt and want to have an affair, well, hon, you just go right ahead.