I am a cheater. I have always been a cheater. I’m not sure if my cheating tendency is some sort of defect inherent in me, or if it’s just something I’ve picked up along the way. Lately, I’ve been thinking it springs from a real discomfort with intimacy. Intimacy, or “intimacy”, is something I hate. What does it even mean? I’m not a writer, but I’ll try my best….
Okay. Imagine you are in the act, the sexual act. Truthfully, though, you’re not there; you’re a million miles away. What you see in your head isn’t you and your significant other, but an artful, blurred slow-motion rendition of you and someone else. You can’t even be sure it’s you because of the blurring and the slow motion and the fact that your face, the one thing that would give you away as being you, is a sort of a grey smear, almost as if you’re wearing a stocking on your head. Or, if that isn’t clear enough, imagine you are performing the act and imagining as you perform that you are on the set of a pornographic movie, and you are at once the director (calling the shots) and the performer (although you can’t be sure because you don’t see you but only a collection of limbs that you feel is you). Is it becoming clear now? This is my problem with intimacy. I think my trouble with intimacy had a lot to do with my cheating.
Now, the cheating. How do I begin? Simply: one day I met a wonderful woman and, after a brief period of dating, we decided to grow old and grey together. I didn’t really have much experience with this serious relationship business, but it seemed like the thing to do, so we moved in together. She was my best friend and I only wanted to make her happy. But the intimacy problem reared its head. The sex that I had looked forward to, the joyful, blissful, plentiful sex was a disaster. I never thought for a moment that I wasn’t performing. Afterwards, I always felt a sense of alienation. She would ask, Were you there?
At that time we lived in an area of Toronto known mostly for its massage parlours. There were easily a dozen spas within a five minutes walk of our building. One day, instead of passing by, I stepped into one. That moment was the beginning of my hardcore cheating. It was also the beginning of my imprisonment in a sense.
Again, I am not a writer, so it is difficult to describe the experience, but stepping into that waiting room was so… visceral. I had no idea what to expect, whether I would be arrested or mugged. I was awash in fear and guilt and shame. But I was turned on, too. I mean really turned on. And when I came, I thought, This is what an orgasm is supposed to feel like! Afterwards, the crushing alienation returned, but for a brief half hour I felt electrically alive. I became a regular.
In time I branched out beyond massage parlours. I began scouring Craigslist for non-pro ads and gangbang and sex party listings. I would have sex with Ryerson marketing students and George Brown nursing students. I would get together regularly with a bunch of other guys at a condo or downtown hotel to have sex with three or four women. None of the women were professionals, just swingers who’d figured out how to make a few dollars doing something they enjoyed. These occasions were weirdly exhilarating and depressing at the same time. The shame and guilt were palpable but there was a bizarre sense of triumph whenever someone had an orgasm. One night a young art student sketched a picture of me receiving head from some complete stranger. She captured my expression as I came. I thought, that’s what it’s all about. But truly, I was just working the whole time.
Eventually, this split life I was living took a toll on my relationship. One day I pulled the plug. I tried to reform myself. I took up a daily meditation practice. I tried my best to avoid massage parlours, prostitutes and gangbangs. About eighteen months ago I met another wonderful woman. We’re talking about building a house outside the city, starting a business and, of course, having a child. I’m happy. But… I still can’t stop myself from looking at the online ads; I’m still not quite there, if you know what I mean. Sometimes I worry that everything is really just work and performance.