I am a 33-year-old man, married for four years, with a 4-month-old baby girl. On many days, I'd describe myself as "happily married." Not rapturously so, but happy enough to stick with it, to trust that the plus-side of security and domesticity outweigh the opportunities I'm missing.
I've developed a few burning crushes along the way, usually on safely inaccessible people, women who are married or might as well be. I've managed to take in stride the bittersweet chemistry and the sidelong glances that say, "If our timing had been different, this could be a very interesting night."
But a close (and single) friend and I just confessed to a mutual attraction, to a curiosity that has always gone unspoken about how things might have turned out if we had made some slightly different turns. This woman shares my wife's name, but that's where the similarities end. She represents all the unfamiliar territory I'll never get to discover. We've made it clear that while this revelation might deepen our friendship, that's where the connection ends.
Yet there's an ache inside that's killing me. So I wonder, what does one do with one's appetite when the banquet is off-limits? Faced with a sexy and sumptuous friend, I need to know how the folks at Weight Watchers deal with all the honey-coated and sugar-dipped pastries in the window?
My, that cruller looks good. But if I eat it my wife will leave me.
Maybe that's what they think. Or maybe they think, if I eat that cruller I'll get fat and hate myself. I don't know. I do know that we shouldn't make light of the struggles of people to maintain a socially acceptable weight, because 1) it's none of our damn business what other people weigh; and 2) it's an outrage that fat people, Floridians, Mormons and trailer park residents remain fair game for ridicule while the lethally dull Charlie Rose, the vapid Jay Leno, the operatic and pompous U2 and a whole nation of people with nose rings go unridiculed except by scurrilous right-wing crackpots.
But I digress. Damn it, I got off the subject. Did I doze at the wheel? Have I jumped the curb and snapped a light pole? Am I just waking up now, in my car, as a crowd gathers and an enraged father of seven harangues me in Russian and points a stubby finger at my crumpled fender?
Anyway, while I do not seem to be much good at staying on topic, or even staying awake while driving, I can be fairly helpful on the subject of how to avoid temptation. First, literally avoid it. Don't get near it. Detour around it.
Second, when temptation appears before you like a siren appearing before Ulysses, look away. Don't flirt. Don't flirt with women you're attracted to. Only flirt with women you're not attracted to. If you're attracted to a woman, stand back from her like she's the edge of the Grand Canyon. Keep your hands at your sides; if you must acknowledge the effect she is having on you, merely murmur in awe at the power of God. Don't handle her necklace. Don't say, My, that's a pretty necklace, and reach out and take her tiny ruby between your fingers, brushing, as you do, your fingers against her alabaster throat, graceful as a swan's neck. Don't put your hands on her hips and show her dance steps. Don't eat off her plate or pluck imaginary hairs off the lapel of her navy-blue blazer over a gauzy white blouse through which you can just make out the few luminescent freckles of her otherwise unblemished breast.
Keep away from her like she's a vat of dangerous chemicals.
You have to regulate the goings-on of your own mind as well. Do not under any circumstances imagine her bending forward over your desk, her palms planted on your blotter, her panties around her knees, her skirt up over her waist, her red lips parted and her shining blue eyes looking back at you as you mount her with all the fury of an assistant regional manager of sales for furniture and home appliances (Western region).
Do not walk on the grass with her barefoot. Do not consider for an instant how pleasant it would be to chat with her over dinner while working late. Do not accompany her to her car at night and then suddenly decide that, what the heck, it's been a tough week, eh, a friendly cocktail or two at the Rite Spot would do us both good, no? No. It wouldn't do you both good. It might do her good, but it would do you bad. And then your wife would do you bad.
The basic rule is: If you want to stay out of trouble, stay as far back from the edge of it as you can. Don't gaze down into it out of curiosity. Don't kid yourself. It's not curiosity. It's desire. You're not gazing at this mind-numbing apparition in order to better understand the works of God. You're gazing at it because you're hungry for it. You want it. The more you look at it, the more you're going to want it. So you just have to look away.
That's the sad truth, my man. The hunger will abate as long as you don't feed it. Looking feeds it. You have to look away.
It's as simple as that. You just have to look away.
Want more advice from Cary? Read the Since You Asked Directory