Private vs Discreet

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

Discreet relationship, my ass! I wouldn’t mind a private relationship, but there’s a big difference between a private relationship and a discreet one, usually the marital status of one or both parties.

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What is with these married men asking me out?! I’m divorced, for Pete’s sake. I just got rid of one married man. Why would I want another woman’s problem?

I seem to be turning down more dates—about 10 to 1—than going on them. If you could call that a date. I suppose it could be, as long as it’s out of town and discreetly carried out.

The excuses are well-thought-out and usually the same, almost word for word. I mean, how many different ways can you say something as trite as “My wife doesn’t understand me” or “I love my wife, but she’s just not as interested in sex as I am”?

I still get a chuckle out of the local good ol’ boy—whose tastes ran extremely conservative—who swore it was okay for him to hit on me because his wife—a local good ol’ girl whose tastes ran extremely conservative—didn’t understand him. And he thought I had more in common with him and would understand him? His wife was a mirror image of him, but yes, I did understand him perfectly well. It took six months and several threats to expose him to his wife before he finally left me alone.

The really icky thing is that many of these men who now want a discreet relationship with me have worked side-by-side with me for years as colleagues. Hmmm, as colleagues who volunteer to travel on company business. A lot. I’d always wondered why.

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In a way, I can understand some of these men. They’ve been married for 15 or 20 years or longer and the physical attraction to a long-term partner has grown stale. They long for something new and exciting and probably never really had that spark of desire mixed with a solid friendship. Eventually, even the most blessed chemistry fades when all the positions have been attempted and all the locations have been tried and the newness of a sexual relationship has been trampled by months or years.

To me, this is why alchemy—not chemistry—is vital in a relationship because it mixes the physical with the emotional and spiritual aspects of the union to add layers of dimension to the relationship. Married men who want a discreet relationship generally have no interest in anything beyond a third of the ingredients I seek, the lower third.

And then there are the men who can’t blame their wandering eyes on years of stale sex or boredom. They seek out discreet relationships from the very start, from the wedding itself.

When I was 17 and in college, I met a gorgeous blond local named Rusty who lived about 30 minutes away from my college dormitory. We met during my first summer quarter at college at Troy State University, at an old warehouse-turned-nightclub, known as the Standard Chemical Company. Although I was several years underage, I never had any trouble getting into the club on any night of the week. I didn’t go there to drink but to dance and meet friends, and the bouncers saw my long legs and short skirts and looked the other way.

Rusty was 21 and always showed up at the Standard around 11:00 every Saturday night, and we started meeting then, dancing until the DJ quit and then sitting and talking until the wee hours of the morning. One weekend, we went for a ride in the country and he showed me the new house he’d just bought and then we sat and barbecued on his patio. He hadn’t moved in yet.

He told me he’d be out of town the next weekend, but on Friday night, I was at the Standard and ran into him and friends at midnight. We danced and had a great time and he asked if he could see me the next weekend at our usual time. He wouldn’t be available the following night. Big family reunion all day on Saturday.

On Monday morning, I sat in my Advanced English Grammar class and chatted with an English-professor-to-be named Jackie. Our conversation somehow led to Rusty, who’d attended high school with her, and his Saturday afternoon wedding to a friend of hers.

Sure enough, Rusty was at the Standard Chemical Company the next Saturday night, sans his new bride who was probably at home cleaning the barbecue grill. When I confronted him, he looked hurt and asked if my anger meant I wouldn’t meet him there for midnight dances anymore.

And then there was Terry, a local cop in my college town of Troy, Alabama. He had a problem with hashish, but that’s yet another matter I discovered later.

I went out with Terry twice, then found out he was engaged to a journalism classmate of mine who sported a sparkly diamond ring. I saw their wedding announcement in the paper the day before he called to ask me to go away with him for the weekend. I reminded him that he was married, but he denied it.

“Yeah, the wedding picture was in the papers,” he told me, “but it was sent in long before I called off the wedding so it was printed accidentally.”

I didn’t buy it for a moment. “What about your wife? I saw her in class today—wearing her engagement ring and her wedding band.”

“Oh, yeah, I agreed to let her wear the rings so she wouldn’t be embarrassed about the wedding being called off.”

By this point, I was screaming, “Do you think I’m as stupid as she is? Don’t you get it? You’ve been busted.”

He stared at me blankly. “So? Just because I’m married doesn’t mean I’m dead.”

I think his wife might have disagreed. I’ve thought of her over the years and wondered if she ever knew. Certainly, his activities didn’t improve as their marriage aged.

To all these men, they were focused only on the physical. To them, they either never saw anything wrong with dating while married or they could quickly justify it. They never considered the emotional impact on the women who loved them or the distaste in the mouths of the women who were damned glad they weren’t married to them.

So again, why would I ever consider a discreet relationship where I get to have one tiny part of a relationship, though perhaps no more of the man’s soul than his wife possesses?

If I’m going to be secretive, I’d much rather have a private relationship with a man who is physically, emotionally, spiritually, and legally available. A private relationship that is a 100% connection to each other, not the leftovers. A private relationship where we can be a refuge for each other, a sanctuary against the struggles around us. No one else has to know. Just between us.

Not because we need to be away from someone else. Because we just want to be together and away from everyone else.


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