Walking through the storybook cobblestone streets of Portsmouth, N.H., with my family last weekend, we strolled past a novelty shop with assorted tacky items prominently displayed on the sidewalk outside the storefront. Some tourists were lured in by the promise of kitschy souvenirs for friends and family back home, while other more discerning shoppers kept moving past, shaking their heads and cracking a wry smile at the tasteless merchandise. Among the pieces that caught my eye was a heather grey T-shirt baring the words "Have you seen my Weiner?" in bold print, with the infamous politician's face emblazoned on the chest. Though the scandal is long over, his legacy is ubiquitous. A wave of embarrassment came over me. Not for Mr. Weiner, not for Huma, or even for the state of American politics, but for myself.
Just a few weeks prior, I was angrily downing French fries smothered in Sriracha aioli across from a close friend and confidante at our favorite after-drinking greasy spoon. It was three in the morning and I was running my mouth about the mortifying state of my love life just a little too loudly. "My life is a punch line," I melodramatically declared. To me, a friend is not truly a friend if they will not support and even participate in your incredibly unstable, emotional late-night eating habits. Fortunately, I have many such friends who understand all too well the need for extra dipping sauce. She graciously allowed me to unload my latest sob story about a guy with whom I shared a lovely week of romantic dates, only to bump into me in a club and act as though he hadn't seen me naked just 24 hours ago. With a string of clichéd platitudes about how we'll both eventually meet a man whose idea of commitment is more than just giving you his phone number, she bought me a soda, gave me a hug and put me in a cab home.
That is when all the little voices that cry out, "Girl, STOP!" should have piped up. Unsupervised, enraged and drunk off of carbs and calories, I reached for my purse and pulled out my cell phone. My fingers guiltily scrolled through my contacts, searching for a number I'd told everyone I deleted long ago. He was a very attractive investment banker with whom I'd had one steamy night that involved a garter belt, lace thigh-high stockings and not much else. He's also been in a long-term relationship for three years. As the cab sped closer to his apartment, I sent him the three-word text that always seems to get me into trouble: "Are you home?" Thankfully, or so I thought, he wrote that he was on vacation on the other side of the country. Relieved to be unburdened of another potential mistake, I directed the cab back to my apartment.
Then I heard that elusive three-note chime which tempted my face downward, lit up by the glow of the screen, and perhaps by mischievous curiosity. A second reply: "Get on your computer." My front door slammed shut as I considered it. This would be taking our indiscretion to another medium, one in which I had never before indulged. My laptop sat open on my bed, almost beckoning me. Gmail, which usually so responsibly brings me updates about my bank statement, news from my synagogue and Kate Spade sales, was now luring me into a tawdry G-chat video session. I had pressed "call" before I had time to think it through, and was considering the ways to backpedal out of the situation when I saw his green eyes flash like lightning over a rough sea -- powerful, beautiful and dangerous. Transfixed, I slipped off one strap of my dress, then the other, and whispered to him in soft, sultry tones for an admittedly satisfying 15 minutes.
After, I closed the laptop, turned off my lights and tried to ignore the pangs of guilt, the emptiness, the cheapness of it all. It didn't erase the sting of the guy who spurned me hours before in the club, nor the grim outlook of dating in New York. But the flood of adrenaline, the devilish delight in breaking the rules, was undeniably a thrilling distraction.
The next day, I was met with a barrage of text messages, imploring me to delete our conversations and interrogating me about the existence of screen shots. (Yes, there is one, and yes, I denied taking it). Like Anthony Weiner, he had everything to lose, and like Sydney Leathers, I had nothing to lose. He lives in constant paranoia that at any moment, I might take off sprinting down the street, waving my arms and screaming his infidelities for all of Madison Avenue to hear. My rush came from feeling desirable and deviant; was his rush a feeling of complete vulnerability? Maybe it was the only thing piercing the boredom of a relationship that had otherwise made him feel numb with monotony. At times, I wonder if Ms. Leathers, too, was cast aside by just one too many men before she picked up her phone.
The Weiner scandal is laughable in many ways, and the puns practically write themselves. But beyond being fodder for late night comedians, what can we learn from men who pseudo-cheat and the women who enable it? And what could I learn from actually doing it? The pathological need of so many men to risk the comfort and stability of a loving relationship is frightening enough to make me lose hope in ever overcoming my late-night French fry ritual -- that much is certain. But at the end of the day, a computer screen can't hold my hand, or fall asleep next to me with a warm arm tucked around my waist. So, I deleted his number for real and signed up for online dating, because sending texts to a guy you like is much better than "having text" with one you don't.
But I'll hang on to that screenshot though, just in case.
Literally, Darling is an online magazine by and for twenty-something women, which features the personal, provocative, awkward, pop-filled and pressing issues of our gender and generation. This is an exact representation of our exaggerated selves.