I was getting ready for a date, in that slow, enjoyable manner that girls mostly love, when they are allowed to pamper themselves. My daughter was quietly watching, with a lipstick in one hand, and a small mirror in the other.
“Who is your date with? Special Man Friend?” she says.
“Nope”, I say, “a friend named Mike. You haven’t met him.”
She tilts her head and mockingly says this:
“Oooh. You’re a cheater.”
A cheater. Charlotte was in kindergarten at the time. Not even six years old yet, and she had the party line of our modern social construct of relationships, down pat.
Her mom was a cheater.
No, I told her. It’s cheating if you are a liar and I’m not a liar. SMF knows I am going out to dinner, and guess what…he even knows Mike. I explain that he knows I might even kiss Mike, and that he thinks that is a good thing. I tell her that sometimes I go out with other boys, and SMF goes out with other girls. He likes me and he likes them too.
“Where did you hear that?” I say, mildly frustrated.
She tells me the name of a popular “tween” type show on a popular kids’ cable channel. (Think big mouse.) She tells me a classic tale of male best friends who both want to be with the raven haired, teeny-bopper, female lead, and the hilarity that ensues while everyone is lying about who is seeing who.
I sit and look at this little girl. I get it. Sometimes, just sometimes, I do feel like a cheater. I feel as if it would be just easier if my loyalties could simply reside with a single person….and if all of his relationship efforts were focused on me in return. But I’ve got my feet planted just outside the box of monogamy. I could step back into that box today if I wanted to.
But I don’t want to.
So I smile. “It’s okay, sweetie,” I say. “When you grow up you can decide if you want one boyfriend or three boyfriends, or a million boyfriends!”
She wrinkles her nose at me and giggles.
(And I make a mental note to cancel cable.)