Let Me Explain: Rendezvous and I love yous

Cheaters, cheaters, pumpkin-eaters might not be so delicious after all. Let me explain.

Most of us instantly declare that cheating is wrong: Cheating on a test for which you hadn’t studied or cheating a store when you’re silent about receiving the wrong change both seem pretty crooked.

The folks at the Ashley Madison Agency (ashleymadison.com) advocate a different kind of cheating: The kind that breaks up marriages, gives people trust issues and ruins lives forever. You know, the exciting kind of cheating.

I’m no saint, and I’ve made a fair share of errors in life-much to the chagrin of my necessarily forgiving mother-but I am a Catholic and this means that I feel bad about occasional slip-ups. Not just bad, but guilty. No, it’s beyond guilt; there’s a bout of self-inflicted penance that weasels its way behind my every folly.

The Ashley Madison Agency does not condone infidelity . directly. It does advocate counseling as the first retreat for a couple with problems. The website is for the attached, yet unfulfilled, to meet like-minded individuals and “re-experience the excitement and stimulation associated with dating and courtship.”

Call me old-fashioned, a devil’s advocate, witty, intelligent, lovely, a joy to be around, a festival of life . Oh, sorry, got off track.

Call me old-fashioned, but if I had relationship issues, I doubt I’d resort to pimping myself out. I’d do it the Catholic way: While my significant other was at a Knights of Columbus meeting, I’d secretly meet up with his golf buddy, dance the cheaty-cheaty dance, flog myself and then soak my 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets in tears. It’s tradition.

The grass is always greener on the other side? Not if Ward waters his lawn with spermicide while his wife is out “playing bridge with the girls.”

In a world where Wikipedia is our Encyclopedia Britannica, AOL Instant Messenger is a serious conversation and Cliff Notes are substituted for Mark Twain, we should be careful where we get our advice.

But there are other ways of cheating that don’t involve sex. You can cheat a person out of honesty by saying “I love you” when what you mean is “I don’t know you anymore.” You can answer the question “What are you thinking about?” with “You” when what you mean is “Him” (and not the godly Him). It’s verbal plagiarism: using words that sound right when the sentiment behind the words is not your own.

Is a relationship still monogamous if you’re thinking about, looking at or lusting after someone outside of the relationship, but you don’t physically cheat? In Jimmy Carter’s frequently referenced 1976 Playboy interview, he said, “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”

What he meant was that he had cheated without the physical act-to him, still a deception. If you’ve cheated on someone, does that mean that you don’t really love them? Can you cheat on someone and still love them?

One of the arguments for infidelity or an open relationship is that it is the male’s biological impulse to spread his seed; most animals are not monogamous. But we’re a higher species than animals. We have love, commitment, morals and standards. We have opposable thumbs and TiVo. Is it all just about sex? What’s more important: the love life or the sex life?

As 20-somethings (Welcome to a new age bracket, sophomores) finally independent from the parental eye, we’re biased. But maybe, for our sanity both in the long-term and before midterms, relationships should be a constant courtship.

Is it the thrill of the hunt you’re wanting, or the thrill of an unpleasant word that rhymes with hunt? (This is the point where my mother stops reading.)

Sex is a conversation now because we have the vocabulary, the “Sex and the City” schooling and the latest gossip to discuss it-and do it. If you don’t do it, you’re a prude. If you do do it, you feel guilty. If you giggled at “do do,” then shame on you you.

I’ve got about seven years of Hail Marys and a summer’s worth of Glory Bes calling my name now. But I’ve got the time for penance, as Archbishop Burke and little baby Jesus will undoubtedly bar me from receiving Communion this Sunday. Le sigh. It’s tough to be a Catholic in a world where sex sells and we’re all patrons.