The Nondating Life

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

So I was going through his mail and ...

If there’s one thing that observing relationships confirms over and over again it’s this: women and men are idiots.

Three times in the last year I’ve had girlfriends of mine call me or sign on to IM in a state of panic about their relationships. That’s not such an odd thing. Women are prone to drama and freak out about relationships (and need to talk about those freakouts) more often. This does not make them idiots. But in each of these three cases, the conversation started like this.

“Well, he just happened to leave his e-mail open and . . .”

Okay. Whoa. Stop. Right. There.

He just happened to leave his e-mail open. And you just happened to sit down in front of the computer? And you just happened to start opening various e-mails sent and/or received by your boyfriend?

In what universe is this acceptable behavior? Just because your neighbor leaves his front door open, do you feel it acceptable to let yourself into his house and start snooping around?

Hey, your journal doesn’t have a lock, does that mean your boyfriend can go rifle through its pages, looking for mentions of himself and/or your ex-boyfriends?

Of course not.

So what gives you the right to go sniffing around your boyfriend’s e-mail? Nothing. Nothing at all. I don’t care if it “just happened” to be open.

And before even getting to what I really want to discuss here, let me say something else. Man or woman, if you ever come across a computer and see your beloved’s e-mail program sitting there on the desktop and you feel a sudden need to take a tour, it means only one thing: You don’t trust your partner.

Plain and simple. I will hear no arguments on this matter. You have no right to read the other person’s mail, e-mail or journals. And just because they let you read one piece of mail in the past, that doesn’t mean it’s an open invitation to make return visits to look at other correspondence. (What about my blog? That’s an entirely different argument, but I’ll say this much: If you have an anonymous blog and you’re keeping it a secret from a serious boyfriend or girlfriend, you have problems. And if you don’t have them now, you’re going to have them later.)

Now, what complicates this for two out of three of these situations is what my girlfriends found when they went snooping. In one case, much of the drama and worrying turned out to be about nothing.

But in the other two cases, evidence was found. I’m not going to go into specifics, but in both cases ample evidence of cybersex was found.

Before any guys work themselves into a lather, let me say this wasn’t simply evidence of visiting a porn site every once in a while. This was evidence of one-on-one back and forth -- sometimes involving photos -- with a (presumably) real woman.

Now, guys, first things first. Let’s follow a few simple rules.

First, don’t ever ever leave your email applications open. And don’t give her your password. Ever. If you’re the type who has something to hide every once in a while and you give it to her in an emergency -- “Hey, baby. I’m on the road and need you to check something” -- change it as soon as you can. Because she will remember. She will use it. She can’t help herself. And if you’re using web-based mail and have something to hide, sign out when you’re done.

Second, don’t have something to hide. (Maybe that should be first). If you have a porn habit that you just can’t give up, scratch that itch in an appropriate place -- like work.

“Oh, but I can’t do it at work. I’ll get caught. Then I’ll get fired.”

Ya think? And you think your girlfriend is actually dumber about computers than the geniuses in your tech department? You think you’re fooling anyone -- especially her -- by erasing your bookmarks every night? (Because, you know, that doesn’t look suspicious at all.) You think you’re being sneaky by creating multiple email accounts? No. You’re not fooling anyone, smart guy.

Better yet, keep your porn to the old fashioned media of print and TV. Part of the fun of porn is the whole seedy challenge of it all. You’re SUPPOSED to feel a little dirty about it. You’re supposed to have to go to a magazine or video store wearing a ball cap and sun glasses. How can you enjoy it, if you haven’t earned it?

Web porn is just too easy. And because of that ease, it can become highly addictive. And soon enough, the only thing that will be able to tent your sticky underwear will be that one specific freakish niche you’ve discovered on the web: whether it be barely legals, MILFs, greased-up grannies, lactating ladies or illegal immigrants forced to give head to avoid being reported to the INS.

I’m only going to assume that you’re REAL girlfriend -- the one who’s usually happy to give you a happy ending -- is none of those things.

But I’m not here to lecture you about porn. If that’s your thing and you view it every once in a while, you’re not going broke pursuing this fantasy, you realize you’re going to burn in hell and you realize you’re going to get caught, I say break out the Vaseline and Kleenex and go for it.

But this other thing. This emailing other chicks and having hot one-on-one IM sex or email sex?

That’s cheating, bub. No two ways about it. Even if you pay for it.

The difference between web porn and these other things is the difference between going to a strip club and hooking up with a coworker -- or a hooker.

And you know it’s cheating, too. How do you know?

Because you’re doing your best to hide it.

You feel no guilt saying, “Hey, babe. You mind not yakking so much while I try to set up my Fantasy Football League team.” But you’d never think of saying, “Hey, keep it down, would you. I’m telling that hot intern at work about my fantasy involving her and two gallons of Liquid Paper. … What? You’re getting all worked up? It’s just pretend! It’s not like I’m really banging her.”

So you hide your dirty little affairs. And you’ll never hide it well enough.

Because sooner or later she’s going to find out. Either because you’re a bonehead and you leave evidence just hanging about the place. Or, more likely, because you’re giving off those little wavy lines that tell a woman you’re up to something, that cause her to distrust you, that drive her crazy and, eventually, inspire her to become a Level 6 Web Wizard, capable of tracking your emails, your IMs, your cookies, your every virtual move.

And when she finds out?

Well, women, back to you. Because what do you do after you bust your boyfriend in this underhanded manner. It’s not like you were the NSA looking for Al-Qaeda intercepts.

In each case, my friends all called me with the same question. It wasn’t so much “What should I do?” but more “How do I confront him without telling him I went through his email?”

Answer? You can’t. And, at this point in the game, you shouldn’t bother trying.

“But then he’ll think I don’t trust him,” you might whine.

“Uhhh, and it’s precisely because you trusted him you went digging about in his email, isn’t it.”
Here’s the deal. As I said before, if you find yourself digging through the boy’s email, you already don’t trust him. And, in cases where you find super-duper pervo porn and evidence of cyber cheating, you might as well have it all out in the open. Keeping it to yourself is only going to drive you batshit crazy until YOU sabotage the relationship in some other way and YOU come off looking like a psycho who drove him to porn. And trying to trick him into fessing up in some other sneaky way isn’t going to work. He might be stupid, but he’s not that stupid.

You might as well call him out. If he calls you out for snooping, get all Samuel L. Jackson on him: “Of course I snooped. And I hope you burn in hell!”

Or some such.

Either way, it won’t hurt things anymore to open the floodgates and have a knock-down, drag-out.

But because you’re obviously both in a position where rebuilding trust is going to be hard (and he’s a sick perv spreading his filth all over the web and your house and possibly your children and definitely the dog), what you should do is this: Call him out and kick him to the curb.

But you’re not going to do that, are you? Because you’re the type who likes to get screwed in the end.