dirty little secret

calculating: to forecast or compute the character or consequences of; to fit or prepare by the adaptation of means to an end

I am calculating. I am a strategist. I love games. In monopoly, I’m buying Illinois Avenue even if it leaves me with a dollar to my name. I am analytical. Even when I am spontaneous, I do a cost-benefit analysis. We all do. I just happen to give a certain amount of conscious thought to my actions.

My flirtation with Billy was calculated insomuch that I knew my tangible actions were innocuous enough to prevent any recourse or recrimination from Dexter. But I wanted more. In fact, after a couple months, I became obsessed. I thought about Billy all the time. Carnal, lascivious thoughts. Seeing this 23-yr old man, in the prime of his jet-skiing, water-skiing physicality, take off his work shirt when it was 100-degrees outside to fix something in my car was more beautiful than any piece of artwork Dexter ever bought me.

But I knew better than to actually act on my desires. I wouldn’t risk my job or career on something I knew to be a flirtation born out of boredom and distress. And I couldn’t trust Billy to keep his mouth shut. And I wasn’t willing to risk my relationship with Dexter.

The day came, however, after months of dissatisfaction with my project that my exit was confirmed (my chunk of a rock of an engagement ring actually came in handy when explaining to my project partner that they either take me off the project or I quit the company, as my fiance would love nothing more).

The weekend before my project departure date was my family’s annual beach trip. Dexter was unable to attend – he had a golfing trip. Billy’s family had a beach house 20 minutes away from where my family stayed. And he would be down there at the same time.

For this trip, instead of packing just my typical spartan wardrobe of bathing suits, flip flops and casual clothes, I included a few additional pieces – the black open-toed, sling back heals, my black mini shorts, and a backless top. On Saturday, when Billy called to see if I wanted to go out to a bar, I said ‘yes.’ He would drive and pick me up.

When it came time to get ready, I found myself feeling the same sense of eager anticipation the first time I went out with Dexter. I paid acute attention to everything – from what and how I shaved in the shower to the lotion and perfume and jewelry I put on. By the time I was finished, I felt something I hadn’t felt in over a year – sexy.

A part of me died in my relationship with Dexter. I know it happens to couples – people get complacent and stop trying to impress. But sex and sexy is a part of who I am – they are inherently me. And so, if that part of me died a little in my relationship with Dexter, it was resurrected by Billy.

That afternoon, I left a message on Dexter’s phone, a time I knew he’d probably be on the back nine, letting him know I would be meeting up with some friends from work that evening (the same story I told my family). While getting ready later that evening, I ignored the ring on my cell from Dexter. I instead chose to call him back while I was riding in the car on route to the bar with Billy.

At the beginning of my project , when I first mentioned Billy, Dexter dismissed him. Yes, he was curious to know who was burning me CDs – but the notion of a 23-year old kid still living at home with his family posing any type of threat was laughable. However, the night I was at the beach in the car with Billy, explaining the circumstances and my plans for the rest of evening, I sensed raised eyebrows from Dexter.

“Put him on the phone. I want to talk to him.”

I handed my phone over to Billy as he drove.

“Dexter wants to talk to you,” I explained.

I not sure what exactly Dexter said to him. Billy replied “uh-huh” several times over the course of the minute-long conversation and ended with a “definitely.” After that, I didn’t think about Dexter for the rest of the evening.



  1. a flirtation or flirtatious episode, or an affair
  2. the frivolous or idle wasting of time

For years I had this belief that a wedding or engagement ring was like an electronic yard fence for dogs: as long as it was on, a person could flirt all he or she wanted but would never cross that invisible boundary of propriety.

I didn’t stop being a flirt when I got engaged; I just became an engaged flirt. There are two kinds of flirts: the overt flirt and the inverted flirt. I, for the most post, am an inverted flirt, whose style never evolved from the second grade. If I like a guy, I’ll tease him. While I have ceased from kicking guys in the shin under the lunch table, I still employ the same tactics.

Right around the time I got engaged, I started a new job. I was supposed to join a specific project, for a specific role but because of office politics, I found myself on a different project, in a different role. Several weeks into the project, I was not happy, with the role or the team. I learned years ago that life is too short to not enjoy something to which you devote the majority of your time, so I made the decision to give the project a month’s chance before taking action.

For most of my career, I have worked on male teams. It is just the nature of the business I am in. So me having a friendship with a male member on my team was not unique. Furthermore, me taking on the project of doing an external and internal guy makeover was nothing new either. Billy was the perfect candidate.

He was the kind of big-fish-in-a-small-pond cocky that resulted from a sheltered lifestyle, coddling parents, workplace nepotism, and a lack of world experience. I knew this lack of humility and inflated ego was mostly bravado. I felt compelled to tear it down in order to “rebuild” him.

Methodically I debunked all that he took pride in. And then I offered him an alternative. Had I been engaged and satisfied in my job more, I’m not sure I would have taken the interest I did in him. Had I been engaged and satisfied in my relationship with Dexter, I definitely wouldn’t have.

But I did. And in that process, something happened to me. I started smiling more. I looked forward to seeing my ebullient apprentice. In exchange for the superficialities of showing him how to wear his hair, what products to use, what clothes and cologne to buy, how he should walk, how he should talk – he would shower me with vernal gifts of mixed cd’s, candy and his undivided attention and devotion.

Dexter knew about my young friend but Dexter wasn’t the jealous type. What Dexter didn’t know is I started to feel sexy again around Billy. For the past year, maybe longer, I had lost touch with that side of me. But it is an essential side of me. Billy made me aware of my appeal. I just hadn’t realized how much I missed it.

The project quickly expanded to outside the office. We began going to lunch and going shopping and I would advise him on how to seduce a woman. Billy was wildly unsuccessful with the type of women he desired and it was my goal to lead him to success.

Our outings became more frequent. As my discontent with my job grew, so did my dependence on Billy. I had an unconditionally devoted playmate at work. Whatever I needed, he was there. And I made excuses for certain behaviors, like having explicit conversations about sex, on the grounds that it was part Billy’s “education.”

The hard line was crossed when during one of our shopping excursions, I invited Billy into the dressing room at a prominent department store and undressed in front of him. It was exhilarating. It didn’t help that I had had two glasses of champagne at lunch. But I knew what I doing. In fact, I had planned the moment out, including the part of kissing him. The kiss, after all, was part of the “training.”

I was in a fog. The problem with fogs is that you have no sense of direction and since I had no sense of where I was going, I just continued on the path I was on.

The thing about Dexter was he accepted me for me. Messy me, ambitious me, scared me, unpredictable, independently dependent me. There were some tough times in our relationship but for the most part I was content. The tough times were part of the growing pains I needed to experience, for my own good.

I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe there’s a reason that the very night I told my best friend that I wanted to marry Dexter, he was with another woman. I could debate the semantics of the evening. So he was with a stripper, at a friend’s bachelor party. What’s the harm, right? Does it matter if he got a 3 minute dance in front of the guys versus a 3 hour one in a private VIP room? Does is matter if he spent $250 versus $2500? Does it matter if I found out from him versus the credit card company at 7:30AM the next morning?

It does. Dexter violated my trust. In a way that no other man had. Everything from that point on was my learning lesson. I don’t know if I’m being too hard on myself when I say I brought that drama into my life. But I believe that. It’s going to take a while before I’m able to open myself up to another relationship. Everyone comes into the world with a life obstacle and this is mine.

The truth.

The good: Dexter had the most beautiful smile, and eyes that hypnotized me and were so full of life, and the most perfect, non-orthodontically enhanced teeth. Even with a receding hairline and a lip of a belly, he was handsome. And he was down-to-earth. In general, he was not ostentatious. He drove a beater car because cars are not assets and I liked this about him. He was also emotionally open. I learned how to cry (and I never cried because crying was a sign of weakness) because of him. My personality could be cold and closed and he was warm and open.

The bad: He had the kind of money that allowed him to be generous and he was generous when he wanted to be. When I was fundraising, he was the first whip out a $100 from his pocket. On our second date, he rented a limo to take us to the Inn. On our third date, we flew up to New York to see Phantom, dance on Tavern on the Green and ride around Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage. Anything I wanted, he made happen. Even my friends were envious. They wanted a Dexter too. A provider.

He gave me the keys to his apartment the second week we were dating. He called all his friends to tell them he was in love. I did too.

My friends thought I was crazy. I definitely made some waves. I had just come out of a serious relationship, with someone they loved and suddenly I was talking about getting married and having Dexter’s kids – this all coming from the eternally proclaimed player, the one they could depend on to never settle down. It was as if I had violated some friendship contract. And the first time they met him – how fitting. Dexter was well past sobriety, mumbling and being obnoxious, and I just sat there, trying to temper his exuberance and making an excuse for his sometimes indulgent personality.

The ugly: After just a month dating and spending every night at each other’s places, I was already thinking about moving in with him. Not because I definitively knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, but because:

1) he didn’t have a car and I was sick of playing chauffeur and coordinating my overnight necessities

2) it presented a solution to my current dilemma. I wanted to take some time off from work (my would-be third leave of absence) to finish my novel. And I was sick of my job and the financial responsibilities of my apartment. So it was the perfect solution – move in with Dexter, be in love and write.

And so I did. But here’s the lesson I learned. All this time, there was this little voice inside telling me I wasn’t being honest with Dexter or myself. That was my conscious speaking. Neither of us really gave any consideration to the implications of moving in together. Not that Dexter wasn’t a willing participant. We were having sex once, sometimes two or three times a day and I was making his place a home. What man could resist that. But in general, we were both acting too capriciously and capitulating too easily to the ignorance of “being in love.” I see too many people doing this, moving in together out of convenience. Unless you’re talking about and looking at engagement rings prior to doing this, the relationship is almost guaranteed to fail.