Culture

Craigslist Confessional: Why don’t I feel guilty?

A dancer flirts with her dark side.

Culture

Craigslist Confessional: Why don’t I feel guilty?

A dancer flirts with her dark side.
Culture

Craigslist Confessional: Why don’t I feel guilty?

A dancer flirts with her dark side.

This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Dea Bala started meeting people via a Craigslist ad in 2014 and has been documenting their lives ever since. By listening to their stories — anonymously and for free — she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. In sharing them with you, she wants to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. To share your story with Helena, e-mail her at helena@craigslistconfessional.com. Read prior Confessions here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.

“I never thought that I would be unfaithful. The whole time that we were kissing, I kept thinking — Why don’t I feel guilty?”

Melissa, late 20s

I was not the most attractive person in high school and college. I would go out with my girlfriends and all of them got hit on, except for me. I had low self esteem and I’ve always been shy and introverted, so that didn’t really help my cause. I joked about it and tried not to let it get to me, but the truth is that besides my first boyfriend, there hasn’t been anyone I’ve been interested in romantically who has also been interested in me. I often think — I know I’m a great person; how come nobody else sees it?

I’ve been dating my current boyfriend for eight years. He’s in school out of state, so we don’t see each other often and he doesn’t really have very much free time. We have a really solid relationship — it works for us even if others find some things strange. For example, after eight years, I haven’t met his family. Most of them don’t know that I exist. We also have no concrete plans to marry until he’s finished with school, which could easily be four or five years from now. We’ve decided we don’t want children, too. But I knew as soon as I met him that this man was it — that we’d end up together.

That’s why I’m really conflicted about what I’ve been doing for the past nine months.

When my boyfriend went away to school, my schedule freed up. I decided to pick up a hobby. I’ve always admired how confident dancers are in their bodies, so I signed up for this Latin/Caribbean dance class. It took me a while, but I started bonding with other dancers in the community and as I became a better dancer, my confidence in myself really skyrocketed. Dancing makes me feel really good about myself — really empowered — and like I’m a sexual being for the first time in my life.

I met Matthew at one of the socials. He’s an experienced dancer; he’s good looking and muscular; he has a gorgeous girlfriend of three years who is also in our dance community, and he is completely out of my league. He offered to help me with my dancing. I happily and cluelessly accepted but every time we tried to organize, we had difficulty finding a venue. So we ended up getting together and just going to the movies instead. Afterwards, we got dinner. He paid for me and then he dropped me off at home. And even though it was probably obvious to everyone but me, it took me a couple of months to realize that he was attracted to me.

We started texting and hanging out somewhat regularly. He asked me to meet him at a walking trail in the middle of nowhere one night and I went. He asked me if I was happy in my relationship and I told him I was — and of course he pointed out that if that were true, I wouldn’t be there with him in the middle of the night. He tried to kiss me and I pulled away. And then he tried again, and I let him.

I never thought that I would be unfaithful. The whole time that we were kissing, I kept thinking — What is wrong with me? Why don’t I feel guilty? How can I live with myself? But I didn’t feel ashamed or bad about it at all, actually. It felt like I’d been waiting to feel like this — attractive, wanted, sexy — for my whole life. And now that I finally had a taste of it, I kind of enjoyed being a little selfish.

Every time I see Matt, we push the envelope a little bit. We haven’t had sex, but there’s something about our situation that makes it seem like an inevitability. Plus, I like that panic that I feel whenever we’re out together and the thought of his girlfriend seeing us creeps up. The riskiness of everything thrills me.

I’ve always been good. I’ve always been responsible. I’ve always been the one in a committed relationship, going to school, getting a good job, crossing off every little thing on this long to-do list with a neat little check mark. I just want to have this short period of being crazy — of being bad, of being irresponsible. I’ve always wanted to be seen, and now I am. Is it so bad that I’m enjoying it? What damage am I really doing if my boyfriend never finds out? My one boundary is that I would never sleep with Matt. I would hate myself forever and a day if I did. So, I know that this has to stop. I just really don’t want it to.

Helena Dea Bala is a former lobbyist turned professional listener. She lives in New York with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Stanley Zbornak.
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