Lately, I’ve been observing – and feeling – all sorts of judgment.
Now, when I’m at my best, I’m almost entirely non-judgmental. I don’t like judgment, don’t like judging people, don’t like feeling judged. The truth is, I think it’s rarely possible to judge someone fairly without walking a life in their shoes (forget a mile). And, what’s more, generally speaking, judging people ends up making me feel worse about myself, not better. So the fact that I’m feeling judgmental is a tell that something’s not right with me.
But lately I’ve been feeling really pissy about two sorts of people. I’m only writing about one sort here – maybe I’ll do the other in a day or two.
I’m unhappy right now with those who judge others. Yeah, yeah – I see the irony. I’m sitting here judging those who judge. I get it. And still…. I had a little back and forth the other day with a blogger whom I like – not a close friend, but someone whose blog I read, and who, I think, reads mine fairly regularly. I think we are sort of simpatico. I like this blogger, like the blog, find it intelligent and hot.
But on this one issue, we come apart. This blogger said something to the effect of, “If I found out you’re cheating, we’re through.” This was a Twitter ultimatum. I won’t follow anyone I know to be a cheater, so much do I disapprove of cheating. And I found myself judging this person.
Now. For years, I was a CPOS. I don’t really have much to say in the way of my “defense.” I was a cad. I misled my wife. I lied, cheated, stole. You will not hear me for a minute defend what I did.
The world is big. Circumstances are varied. And the ways in which people can be bad – and good – are infinite. I’m a little puzzled by a radical, hard, line-in-the-sand kind of stance on this one (or, to be honest, any one) issue. And I said so. I tweeted (twote? twat?), “Not trying to be contentious, but… why judge? Can cheating never be OK for anyone? Many non-CPOS’s still are POS’s.” One hundred forty characters wasn’t enough for me to communicate what I really meant, but I thought I did ok. This other blogger’s answer was, “No I can’t think of a reason to ever justify cheating aside from a multi-year coma.” I read this twice, and thought, “Wow.”
There are so many pieces of shit who don’t cheat, and there are so many people who cheat out of misery, or sadness, or illness, or… mammal-ness, or whatever; there are so many different configurations of relationships. It just seems a weird proxy for basic acceptability to me. And, as the hottest girl in the world (THGITW), other than my wife, said, “Who says [cheating on someone in a multi-year coma is] not just as bad?” I added, “Or worse!”
When I was telling my friends my story, some years ago, I was surprised (and at the same time not so surprised) to learn that virtually all of them had cheated – or been cheated on – once or more in their marriages. These are all people I would describe as fundamentally good, loving, caring people – even good, loving, caring partners for the most part. And marriages that have stood the test of time. And that’s not just me talking. That’s their partners talking, after learning of, in many instances, and pointedly not learning of – and maybe trying pretty fucking hard not to learn of – their partners’ cheating ways.
THGITW had a long list of objections. “What classes as cheating?” “What about the personal differences that make up relationships?” “What about when a man beats his wife?” What about “a wife who has no interest in sex, ever?” She concluded, “The point is, nobody apart from the people in the relationship know the answers.” And this is the point.
I’m baffled – just baffled – by the alacrity with which we feel entitled to judge others, to deem acceptable or unacceptable what others do. Was Bill Clinton a bad man for getting a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky? Do you know what the deal was with Hillary on extramarital sex? By all accounts, Bill and Hillary have a visible, profound affection for one another. When my friend had a retaliatory affair with the wife of the man with whom his wife had had a fling, was he “in the wrong”? Blameworthy? (Incidentally, my friend and his wife are still together and, by all accounts, happy.) How the fuck dare you, dare I, judge them?
So – my fellow blogger with whom I had this back-and-forth, I don’t judge you, exactly, though I find your point of view on this inconsistent with what I think of generally as your intelligence and thoughtfulness. (Is that too harsh?)
To all of us, in the words of some famous dude, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (I almost promise that that will be the first and last ever biblical quote on this blog.)