If you can’t be good at cheating, don’t get caught

 

In a perfect world, no one who’s in love cheats. Well, I got news for the naïve: This ain’t a perfect world.

 

Being in love doesn’t guarantee you won’t make a stupid mistake and step outside your relationship, even marriage, in a momentary, potentially fateful, real serious lapse of judgment. It may be an occurrence of that situational cliché, slipping away to the copy room at the alcohol-fueled office party with somebody you ain’t got no business.

 

(Liquor — don’t take my word, consult your local doctor — is labeled a depressant because it — does what? — depresses your center of judgment.)

 

Or another stock scenario: An old flame who never quite burned out pops up out of the clear blue sky, and the two of just can’t resist one last roll in the hay for old time’s sake. Or it could come about some other way.

 

Point is, stuff happens. For you self-righteously huffing and puffing moral purists who don’t think so, ask yourself — and be for real with the answer — just how well you would resist temptation if, say, Denzel or Beyoncé gave you a green light and you knew — hell, had so much as a reasonable idea — you could get away with it.

 

Well, don’t get caught. The only thing worse than doing wrong in the first place is really fouling up by letting the proverbial cat get out of the bag. No matter how much you had to drink, for the sake of all that is holy, take a shower before you get home. Even if you have to check into a motel to do it (if you stop off at a friend’s house, it better be somebody you’d trust with your life, because that’s exactly what you’re doing).

 

Unless, of course, you usually shower first thing when you walk in the door — before you hug and kiss the love of your life hello — you’ll defeat (with a move that’s a dead giveaway) the whole purpose of washing off the evidence.

 

If you don’t live together and the deed took place at your crib, don’t just make sure you wash the sheets. Burn ’em! Then, bury the ashes. Don’t — you listening? — don’t find yourself at dinner, drifting off in a daydream, recalling how memorable the experience was. Your partner, spouse, whichever, has instincts and nothing will alert them something’s wrong like you suddenly acting different.

 

And, for crying out loud, don’t start having phone conversations that abruptly end or change in tone whenever they come home or walk in the room. In fact, forget the whole thing ever happened and move on.

 

P.S.: Whatever you do — you listening? — do not, under any circumstance, catch an attack of guilt and stupidly decide you have to come clean and confess your sin. It will not clear the air to get it off your chest — that’s a selfish delusion. All it’s going to do is cause a great deal of pain and establish the notion you can never be trusted again. You feel bad? Good. Then don’t do it again. And — I repeat — move on.

 

One thing we have to be clear about. These words are for he or she who genuinely made a dumb mistake and realizes afterward how wrong it was. They’re directed at the person who now knows, a helluva lot better than ever before, the kind of damage being unfaithful can do.

 

This is for the individual who strayed and is sorry, not the chronically self-centered who wouldn’t know a conscience if it bit them on the behind and simply considers it his or her due to get as much as possible on the side. If that’s the case, do the person you call yourself being in love with a favor: Leave them.

 

It’s about moving on from a mistake. If you can’t be good, be careful enough not to get caught. Of course, it goes without saying, the best thing is to not mess up to begin with.

 

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.