I want to tell you a secret. It's something I'm deeply proud of yet also ashamed of. It's about being a man and about being less of one. It defines who I am while it defies who I am. It's a dichotomy that's difficult for even me to understand.
How I feel about this secret depends on who I'm with. Alone, or with my wife and family, I feel pride. But with other men - co-workers, drinking mates - I'm often embarrassed. Even though it's been 23 years, I've never admitted this to anyone - not even my wife. Then again, I'm sure she's never seriously doubted me and will not be surprised by what I confess.
My secret is that for almost a quarter century, I've been faithful. Although I've lusted after many women, I've never slept with one, or left even a lingering kiss on a pair of expectant lips. I am successful. I am fit. I have money. I dress well and no, I'm not ugly. Yes, I've had opportunities. Yet...
That's me you've seen in those sports-bar crowds, clinking pint glasses and clapping shoulders at sexual innuendo. That's me you've overheard commenting on the foxy new intern. Yes, I think about it. Yet...
Those surveys that reveal how many husbands cheat on their wives (and vice versa), I've considered them all. I've been tempted by the idea that monogamy is outdated. Yet...
And of course there's the blandness of the long-term relationship: seeing her in trackies scrubbing the toilet. Running out of things to say over dinner. Making love in the same position in the same room at the same time year after year. I crave excitement and variety. Yet...
...I've never cheated. And I haven't admitted it because, well, men typically don't do that. No matter how sensitive we'd like you to believe we've become, our brother-cliques still rely on bravado and conquest for acceptance. The minute we confess to not being on the chase, to turning our backs on our genetic drive to procreate, our gorilla chests start to shrink. It may sound small-minded, but that's the way it is, at least in my world.
So why it is that I've never wandered? I have a few ideas.
I've never met a perfect 10
A colleague once told me: "If you're going to cheat, do it with a perfect 10. Because when you get caught - and eventually you will - you'll need to look back without regret." I always thought that was good advice.
My ankle hurts in the morning
In his book Letters To My Son ,Kent Nerburn equates temptation with the time he broke his left leg:
"Whenever I feel a surge of attraction to a woman, I think of that leg... Being unfaithful snaps a relationship as surely as that fall snapped my bone. At first, it may seem like nothing. Over time, you may be able to mend the break so that the relationship is stronger than ever. But it is not healed. The scar remains and it will haunt you forever."
I haven't broken any limbs, but I've sprained my right ankle a few times. And it aches almost daily.
I'm drawn to a particular type
Whenever I'm attracted to another woman, I ask myself 'why?'. Usually it's because she's tall, slim, brunette, amply endowed, vivacious, witty, and kind. These are all qualities my wife has. It's made me realise that I'm naturally drawn to one type of woman. Why cheat with her twin?
I love my wife's gnarly feet.
I once read an article by a bloke who cheated. Waking up next to his one-night stand, he immediately noticed her feet. They had been tucked into sexy black pumps the night before, but now they appeared big and manly and even had corns. He was so disgusted he fled. We forget that love camouflages faults. After 23 years, I know and love every part of my wife - including her feet.
I keep my word
I made a public vow to be faithful. And as the son of an ex-marine, I believe a man's word should be unassailable. I'm talking about personal integrity here, a trait often muddied by politicians, athletes, CEOs, and sometimes even our own fathers. I may not have kept some of the little promises I've made, but I've kept the big ones, and I'm damn proud of that.
I married a perfect 10
I need to clarify my first reason. I have met a perfect 10, and I married her. And the reason I haven't cheated is that I've never really wanted to. Although my wife and I have our differences, she is a great woman who deserves my fidelity. I may not always be able to give her my full attention or all the material things she wants, but I can give her this. And as the years go by, it becomes more precious.
Joe Kita has worked for the same company and had the same hairstyle for 23 years, too.