By Chris Slater

It was a slow shift at work one late summer day in 2010. I was a manager at Pizza Hut, and several of us working were bored and doing nothing productive. I sent a tweet announcing that I had eaten nine slices of pizza — a proud accomplishment for about 10 minutes — and how it was now the worst moment of my life. I was also talking with a girl on Twitter who lived in Hawaii. I don’t remember the specifics, but she and I made some sort of joke, a play on words about “brah,” meaning brother and “bra,” as in a breast-holding garment. It was dumb, but silly at the moment.

I walk to my car at the end of the shift and see a text from my girlfriend. I had met her a couple months prior and had been dating her for less than a month. The message was one word.

“Really?”

I stared at my BlackBerry in confusion. My reply didn’t help matters: “Yeah, I really did eat nine slices of pizza.”

We quickly established that she was a little jealous, and it was not always justified. “Why did you tell that girl she was pretty?” She’s my friend and she looked nice. “Who’s that girl you’re talking to?” She lives in Germany and we message each other about professional wrestling because we’re nerds. “Why is that girl posting on Facebook that she misses you?” That’s my half-sister. I haven’t seen her in a couple years.

And so on and so forth. By the time she asked me why I was flirting with that one girl on Twitter, I rolled my eyes and explained that it was just my friend from college. She lives an hour away, this is our main form of communication, and we’re not flirting.

Fast forward a couple years and I have a new girlfriend. She is much more laid back and cool with me having female friends. Except, she brought up one issue that she noticed: why was I flirting with that one girl on Twitter?

At that point, I realized that if two different girlfriends were bringing her up, then it might be an issue. So, I did dial back communications for a while. Eventually the second girlfriend and I ended our relationship. This coincided with the time that my Twitter friend and I moved our flirtations to Snapchat.

When something is on your timeline for everybody to see, you are a little discreet and not as open. When your message disappears after 10 seconds and only one other person sees it, then things can get a little more extreme. We quickly both came to the conclusion that we had a physical attraction to each other, as well as an interest in exploring it.

The distance was a small factor, but more important than that was the fact that she had a boyfriend. So when she told me that she would randomly be passing through town and wanted to hang out, I wasn’t expecting much to happen. I figured we would get together, maybe eat some dinner, talk a bit, and basically act like those explicit messages didn’t really happen.

We went to my place. I had no bad intentions; I had just gotten off work and wanted to change clothes. We sat on my couch talking and figuring out plans. She very casually dropped a bomb: that she had cheated on her boyfriend. “I thought I would feel guilty about it, but I didn’t” she said. My reply: “Oh. Okay.” Internally, it was more like: “Did she just give me the go-ahead? Am I doing this?”

And, yes, I did do that. She and I continued meeting up for the better part of the next year; a couple times a month or once every other month, it just depended on our schedules.

She was cheating on her boyfriend. With me. I was “the other man,” so to speak.

• • •

There seems to be two main kinds of cheating: physical and emotional. Say you go out to the bar one night, you knock back a few, then wake up in a stranger’s bed. You regret it, but it happened. You cheated on your partner for purely physical reasons. On the other hand, people who create bonds and lives with other people behind a partner’s back, that’s an example of cheating emotionally.

Why does it happen? That’s the important question. I had been mulling it over and felt like I needed some additional viewpoints. So, I went to the Facebook and asked that simple question. I got a wide variety of responses from an even wider variety of people in my life; everybody from high school and college friends, former and current co-workers, a few Tinder matches, and more.

Below is a sampling of their answers, some of which have been edited for clarity:

Insecurities in both themselves and their relationships as well as an inability to communicate with their partner/partners.

I think we live in a throw away society. If something newer or better comes along people have to have it. When it gets hard… people don’t wanna work for it. You are a swipe away from something easier and newer.

I think people like to still know they have options since things go wrong all the time in life. I also think people cheating can be a symptom of them being unhappy in their relationship but they’re so afraid of being alone or not finding someone else if they leave the relationship they stay in it and end up tempting fate. There’s so much pressure, society treats being single like it used to treat having leprosy and people as a whole don’t like to break norms by stepping away. Think every problem has to be worked through when sometimes you need to just give up for your own good

Because we’re trained to need constant attention.

Insecurities, selfishness, deep, underlying issues such as their upbringing or mental stability, a need isn’t being filled… but ultimately a lack of respect. They feel as if their partner is not worthy of mutual respect, and so why should they bother at any level? I also believe it’s a cop out. If someone doesn’t have the guts to end a relationship then they will cheat instead.

Our entire society tells people to be monogamous and stay together, and when someone isn’t feeling it anymore there isn’t a great support there for ending it in a healthy manner. People become afraid and don’t end it, and eventually the temptation is too great.

At the first time a problem happens, instead of working it out, they just give up.

I also think there can be a level of manipulation, and power/abuse at play. Cheating or threatening to cheat can be a powerful weapon/tool in getting your partner to do what you want, even if it’s not what they want. I don’t think this is always the case but it can’t be ignored.

You are so used to the person you’re with that someone new is exciting.

Going to concur with what was said about society pushing monogamy on folks. I think it is a lot of pressure to assume that a person can get EVERYTHING they need out of a partner from one other person. What relationship can live up to that? But we feel ownership over our partners and they over us, so not enough people are willing to say “Hey, I really enjoy this about you but I also need this other thing and that’s okay.” Whatever other problems are underlying — that they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by ending things, that they DO want to cause their partner pain (which like ew, but it’s a thing), that they like the novelty of something new — it all comes down to feeling like monogamy is the only option in terms of relationships.

• • •

Is there any conclusive answer? It seems like that dreaded “C-word” keeps coming up: communication. Talking things through does tend to fix most issues in life. Why do you think people cheat? Share some stories or offer a theory in the comments section, check me out on Twitter, message me on Facebook, or shoot an email to chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com if you’re so inclined.

By Chris Slater

When my mom was helping me move into an apartment in Luray, Virginia back in 2015, she pulled out a small picture frame and gave me a puzzled look. She held it up, looking for an explanation. In the frame was a dirty-looking $1 bill. I shrugged and said, “Oh, it’s nothing. Just something I felt like keeping.” I didn’t feel like explaining one of my deepest personal motivators to make something of myself and my life. She sat it down without any follow up questions, and then began going on about how I needed curtains and that my walls needed painting.

dollar
We need to go back. [Insert Sophia voice] “Picture it: Princeton, West Virginia, 2012.”

I was 25 years old and in the midst of my “woe is me” phase. Things weren’t going great. I was getting the occasional freelance writing gig here and there, but nothing consistent or fulfilling. I had just ended my glamorous life of being a manager at Pizza Hut and was now entering the glamorous world of waiting tables at Outback Steakhouse.

pizzaI eventually got pretty good at it. I could have been a great server, but I hated the job. So, I became lazy. I realized that I could operate at like 60 percent and still be a competent server and make enough money to pay my bills. I worked smart, not hard, so I didn’t exert myself any harder than I ever needed to.

When I was still new to the job, and not quite as jaded, I had a table of four people and two babies. Six, as some would call it. Two couples, and they both each had a small child. In my chit-chat with them, I found out that the two men were coal miners. I wasn’t experienced enough for a red flag to go off in my head.

What I later learned, when looking at what we call “good customers” and “bad customers,” there are two kinds of people who stick out as particularly bad: religious people coming to eat Sunday lunch after church, and coal miners. A lot of it is based on their attitude and how much money they leave as a tip.

These two coal miners were running me around, not really being pleasant to me, and pressured me to break a rule for them: you could only order one alcoholic beverage at a time, but they kept on me about letting them each get two beers at a time. Appetizers, main courses, desserts, drinks: they got a lot of stuff. Their bill was more than $150. They paid, they left, and I breathed a sigh of relief since that stressful situation was now over. I had worked hard, earned my money, and hoped they understood that.

If we’re going by the traditional rules of tipping, I should have expected somewhere between $15 and $30 as a bare minimum. If they really liked me, then I should get more. I was never a greedy server; I would have been happy with $15 or $20.

As I was cleaning the table, I saw a blackened, crumpled up bill to the side of a plate. Excited, I sat down in the booth and picked up the bill. The elation was gone as I realized it was $1. For all of that work, I received a coal-stained, one dollar bill.

I went home that night and thought about my place in life. I stared at the dollar bill and wondered what I was doing with myself. That dollar made me angry. It made me hate myself for what I did; waiting tables is really whoring yourself out in a non-sexual way for money. I was putting on this fake persona and pretending to be happier than I was, just so people would throw some money my way. I did that, and these people didn’t even hold up their end of the bargain after the services were rendered.

I like to use my anger to motivate me. That’s what I decided to do here. That dollar bill was going to stay with me forever. I literally framed it. Every single time I looked at that frame, I got angry and motivated to do something with my life. It took longer than I wanted, but it eventually happened. One of my personal goals in life was to one day be able to look at a server and say “I know what you’re going through,” and not “I’m going through the same thing.”

A lot of people stick around in jobs like that, and life situations that they’re not happy with because they lack motivation. I could have easily gotten stuck in my pattern of “feel mopey, wait tables, self medicate with a bottle at night, repeat the process.” Instead, I put the bottle down, kind of, and began feeling less mopey. I formulated my end goal and what I wanted, and then I went out and made it happen.

In college, Dr. Parker introduced me to the P’s — proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. That’s a fancy way to say figure out what you want to do and make a plan so it will happen.

Anybody can do it. You can do it.

• • •

And that’s where we leave it for this installment. How did you motivate yourself to achieve a goal? Does using your anger seem like a good technique or borderline unhealthy? Do you have any other suggestions for those needing help? Leave a comment, throw me a tweet, get at me on Facebook, or send an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

By Chris Slater

I’m laying in bed one morning a couple summers ago as my phone rings. It’s my mom. I’d better answer, or I’ll never hear the end of it.

After we exchange pleasantries and get the basic information out of the way, there’s a pause. I fill it with information I learned a couple days earlier: “Did you hear Kelly is pregnant?”

kelly1My mom squeals with excitement. Kelly is my old high school and college girlfriend. The first girl I dated, first girl I held hands with, first girl I kissed, first… well, you get the idea. From the age of 15 until 23, we were together and inseparable. At that point, talking to my mom on the phone, Kelly and I were both 29 and friendly.

I knew what was coming from my mom, and luckily she can’t see me roll my eyes over the phone.
“Oooohhhh, that could have been your kid,” she blabbered on. “You know, this is probably the closest I’m going to get to be a grandmother. Why don’t you want kids?”

I would tell you the rest of the conversation, but it’s at that point I stopped listening.

• • •

I’ve been a bit of an anomaly with my friends and loved ones, in the sense that I’ve never wanted to get married or have children. I don’t know if that’s a selfish thing. I’m not one of those “career first” hyper-motivated types. I’m literally the laziest, least-driven person in the history of people. I’m honestly shocked every day that I get of of bed.

Maybe it is selfish? I don’t like living with other people, and I don’t like kids. Does that sound selfish? I guess if you look at the broad idea of marriage, it’s a good thing. Why wouldn’t I want to split all of my bills, get a tax break, have a warm body to cuddle with on a cold night, and so on? Then I actually look at what I’ve experienced in my life, and I don’t know if I’ve ever interacted with a married couple who was truly happy and enjoyed their lives together. I’m sure they exist somewhere, but I’ve only seen divorce, anger, and resentment.

With that said, I’m never one to assume. You know what they say about people who do that. In this space, we’ll look at the pros and cons of marriage and having kids. Maybe it’ll change my mind.

Marriage

Pro: Tax Break. Depending on how the arrangement works, you could wind up either paying less to the government, or getting more back each spring. I’m a fan of money.

Con: Somebody is always there. When you’re married, you live with another person and share a bedroom with them. Their stuff will be in the bathroom next to yours. Just seems like a lot of clutter to me.

Pro: Wedding presents. There’s going to be a ceremony with all eyes on you. There might even be an open bar. And, people will buy you stuff. Probably not stuff you need, but it’s still better than nothing.

Con: You probably can’t have sex with other people. Most people in a traditional marriage believe in monogamy. ‘Til death do you part (or until you get a divorce). That means you are beholden to that one person for the rest of your life (or until you get a divorce). That doesn’t seem very fun.

Pro: Split the bills. It would be nice to only pay half of my rent each month. Somebody else contributing funds to the overall bottom line is a great idea in theory.

Kids

Pro: Continue your lineage. Ancestry dot com is pretty cool to look at, and you wouldn’t want to be the reason your family tree ends.

Con: They’re so loud. Like, really, have you heard loud kids? They’re the worst. Crying, happy, excited, scared, it’s always so loud.

Pro: Somebody to do chores. I’m sure my mom was so excited when I was old enough to start vacuuming the carpets and scooping the cat litter. And, I wouldn’t mind laying back and relaxing while somebody else took out the trash.

Con: Germs. Kids will touch anything, and then touch anything some more. They eventually get old enough to wash their hands regularly, but even that isn’t a given.

Pro: No more prying. People telling you to have kids finally leave you alone.

Con: Responsibility. Kids are a lot of work. And time. And money. And energy.

• • •

kelly2In February 2017, I was living in Luray, Virginia and working at the newspaper there. I had applied at the newspaper here in Charleston. So, I came in for the interview – spoiler: I got the job – and then spent the weekend with my mom in Princeton.

She was asking about Kelly and if I’ve seen the baby. I hadn’t seen Kelly since one night in 2014 when we randomly walked past each other on Mercer Street and caught up for a few minutes. We text often enough to know what’s going on in each others lives. She had previously sent me a few pictures of her baby and told me to forward them to my mom.

I send Kelly a text letting her know I’m in town and if she wants to bring the baby over so my mom can see it.

Kelly comes over with months-old Elizabeth. She and I tell old inside jokes from college while my mom holds the baby and talks about how amazing and beautiful it is, even though it’s just sitting there being a baby.

My mom again talks about how she’ll never be a grandmother. Kelly agrees with her. And so do I. I’m going to be a content old man living a solitary, childless life. And I couldn’t be happier.

• • •

Do you have kids and think I made some good points? Married and think my views are insane? Or just an undecided person who thought I made some good points for and against both? Let everybody know. Leave a comment on the blog, find me on Facebook, slide into my DM’s on Twitter, or send me an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

And, hey… thanks for reading.