Over the past couple of weeks, people have been talking about little else other than Central Intelligence Agency head David Petraeus' extramarital affair. In case you missed it, the CIA's head spook was sneaking around with a younger woman who was writing his biography, and he got caught.
At first glance, this story doesn't have a lot to teach your average guy out there. It's pretty unlikely you're ever going to work for the CIA. (Be honest. You can't even keep a neighborhood secret, let alone a national one.) And chances are, nobody is going to write your biography. (Face it. Your life is not worth reading about. Nobody's going to buy a book that talks about how you forgot to get trash bags and came up with the idea of using grocery bags, or how the highlight of your week was finding a $5 bill in an old pair of jeans.) The real lesson here, guys, is that if you cheat on your spouse today, you're going to get caught.
It was different in the old days. From what I understand (at least from watching AMC's "Mad Men") back then guys were running around all the time on their spouses, going out for expensive cocktails and checking into hotels. When they did get home, they'd tell their wives that they were "working late."
These days, your wife knows what you do at the office, which is not much. You can't exactly claim you have to work late when you had time during the day to send everybody you know that YouTube video of a dog dancing to salsa music. And today, your wife is probably working, too, and working longer hours than you are, and as a result probably wants to know why you don't have dinner started by the time she gets home.
A bigger problem is that mistresses cost money, which is something that most men these days don't have. Your wife is probably going to be OK, for instance, with the fact that you got a Groupon for half off dinner, but your mistress is going to lose interest pretty quickly.
The biggest problem is that no matter what you do these days, you're going to leave a paper trail. You can't send an email (well, you could, but you'd have to make sure you deleted it forever, and half the time you don't know how to get your computer to turn on, let alone delete stuff), and you can't call your mistress on your cell phone because it will be on your cell phone bill, which is so convoluted it's longer than your mortgage.
And a lot of men have affairs because they think it will make them feel younger. That may be the case, but anybody else can tell you that it just makes you look older. Nobody looks at an old guy with a younger woman and says, "Hey, they make a good couple!" They say things like "I'll bet he's rich!" or "Wonder if she's in his will?" Nobody ever thought of old Dave Petraeus as old Dave Petraeus till they found out he was running around with a woman 20 years younger than he was.
The most common rationale for men having affairs with younger women is that they suddenly realize they're in middle age and are going to die. It's kind of ironic, because other than taking a radio into the tub or tying a steak around your neck and taunting a grizzly bear, there are few surer ways to get killed than getting caught with a younger woman.
We hear all the time that famous people go to prison so that they can be a lesson to the rest of us. If old Dave Petraeus wanted to be a real public servant, he wouldn't just disappear into obscurity. He'd go out every single day, following behind his wife at the mall or supermarket with a hang-dog look, while every once in a while she'd glance back and give him "the look." The look is a stare that says, "You are in the dog house and might be in the dog house for the rest of your life, so get used to it."
Then, when other guys who were approaching middle age saw this public spectacle, they'd get a chill down their spine. The next time a younger woman looked at them (which, guys, isn't really going to happen unless you're rich and/or powerful, and unfortunately for you, you are not either of those things) they'd go running home, but not before stopping at a florist and maybe a store that sells really nice chocolates.
When the head of the CIA is giving you good intel on a very serious threat to the homeland, you have to take preemptive action.
Homemaking is a column about the people, projects and pride that make a house a home. Peter McKay, a Ben Avon resident, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To see past columns, go to www.post-gazette.com. Contact him at www.peter-mckay.com.