This Is Us

The Affair I Didn’t Have

Instead of cheating, I decided to make myself into more of what I desired

Katy Friedman Miller
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readNov 30, 2020

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Person’s hands holding a lit match.
Photo: Azahar Adnan/EyeEm/Getty Images

I’d been married eight years when Brian sat next to me at a writers’ workshop. I didn’t know his name was Brian then… I didn’t know him at all. Being new to the workshop, I’d taken my own seat in the circle of writers, and busied myself by reading through the stack of writing samples I’d been given when I walked in. With my eyes down, I saw his cowboy boots first. That caused me to look up slightly at this man who, staying true to form, also wore some kind of jacket that I guessed was called a duster. His face, again in character — handsome and weathered. Improbably, no cowboy hat, but a full head of good hair. I felt heat coming off him.

Could that be heat be coming off him?

Hold on. What was happening? It felt like a bubble of heat between us.

“Howdy, ma’am,” he said.

No, he didn’t say that. That’s what he said in my imagination. But, he did make eye contact and smile hello. And if a gut feeling could speak a sentence, the sentence in me in that moment would have been, “Katy, it looks like you might be in trouble.”

I’d only experienced instant attraction like that once before. I’d gotten into an elevator with a man who lived in my building. We were young enough that I still have the urge to call him a boy. I looked at him and thought things like “fate” and “lips.” It turned out to be just as big a mess as you’d think it would be because I had a boyfriend at the time. Whatever this thing is called — lust or attraction — it was too alluring for me to skip out on in my twenties.

That’s part of the reason why I’d never fool myself into believing I could never have an affair. I didn’t want to have an affair. I had a lot of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and even judgments around extramarital affairs, but I never thought I was too good for one. Given the right circumstances, most people are capable of betrayal. I figured I should be honest with myself always and try to avoid “the right circumstances.”

In the middle of the workshop, Brian wrote a note on his packet of papers, tore it off, and handed it to me. His note said, “If Nancy corrects one…

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Katy Friedman Miller
Human Parts

I’m a grief therapist and former hospice social worker. Sharing stories from life, death, and work and where they all intersect. TEDx talk at www.ted.com