In defense of something I said at dinner last night

Dear Hannah,

Just recently my parents took your mom and I out to dinner, and everything was going fine until I opened my mouth.  I have a tendency to do this.  Sometimes I've been thinking about something for a long time, and when I end up speaking about it, I forget to explain it, and then I look like a monster.  I suppose next time I should make sure to explain it.  Better yet, I should keep my mouth shut.

We were speaking about marriage in general and how wonderful a good wife is -- which is when I decided to give your mother a compliment.  Grabbing her hand and taking it up to kiss it, I told her that had she been any less of a woman, I would have cheated on her a hundred times.

What I said is a hundred percent true, and thus a hundred times less necessary to say.  I've told her at least half a dozen times that if I was married to such-and-such a friend of hers, I would've been cheating on the woman all along.  I've brought my own fidelity into question regarding women I haven't even married.  I've made myself a cheat in an alternate universe.  I warned your mother when I married her that I wouldn't be married to a fat yeller.  I have kept my promise -- in my imagination.  Had I been married to any less than your mother, I suppose I would have been a real scoundrel.  Her saintliness keeps me from being a devil.

My fidelity to fidelity has long been in question -- but mostly only by me.  I have never cheated on anyone.  Despite this, from what I can tell of myself, I haven't been a fan of duty and obligation and all that sort of thing my entire life.  I even have a difficult time smiling at some people, just because I think I ought to smile at them.  I've always been a spoiled character, and excepting all the messes I've gotten myself into, I've had it relatively easy.

For instance: you've been adorable, which means it's easier for me to take care of you.  Your mother has been extremely kind and charitable and she looks good, which means I'm too comfortable with her to consider leaving.  Despite my being in the most persecuted religion (at least, globally), I haven't had anyone threaten my life -- my sincerity thus remains unchallenged, although I've had someone threaten my job.  I've never been to war, which means I've never found out whether I'm brave.  In short, my dedication to principle has been tested in a few things, but in none of the ways that are really difficult.  I wonder whether I would have been worse had I been born into less -- or what I would have done as a king, and been born with too much.  Most of us can pretend about how well we'd do if we were in difficult circumstances.  Those of us with any sense know that we can go either way.  I've become much less judgmental about cheaters when the cheating is easy and their marriage is difficult.  I never changed my mind about the principle.  The circumstances changed on me.

It's interesting to note that in the book of Matthew, Jesus says He knows where we'd have gone had we been in difference circumstances.  He said that if He'd sent prophets to Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have repented a long time ago.  The first thing I wonder is why He didn't send anyone there in the first place.  The second thing I wonder is how much of a tally He's keeping on an imaginary me.  For His own part, His imaginary me might be just as real as the me who's writing to you now.  He knows where I'll go if I'm pressed too hard.  Maybe He knew where Sodom and Gomorrah would have gone had they been led in any number of different directions.  This is why I think I'm still a Christian -- because I'm not always so concerned about what I've done as who I am and what I might do.  And I'm always apologizing to God because of it.

Your father,