That's the gist of it this morning. I don't feel like I cheated, though I have been roundly accused of same. I have yet to admit the cheat. The incriminating evidence is inconclusive, at best. And there is no money in the budget for a forensic examination. So any alleged cheating will very likely remain unproven beyond a reasonable doubt for the foreseeable future.
And yet, the suspicion lingers in the air.
To be clear, the current dispute centers not around any sort of romantic liaison. No. Something far more serious, threatening the very underpinnings of our 25-year relationship: Food. My wife Hilary and I recently took the plunge on a new "diet." I put the word "diet" in quotes because it's not really a diet. I italicized the word "diet" just now because I want to make sure you read the word "diet" with the intended emphasis and intonation. This Whole30 thing is, to my mind, not a "diet" or a diet. It's more about reprogramming your body over the course of 30 days by ruthlessly and mercilessly stripping away all the foods that you have come to love over the course of your entire life. No cheese. No pasta. No Doritos. No croissants or Dunkin Donuts. No cream in your coffee. No hoppy beers. No beers of any hoppiness, for that matter. No rice. Etcetera, etcetera. No etcetera, I bet, if I looked that up on the verboten list. It's a rather spartan existence, the goal of which is ultimately to determine which foods are good for your particular body, and which are not. And oh by the way, if one consumes a forbidden item along the way, even accidentally, one starts all over again. On Day One. Back to zero. Thirty more days in solitary.
Sounds simple enough, and it is if one follows the rules. Still, without a doubt, it is a long slog. Objectively, it totally sucks.
I committed to this same month-long program a year ago, and our kids are likely still scarred for life, dragged along for the tortuous ride as they were. Riced cauliflower induces nightmares without fail. The boys scratch their eyes out at the sight of sweet potato hash. I am fairly convinced that my eldest has programmed our Alexa device to automatically dial Child Services if I paw at the insides of a spaghetti squash with a fork. And "zoodles" (deliberately in quotes rather than italics here) is a word that may not be spoken aloud within my sons' earshot.
Despite these atrocities visited upon my family at this time last year, the other day my wife rather casually offered to join me on a second belly-crawling trip through the desert. We started about a week ago. Turns out this thing is much easier when accompanied by another glutton for punishment. ("Glutton" is of course exactly the wrong word here. No gluttony involved, believe you me.) We have both been doing great. Keeping on the straight and narrow. True believers. Yes, evenings on the family room couch stir up painful yearnings, frequently spoken aloud, for just one Oreo or a single handful of Fritos. But these yearnings are not acted upon.
At least not intentionally acted upon.
And now we arrive at the crux of it. Yesterday, I may (or may not) have cheated. Apparently, whilst trying to stuff a commando Whole30-compliant grocery trip into the ten remaining minutes before a pediatrician appointment, I may (or may not) have committed a serious and unforgivable error. The familiar, oblong almond milk bottle I grabbed by the neck and shoved in my bag somehow lists "cane sugar" among the typed ingredients. According to the Whole30 Gospel, this may as well be marked by a skull and crossbones. A screaming alarm should have sounded on Aisle One at Cal-Mart the moment my fingers made contact with the bottle. I should have been tackled by a cadre of jumpsuit-wearing security guards. With my wrists ziptied behind my back, my panicked pleas — " The font size is too damned small! I was in a hurry! The condensation on the bottle obscured that particular item on the list!" — fall on deaf ears. It doesn't matter; this is a strict liability crime. Either you did it or you didn't.
There is no question that the offending and totally illegal item ended up in my family's refrigerator. Those two little terrifying words — canesugar — quietly and patiently ticking away like a time bomb. The question, the only question that matters, is whether or not I poured some of this radioactive material into my afternoon coffee. I simply cannot recall, what with the whole coffee thing being such a rote and mindless daily task. Frankly, if it were mischievously hidden in a container marked "Half 'n Half," I would numbly pour rat poison into my coffee. And drink it without incident. Probably do the same thing again the next day.
But again, my actual intention doesn't matter here. There is no gray area. Either I drank the cheating almond milk or I did not drink the cheating almond milk. The former — my wife's favored theory — means I have to start all over again. So I'm sticking with the latter. But I don't know how much longer I can withstand this withering cross-examination from my Doritos-deprived partner. Wish me luck.
And thanks for reading.