Arts & Culture

Married People Have Three Kinds of Affairs

From: Elizabeth Wurtzel To: Ben Karlin This is a picture of my dog. I live with her. I do not live with the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. I do not live with the 1986 New York Mets. I have never been … Read More

By / May 2, 2008

From: Elizabeth Wurtzel To: Ben Karlin

This is a picture of my dog. I live with her. I do not live with the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. I do not live with the 1986 New York Mets. I have never been a Communist. I have never voted for a Republican. Just thought you should know.

 

From: Ben Karlin To: Elizabeth Wurtzel

I am really proud of the fact that I have no idea what a “Birkin bag” is. I assume it is a handbag and that it is not made by the same people who make the sandals. I think that’s "birken" – and I guess I am also proud I don’t know how to spell that….and am too lazy to take the 3.2 seconds to look it up on the computer.

In many respects, this is the equivalent of you not getting the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates reference – which was a team known as “The Family.” They adopted Sister Sledge’s “We are Family” as their theme song and went on to win the World Series with Willie “Pops” Stargell and the pitcher with the baddest-ass looking glasses and delivery in baseball history.

I love that guy.

I am working on a movie right now and it’s about someone who lives in the shadow of his parent’s really bad divorce. Like, even though he is an adult and on his own, it still colors everything he does. And early on he brags to a friend about having never cheated on a girlfriend. (His dad has cheated on all his wives) And the friend tells him that he is an emotional cheater. He gets bored and cheats emotionally, which is basically the same thing.

But it is and it isn’t. Like, there are three levels to an affair:

  1. Thinking about it, wanting it, but not acting on it in any way
  2. Thinking about it, wanting it, talking about it with the person, but stopping short of physically consummating it.
  3. Thinking abut it, wanting it, and doing it. (“It” here referring to frottage.)

They are all affairs and carry consequence, emotional and otherwise, but my strong feeling is #1 and even #2 can be forgiven. We are flawed. And sometimes even #3 can be forgiven – but not really. I mean, people forgive affairs all the time – and maybe if I was writing this from the perspective of a 65-year-old instead of 36, I would be more kind to cheaters. But I kind of think you can’t justify messing around on someone you have made a commitment to. Unless of course, the relationship is already over and it just hasn’t collapsed yet. Then the affair is basically just punctuation. Dirty, dirty punctuation.

I’m not sure any of this equation is relative to nerdlingers talking about it all theoretical and shit on a website.

Now I am realizing that I kind of evaded your question. Do I do this? Well, there was definitely a time in my life when I felt at ease flirting with people, in print and in person, when I was otherwise engaged. I think even when I was actually otherwise engaged. But since I got married, not so much. I wish I could say this is because of gallantry or some other such romantic ideal – and maybe there is a tiny part of it that is driven by that impulse – but I think it has more to do with guilt and the whole Golden Rule thing.

I re-wrote this last part a lot, torn between being totally honest and the realization that upwards of 67 other people may be reading it. I wonder if it’s possible to forget them. Make this a Method exercise. Probably not. Fuckin’ Heisenberg.

Ben

Next: Birkin Bags, Yale Law School, and the perils of hipster Brooklyn