Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/ This American Life Review: Infidelity

Infidelity is a topic that we generally approach from the same perspective as Patsy Kline, determined to catch and skewer the cheating heart. But in this oldie, Ira looks at the taboo unlike most. Read More

By / May 25, 2011
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Infidelity is a topic that we generally approach from the same perspective as Patsy Kline, determined to catch and skewer the cheating heart. But in this oldie, Ira looks at the taboo unlike most.

Jessica Pressler, who blogs for New York Magazine, hit up the phenomenon she found in the NYT Vows column in her blog, remarking that it was pretty remarkable that many of the sugary tales included the detail that “Their road to finding each other was a bumpy road,” these bumps of course being the people on whom they had to cheat to be with eachother when they had been. Ira reflects, “Somehow the notion ‘I had an affair’ means nothing to them.” The TAL critical point that instigates the episode’s hourlong jump into the untrue abyss is this: that were these details of cheating hearts disclosed in any other section in the respectable Times, wouldn’t that quality journalism be seeking out the perspective of the cheated on? So, of course, please believe, they go there. So prepare for the episode that is the lovechild of Arnold’s lovechild (looking ore like that of Ira Glass and Dan Savage), bringing a juicy, candid vibe to a largely untouched perspective on the non-monogamous heart in Infidelity.

Act 1: It just didn’t occur to me that she would love anybody other than George

Something about the topic of liaisons beyond the focus on the family is unsurprisingly taking us outside of the United States to the wasteland of freed libidos that is Europe. All of the acts succeed in getting some honest perspectives unbound for a minute by morals.

One big happy English family. It is as Woody Allen illuminated in his latest: when asked if a man could love two women, a French tourguide replies positively, that it is different kinds of love a he might have for different individuals–that perhaps Europeans are more evolved. The best part is the angle of this act: it is reported from the perspective of Ruby Wright, the daughter of the family in which her mother fluidly fell into an affair with the family friend, and proceeds to move out, and regretably turns into a lonely island outside of her domain. The dropped spark and lack of effort, demonstrated by her husband’s falling off the sexual wagon with his wife, left niches open to be filled. And keeping this in mind allows for a fresh unabashed look at nonmonogamy that reveals an unceasing of the individual pursuit of happiness through it all, proving that something very primitive, and yet so American in the unconscious, will make sacrifces in the name of that freedom.

Act 2: She looked like a profiterole, my favorite dessert

Ira’s ma is genetically programmed to be a valuable source of analysis to society just like her son. In this episode, her psychological research that culminated in her book, Not Just Friends exposed many trends on infidelity. Particularly, she found that “tons of people will have affairs, even though they’re happy in their marriage.”

In other news, another Eurolux woman facilitates a very dangerous setup for her American boy on their Eurotrip. Indecisive James Braley traveling with German Susan ends up frolicking naked with French hot mamas with little to stop him in the way of jealousy from his otherwise enculturated girlfriend. Braley’s Moth monologue conveys the dilemma of one man as his monogamous pretenses set up to fail as plainly as a high school Jew before a row of scrutinizing Soviet schoolteachers who already think he’s a moron.

The way that Braley travels with safety net travel books reflects the way that he mates: “I needed to go to the right place, and I have a pathological terror of going to the wrong place.” This American sensibility later resurfaces with: “I got bearclaws to hide and promises to keep.” In the end, he is a good boy, which surprises him. But given the contextualizing clues, we saw it coming.

Act 3: With every bone in my body I trusted that Lenny Klein was telling me the truth

From the mistress’s perspective, we watch a younger Dani Shapiro get swept up with sugardaddy lawyer with sad clown story that takes her logic on a rollercoaster ride that is more surreal than a pipe. Every so often, married man’s lie’s danced on her cognitive plane, allowing her to conclude that, given his successful career etc, “He lied with an almost evangelical conviction.” In efforts to make it feel better, it sure is easy to make it hurt more if your attention is elsewhere. Complicated, high drama choices lead to broken-hearted sugarbabies. The harmony they are aiming for seemed just out of reach for the reason that expectations were not being managed, using a currency (Cartier) that doesn’t evenly exchange for the emotions they are buying.

Taking the highroad beyond that of the embittered fiftysomething woman clawing the eyes out of the babygirls eating up the demographic of men they righteously regard as reserved for themselves, we might learn something in this act from the Lilo-esque perspective of the girl with a heart to be had for the wolves. A real Hedy Lamarr.

Act 4: I also have a travel agent named Eric; he’d lie for me too

Our wandering climax comes with Etgar Keret’s story that tails yet another perspective, this time that of the cheating man on the go. The requisite alternate reality he must build expertly for his attentive audience, his wife, and really himself for sanity’s sake, is stylistically conveyed in Keret’s novel narrative. “Just listening to him, I could tell that this was a hole that, even if i dug my way out of, it would be to a different reality.” That might be a general rule in individual pursuits of happiness where we allow ourselves to reevaluate midcourse.