The Perfect Affair (Part II)

In my last post, I proposed a philosophy of extreme prudishness in response to my fondness for affairs. In this post, I would like to explain why this is a reasonable response.

As I said, I enjoy (reading about) affairs when their forbidden nature proves their passion. Given the value I place on that passion, I would like to construct my life in such a way that I have a chance at finding a similar degree of it. Modern American society does little to help in this regard: given how easy and socially inexpensive it is to pursue any sort of romantic involvement, it is difficult to know that doing so is more than just a whim. Even if you think that you would risk life and limb for someone, you can’t really be sure unless being with them actually constitutes some risk.
A friend of mine recently suggested that bachelor parties should inflict pain upon the groom, to ensure that he only marries if he really loves the woman in question. I agree with this, and believe we should extend the same attitude to dating and falling in love. Although these things are all good, they would be much better if they were more socially expensive, because we would not then pursue them so frivolously.
The affairs in Madame Bovary are not exciting, precisely because the characters are sticking to the script rather than stepping outside of it for their love. In the same way, our permissive and risk-averse hookup culture strips all romantic significance from our actions.
In writing this post I invite everyone to mock me mercilessly if I ever demonstrate mushy sentiments, appear to be in love, or marry. This is not a declaration that I will never do these things, or that if I do, I will do them in a more sincere or passionate way than anyone else; however, I do hope that this minor social cost will discourage me from cultivating mediocre romances merely out of loneliness or boredom. I’m sure I will regret this invitation, but hopefully, it will at least prove an interesting social experiment.

Continue reading The Perfect Affair (Part II)

The Perfect Affair: Lessons from Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary (Part I)

Despite being a total prude, I will readily admit to seeing the appeal of a steamy (literary) extramarital affair. Don’t get me wrong – this is not to say that I think cheating is permissible or that I plan to have an affair; rather, I simply acknowledge that something about an illicit affair is conducive to a good love story. (And based on all of trash literature, it seems that a sizable niche agrees with me.) What’s more, I believe that by examining the appeal of an affair, it’s possible to discover how to better conduct our own lives.

In the typical story, a rule-abiding protagonist is trapped in a loveless marriage or relationship, and finds an escape from it in some forbidden love. This situation clearly attests to the passion which drives the affair, for the conscientious protagonist would not engage in such an ill-advised venture without an overwhelming emotion motivating it. Alternatively, if the affair itself isn’t particularly noteworthy, it can be a testament to the horror of the relationship the protagonist is trying to escape. Although we never envy the protagonist’s hopeless situation, (Anna Karenina, anyone?) the affair’s appeal accentuates our desire for sincere passion, and our aversion to settling for boring, passionless relationships.

Although counterintuitive, I believe that extreme prudishness provides the best chance at finding a passionate and lasting relationship whilst avoiding the horrors either of passionless entrapment or of an illicit affair. Here, by extreme prudishness, I do not mean fear of sex, unwillingness to discuss sex, or any other form of “ladylike” behavior. Instead, I propose a form of restraint which, instead of aimed at sexiness, is designed to oppose the physical and emotional cultivation of romance.

This does not entail any specific rules such as “no premarital kissing” or “thou shalt not declare thy love before the 7th date.” It would, however, oppose these things when done for the sake of cultivating romance. So if I suspect that a particular action, for instance kissing, would dramatically increase my fondness for someone, I should try to avoid such behavior.

(To be continued…)
Continue reading The Perfect Affair: Lessons from Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary (Part I)

Futbol and Fidelity


This is the second in a series of posts about the 2010 World Cup.

Although by now the World Cup is likely a distant memory for most, the name of  Landon Donovan hopefully still rings a faint bell. Before the U.S. crashed out of the tournament in a frustrating loss to Ghana, Donovan was the hero of the hour (see miraculous injury-time goal over Algeria here), representing America’s hopes and dreams for World Cup glory with his talent as well as leadership on the field.

It came as a dull disappointment, then, to read in the midst of all the World Cup excitement that Donovan, who has been separated (but not divorced) from his wife Bianca for about a year, was accused by a British woman of being the father of her unborn child. Donovan’s response, while disappointing insofar as it confirmed his behavior with this woman, was surprisingly mature: he publicly promised to provide the appropriate support if, after tests, the child proved to be his.

Soon after the World Cup ended, it was announced that Landon Donovan was not the father after all. In addition, it appeared that he was in the process of reconciling with his wife, and I along with other Donovan fans could breathe more easily. For me, it is always such a disappointment to discover that a talented soccer star whom I greatly respect and admire is involved in sordid scandal, and I had hoped it would not be the case with Donovan. Only recently, the great John Terry of England was involved in a messy affair with the wife of a good friend and fellow teammate, and Franck Ribery of France was charged with soliciting under-age prostitution. Here, while Donovan’s behavior was far from a shining standard of fidelity or self-control, my respect for him can remain mainly intact: although I certainly wish that he would lead a lifestyle of complete integrity, I am glad that he acted maturely when the time came to take responsibility for his actions, as so few athletes of his kind do in similar situations. To Landon Donovan I would say: thank you for your incredible leadership during the World Cup, good luck in Brazil 2014, and here’s to hoping for a happy and lasting reunion with your wife!