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Comments: June 2, 2008

Readers sound off on infidelity, the occupational hazards of subway trackworkers, and more.


1. In the great torrent of invective and rage that rained down on Philip Weiss for his personal exploration of male infidelity (The Affairs of Men,” May 26), there were a few brave souls who dared to defend the author. “This is a piece that attempts to explore underlying impulses, desires, restraints, feelings, love, and commitments in the American marriage,” wrote one sympathetic reader. “It’s not a manifesto on infidelity.” Another wrote, “The majority of the critical comments here betray tremendous hostility toward male sexuality, and a desire to ‘wish away’ the fact that large numbers of men always have sought, and always will seek, sex outside of marriage. The article may have its flaws, but I for one appreciate the author’s courage in writing about this topic in such an honest fashion.” Those views, however, were in the distinct minority, as Weiss took it from all comers—married women, unmarried women, divorced women, polyamorous women, even a couple of men who, lest they be lumped in with Weiss, chose this forum to declare their love and unwavering fidelity to their wives. Occasionally, the comments turned confessional, as if were Cheaters Anonymous. There was also a lot of advice dispensed. What Weiss really needs, prescribed a male reader, is more self-control. “I’m attracted to various women who aren’t my wife. But I’m also attracted by nice sports cars I can’t afford, irritated by disagreeable people, occasionally bored by my job, uninspired by the notion of wiping my 3-year-old child’s ass after he poops, and offended by much of Islamic theology. As a practical matter, I do not cheat on my wife, steal cars, kill disagreeable people, fail to show up for work, neglect my child, or burn down mosques. Isn’t that the whole idea behind being a member of a society with rules for behavior?” As if it were any of her business, another commenter counseled Weiss’s wife: “Divorce him, pronto!” Some wanted him punished for his views—“You, sir, do not deserve to get laid ever again”—and one reader who claimed to have “attractive friends” vowed that neither she nor any of them would ever fall for an older married guy like Weiss. In the more substantive arena, a few commenters attempted to debunk Weiss’s high opinion of the European approach to marriage, where mistresses are common. “Legendary European ‘sophistication’ is rooted in a profoundly cynical view of the opposite sex, society, and the world. Under all the bravura about easier sex mores, Europeans are just as lonely, unsure, confused, and desirous of the ultimate affair as the average American, if not more.” But in the sheer number of comments (more than 200 at press time) and the astonishing length of many of them, one point was clearly made: There was intense interest in Weiss’s candid treatment of the subject, whether you liked it or not. Even detractors couldn’t help themselves. “I feel like such an ass,” said one, “for reading the whole thing.” Though we prefer to let readers have the last word after a story has been published, we asked Weiss about his emotional reaction to the comments. “A lot of it seems venomous to me, but I know I asked for it. I am sorry to those women who found it sexist. I tried to soften my rough edges. But I’m an essentialist: I think there’s a difference. The point was to stand in a guy’s shoes here. Vive la différence! Can I hear an echo?”

2. Jennifer Gonnerman’s story about the occupational hazards of subway trackworkers (Blood on the Tracks,” May 12) drew several admiring letters—“I will never ride the trains again without thinking of the brave, hardworking trackworkers,” wrote one—as well as a note of gratitude from a trackworker: “We work alone. Often, oncoming trains whiz by and clearing up in time (if there is a place to clear up) becomes a matter of life and death. There must be a better way than simply dodging trains, but that is exactly what we do on a regular basis. Thank you for listening.”

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