Lost and found

by Rob Tiller

It is such a bummer to find after you’ve checked out of a hotel that you’ve left something significant behind. Earlier this week when I was in New York I left my copy of Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart at the hotel. I liked his book Absurdistan, and I liked this one even better. It’s funny as well as sad. A fortyish hipster falls absurdly in love with a twentyish college grad in a not-far-in-the-future-world where corporations have pretty much taken over governmental functions, people are tightly tethered to their electronic devices, and reading literature is a sign of decrepitude.

I had about 60 pages of Shteyngart’s book left, which I’d planned to finish on the flight home. It doesn’t make sense to buy a new copy. I can live without the ending — I think. Still, after being deep in Shteyngart’s dystopia, I’ve got this sensation of interruptus.

I heard from Gabe that a lot of snow is falling in Telluride, which is vital news, since I’ll be skiing there in a couple of weeks. It will be my first chance to meet his girlfriend, who has gotten rave reviews. They recently decided to move in together, so things are moving along. It could be serious.

Relationships are always changing, though they do so at widely varying speeds. How they work is mostly invisible, which is one of the reasons we still need good fiction: it sometimes brings that hidden interpersonal world to light. I feel so lucky to have a really good marriage, but for a variety of reasons I am not inclined to delve into the details. I think the need for privacy is often exaggerated, but there are some things that lose their essential nature if they aren’t kept safely out of sight. And a strong, loving relationship is the most valuable thing in the world.

There was a really interesting essay last Sunday in the NY Times style section about what happens when one spouse cheats on another. http://tiny.cc/bquj8 The essay by Wendy Plump posits that misery will be created in a highly predictable way. The cheating spouse will be pulled back and forth between two worlds, of responsibility and pleasure, in a way that causes him or her extreme stress and discontentment in both worlds. The other spouse will eventually find out and feel traumatized. The cheating spouse will make true-but-hackneyed excuses (about needs not being met, losing the spark, and the like). The net is a destruction of trust and quite possibly the end of a relationship. The predictability of this course of events is hard to prove, but the essay gives personal examples that resonate.

The importance of honesty and commitment in relationships is something everybody knows, but the same may be said of the importance of eating healthy food. We all know a good deal about what’s healthy and not, but just knowing is not enough to affect our behavior. We need the ideas to become more concrete and vivid. I think I’d arrived at most of the ideas in Wendy Plump’s essay, but I’m glad she organized it in an interesting, touching way and made me keep thinking about them.