Chapter 3

No Clairvoyants Need Apply

More Perfect Unions

April 4, 2001

“Do you love him?”


“Was it better with him?”


“Then why did you do it?”

“Who knows?”

—Jean Anouilh, Don’t Wake Mother

The subject was not roses. The subject was thorns: adultery, a staple of French literature . . . and perhaps French life.

“You seem shocked,” said Sylvie last week. “Don’t women in America cheat on their husbands?” We were reading a novel by Maupassant. I read out loud. Sylvie, a young woman who teaches yoga as well as French, corrects my pronunciation.

In the passage we were reading, a woman takes up with another man when her husband is out of town. In fact, she rents an apartment so they can conduct their liaison without being disturbed.

“I am not so much shocked by what they are doing,” I replied, “as by the deliberate way they are doing it.”

“I suspect that people in America are not so different,” was her response.

“No, American women would agonize and feel more guilt. They would need to talk to psychologists and counselors.”

“We French,” answered Sylvie, “prefer to save our suffering for Hell.”

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