Cheating Vs. Screwing


Once Upon a Time . . .

...there was a TV show called Ask E. Jean. It was a daily frolic that Entertainment Weekly called “America’s Answering Machine.” Every afternoon at 4pm, dear Reader, you could tune in and watch a 50-year-old woman in a short Donna Karen skirt jumping up and down on a sofa and yelling at her guests till they agreed to follow her advice. It was so mad, so nearly popular that it ran not only at 4pm, but—again—at 11pm! Anyway, this was in the mid-90’s, my boss was Roger Ailes, and one day an outraged husband visited Roger—this is two years before Roger invented Fox News, went on assaulting blondes who worked for him, and began clearing the way for Donald Trump to become president—the angry husband visited Roger and complained that Ask E. Jean was “ruining” his marriage and “offending God.”

Roger defended me.

(This, alas, is not a video of Roger defending me. I’m just slapping this link in here cuz it’s about “talk shows” and “marriage,” and my hair has never looked better.)

And now that I think of it, I may have been out of line if Roger Ailes came to my defense; but I tell you all this to warn you that I am about to present a letter that ran in Elle around the same time that pissy, Bible-humping husband was complaining about me to Roger. If it were published today, I’d probably be run out of town by the CCB (Cancel Culture Banshees), expelled from Twitter, put in the stocks, and whipped by the Morals Police. Anyway, here's the letter. I would answer it differently in 2021. Wouldn’t you?

Dear E. Jean:

Please help me! I’m in love with someone I can’t have, and it’s ruining my life. I’d been married for two years when I started to pal around with a married acquaintance. We quickly became lovers and slowly fell deeply in love. We forged a steady, strong bond of love and respect and powerful sex.

He’s the head of a family and can’t bring himself to abandon them. He’s sought marriage counseling and individual therapy. We’ve broken up, stopped speaking, had tearful reunions with more driving sex, parted sadly, and gone round and round relentlessly for three years. I never, ever thought I’d find a man to whom I was so bound.

Meanwhile, my husband is smart, funny, and hardworking. We have two young children whom I adore, and I work full-time at a job I find rewarding. I’ve spent a year in therapy myself, and still I find that I spend hours a day missing this man, yearning for this man. It’s sick. I stopped having sex with my husband two years ago. First because it seemed a betrayal of my lover and of myself, and then because it became the unchallenged norm. He deserves better. I can’t have my lover, and I can’t love my husband.

I’m afraid I’ll ruin my life yearning away. I’m thirty-five years old with two toddlers, and I feel my heart has died. Where do I begin to undo this mess and find life and love and joy again? Therapy, meditation, hard work and exercise haven’t really made a dent. Please tell me exactly what to do. —In Love and In Trouble


And here’s how I replied in 1994:

Dearest in Trouble:

Nine out of ten readers (assuming I actually have ten readers) expect me to flog the mortal stuffing out of you, and then advise you to end this “sick” affair immediately—indeed, the only mystery that remains, perhaps, is how I’m going to tell you to end it. Well, those nine readers are in for a surprise (and should go back to “Dear Abby”), because I’m going to pay you the compliment of believing you’re actually in love with your lover. And if you are not free to love whom you love, what is your worth as a human being? Therefore, my darling, my advice is this: If you possess the mental strength and moral vigor to rebel against convention, do not end the affair.

Reader, my answer continued, but there’s no need to go on. Let’s pause here and say straight out: Yes, I advised the correspondent to cheat, lie, and boff her jaws off.

To understand why I gave her that advice, you need to grok what was going on in the ’90s, so I will attempt to capture the heterosexual eros and romantic icons of that long-gone era with a look at five couples:

Prince Charles and Princess Diana / 1992

Just after we all read the transcripts of the “Squidgygate tapes,” in which James Gilbey (heir to the Gilbey Gin fortune) affectionately called Diana by the names "Squidgy" and "Squidge,” the world missed its next period when transcripts of the “Camillagate tapes” revealed that Charles—the Lord Byron, er, Lord Bunion, of his generation—told Camilla Parker Bowles that he would like to “live inside your trousers,” and soak her up like a menstrual product. Charles and Diana divorced in 1996. Prince Charles married Lady Tampax (pardon me, Camilla), and the People’s Princess will live on forever in many a soapy mini-series.

Woody Allen and Soon Yi Previn / 1992

Woody held a press conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York and confessed he was “guilty of falling in love with Ms. Farrow's adult daughter,” but not guilty of molesting his and Ms. Farrow’s adopted daughter, Dylan. Mia Farrow was painted in the press as a “crazy woman,” and Woody, having already won two Best Picture Oscars (Annie Hall and Manhattan) went on to win just gobs more Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. But, today? Mia is restored as a valiant woman, Woody ain’t winnin’ any prizes, and most people believe Dylan.

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky / 1995

The US House of Representative impeached Bill in 1998 for lying to a grand jury by denying he had “sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” Eighteen years later, Bill’s wife, Hillary, lost the 2016 Presidential election to a man who cheated on his first wife with his second wife, on his second wife with his third wife, and on his third wife with—at minimum—Stormy Daniels, and has gone on to cheat America every hour since.

Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley and Divine Brown / 1995

In a BMW parked on a quiet street just off the Sunset Strip, Divine Brown, a spirited young mother who needed $166 to pay her electric bill, delivered such a rambunctious $60 blow job to Hugh Grant that his foot kept hitting his car’s brake pedal. The police came to investigate, and arrested them both for lewd conduct. America loved it! Hugh made his famous sheepish apology-tour appearance on the Tonight Show, and Divine earned enough money from doing interviews that she put her daughters through private school.


The ’90s also brought us Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes burning down the mansion of her boyfriend, Atlanta Falcons football star Andre Rison, after she heard he was out clubbing with female friends… Arnold Schwarzenegger fathering two babies born within a week of one another, one to his wife, Maria Shriver, and one to his housekeeper, Mildred Baena... and, deliciously, two faithful lovers, the “It Couple of the 90’s,” the wild-child match of the decade— Johnny Depp and Kate Moss. Neither cheated.

But the rest of these funny, sorry, dilapidated, glamorous cheaters are nothing compared to the human rabble cheating us today, and it is not a marriage at stake. It is American democracy.

The Biggest Cheaters of 2021 (So Far . . . )


For cheating America of its trust in elections, decimating its faith in democracy and science, and suing his niece, Mary Trump, to keep the millions of dollars he cheated her out of when she was 16.

Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Trump’s lawyers suing every voter who, despite GOP-crafted voting restrictions, managed to cast a vote for Joe Biden.



For cheating women of their rights

If men needed abortions, Texas would have a walk-in abortion clinic at the Alamo. (Thank Gawd, a Federal Judge just stepped in to pause your wacky woman-hatred.)



For cheating American citizens by pushing only three items on the GOP agenda: Voter suppression. Voter obliteration. Voter annihilation.



Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito & Clarence Thomas

For cheating American women of their rights to control their own bodies.

These goofily robed hacks crawled out from under their rocks during their confirmation hearings to lie to the US Senate and swear they would keep open minds about Roe v Wade.


Mark Zuckerberg

For cheating Americans of our ability to judge between truth and falsehood by drowning us in bullshit “news” and killing us with anti-vaxxer claptrap.

The only time in the past 17 years that this little socio-pathetic zod was not running a Doomsday Machine was Monday, Oct 4, when Facebook went down for five hours.

But the Conflab never cheats! It always delivers the brazen truth, however bizarre!

The Conflab is where we hash over the questions sent to Ask E. Jean—and where our boisterous community regularly rescues mankind. Today, we’re looking at a quandary sent to Ask E. Jean nearly three decades ago. Ms. Trouble was having an affair and was deeply in love with the married man. I advised her to continue the affair if she possessed “the mental strength and moral vigor to rebel against convention.” Today, I would counsel her to tell her husband and open their marriage. (Although, according to my Ask E. Jean mail, that arrangement can also lead to profound unhappiness)

Even 27 years ago I ended my answer with this warning:

However, if your children are troubled, if your lover’s wife and children are distressed, if your own husband is wounded, or if the highest and best in your character is the ideal of Fair Play—you should end it. As to instructing you how “exactly” to do it . . . . it’s the simplest and most difficult instruction in the world. Tell your husband the truth.

If you have any power of persuasion, convince your lover to tell his wife. Only when an affair has been bought into the open, can it be dealt with. Passion stops being a pleasure when it stops being a secret.

Your heart has not “died.” Indeed, it is feeling the pain of being very much alive. And what’s more, it holds real love for your husband (you want the best for him, with your lover you only want him.) Take him back in your arms, and your heart may soon follow.

Well, Conflabbians? At our last Ask E. Jean Cocktail Hour, we whooped like school girls and advised a woman to “Take a lover!!” What do you say to this correspondent?

Is open marriage the answer? Several people in the Conflab are enjoying wide-open nups, and enjoying the hell out of ’em.

Or is a quiet affair the answer? CAN you have a love life that does not entirely belong to your husband and kids?

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Photo of Charles and Diana, Princess Diana Archive, Getty Images; photo of Woody and Soon Yi, John Roca/Daily News, Getty Images; photo of Bill and Monica, handout, Getty Images; photo of Hugh and Elizabeth, Steve Granitz, Getty Images; photo pf Johnny and Kate, the great Ron Galella, Getty Images; photo of female Trump supporter, Sean Rayford, Getty Images; photo Trump, (inset) Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images; photo of Abbott protestor, Montinique Monroe, Getty Images; photo of Abbott (inset) Wikipedia; photo of voting rights activist, Tom Williams, Getty Images; photo of turtle (inset) Wikipedia; photo of fabulous Anti- Kavanaugh protestor, Gotpap/Bauer-Griffin, Getty Images; the best photo ever taken of a Supreme Court Justice (inset) Win McNamee, Getty Images; photo of Zuck, The Washington Post; photo of Joshua Matz, E. Jean, and Robbie Kaplan walking into Federal Court: Jefferson Siegle for The New York Times.