Advice for men: How to keep a mistress, and the second-person-plural problem.

How Does a Gentleman Keep Both His Wife and His Mistress Happy?

How Does a Gentleman Keep Both His Wife and His Mistress Happy?

Answers for modern men.
Feb. 26 2014 3:50 PM

Cheat Sheet

Philosophy for philanderers.

(Continued from Page 1)

Perhaps the least stressful way of carrying on with a woman not your wife is to self-medicate early and often. It may also be helpful to involve yourself with a woman you don’t actually respect, which is perhaps a sin within the sin, yes, but may help to simplify things. If we are just talking about getting cheap thrills, or about the quasi-quixotic pursuit of erotic novelty, or about numbing yourself against the terror of mortality—if, in sum, we are primarily talking about developing a relationship with an unfamiliar vagina—then it would be slightly less stupid for the cheating man to seek out a girlfriend for whom he is unlikely to develop the feeling of love (or one of its illusory doubles), on account of sharp differences in sensibility or social caste or what have you. Obviously, there are no guarantees here; the heart and the libido have been known to leap yawning gulfs, and the familiar erotic law of supply and demand only complicates the matter further. (Updike: “[A]ppealingness is inversely proportional to attainability.”) Obviously, also, it would greatly help a person attempting to enter an extramarital relationship in a spirit of premeditated detachment to be a sex addict or sociopath or narcissist (as opposed to a garden-variety horndog with a heart of gold or a standard-issue midlife-crisis victim with a romantic streak).

But I think you see my point: If we are talking about an affair that generates affection and recycles that emotional energy as fuel for its survival, then the time management issues you’ve brought upon yourself will be intensified by the fact of spending your days consumed with thoughts of the other woman as you scribble her name in your mental notebook and your nights lying in bed weeping copiously while necessarily hiding your tears from the wife you still love, which is not to mention the emotional demands that the girlfriend will make on you directly, nor the existential wear and tear of the shame and fear and thrill engendered by your fall.

Good luck!


I am a professional in my 30s and often find myself pausing when wanting to address a group of people of mixed gender and age, or solely composed of women, in a generic, somewhat casual, but still professional and appropriate way (whether in email or in person). It seems in fashion to call such a gathering “guys,” but I do not find it appropriate to say “Hi, guys!” or “Can't wait to see you guys!” to a mixed group or to a group of women. It also sounds odd and patronizing to say “guys and gals/girls/ladies” to anyone except acquaintances whom I know will not be offended. With just men, I have no problem saying “guys” or “gentlemen,” and with female friends, have no issue with saying “ladies” or “girls,” but those don't seem right in other circumstances. I often default to “folks,” but that seems forced. What, then, is a useful term for a gentleman to use for such a crowd, either mixed or solely female, in social and professional circles?

Thanks for your question. As Allan Metcalf mentions while discussing the utile y’all in How We Talk: American Regional English Today, the problem haunts us because we fell away from employing thou as a form of second-person singular address and reserving you as a plural: “We lost thou a couple of centuries ago, because thou didn’t seem as polite as you.” Metcalf further explains your irritation with you guys as a reaction against two aspects (“masculine reference and slang”). Meanwhile, Slate’s language blog heartily endorses your desire for a second-person pronoun singular in its indication of multiplicity, supposing that there is “something more intimate, more demonstrative, more direct, about making sure that pronoun is unambiguously plural.”

I hereby call upon this column’s readers to address this matter in the comments. Whaddaya say, gang? Any advice, comrades? Are any of yous willing, at this moment of rejiggering personal pronouns, to coin an American analog of ihr or ustedes?

Troy Patterson is Slate’s writer at large and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine.