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GAMBLE: We’re only cheating ourselves

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During my spring break travels, I resorted to various newspapers, magazines and TV to unwind and pass the time in airports. As I delved into these materials, I was struck by the saturation of “celebrity cheating” coverage. Sandra Bullock is only the latest victim in the ugly game. It’s always the same story, different players. Snooze.

It’s a shame that Bullock’s cheating husband is receiving more attention than her worthy Oscar win. Our celebrity-crazed society is obsessed with all the gory details – the tears, the flimsy PR-spun apologies, whether the wife still wears the ring. Call me crazy, but I prefer to be entertained by people with real talent.

I couldn’t take another piece on Tiger’s sexting or more needless information on John Edwards’ baby mama and her photo shoot. So I picked up a copy of something that wasn’t a tabloid: Esquire. It rarely disappoints. I read the brilliant profile story on Roger Ebert, a man with a truly fascinating story. The impeccable writing blew my mind.

Within a couple page turns, however, was a “fun quiz for predicting the inevitable” called “How to Tell When You’ll Be Caught Cheating.” A few pages after that: “How Not to Get Caught Like Tiger,” an article offering tips to use a P.O. box for mistress mail and always pay in cash.

Despite my deliberate efforts to avoid it, infidelity is creeping into everything, as if it won an undeserved upgrade into first class. Cheating has packed its bags and moved from the trashy covers of Star and the reign of cheater-hunter Joey Greco into more and more mainstream publications, shows and news outlets. We’re encountering way too much of it and pretty soon we care only out of habit.

It’s not rational, or true, but since the surge in infidelity coverage I can’t help but feel like everybody is cheating. Brushes with the topic – from lighthearted stories in a publication as respectable as Esquire to late-night monologues – make me feel like I’m losing my mind. Why is this news? Politicians, talk show hosts, actors, athletes. Every day someone new is caught cheating. As you read this, there’s probably speculation breaking about another one.

Theories explaining why cheating happens (biological predisposition, sex addiction, etc.) are often too generalized and therefore largely inaccurate, but that doesn’t stop people from putting on their shrink caps and speculating. The latest explanation offered is that Oscar wins lead to failed relationships — because that’s really applicable to a large population, right?

Unfortunately, this influx of bad celebrity behavior has left people under the impression that it’s now common enough for water-cooler talk, but once upon a time, cheating was definitely not cool. When it happened, there was usually some twinge of shame. It wasn’t something to brag about or discuss openly, but rather a source of pain to multiple people that was kept private. But following suit to celebrity culture, it’s far less condemned now and is actually seen by some as glamorous.

Hear one too many adulterous stories – which we have – and it doesn’t take much before the world begins to resemble a seedy motel where no one sticks around for very long. The idea of dating, or merely trusting, anyone in this roadside motel of a world is as appealing as setting my hair on fire. Infidelity is sad and, most importantly, it doesn’t unfold for our entertainment. So let’s stop making it just that, and lend our attention to people who deserve it.

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