Correspondence

The Road to Il Wellness

The other day I remembered how the Lebanese, by far the most quaintly European of all the social sets in London, used to play an after-dinner parlor game in which the guests won points by boasting of their innocence. For example, if a guest said, "I've never been on a private plane," or "I've never tasted Yquem," and everybody else in the room has, he won a point. He lost the point if just one other person present could make the same declaration, whereupon it would be somebody else's turn to try to brag in reverse. The skill of the game is to appraise one's competition, since in an audience of Sardinian peasants one is unlikely to win a point by claiming never to have been aboard a Meridiana turboprop creaking toward Rome, to say nothing of a private jet winging its wav to the Bahamas. "I've never eaten sheep cheese with live maggots" or "I've never seen 'Beautiful' on television" would be much likelier bets in that case. The beauty of the game is its aristocratic, poker-faced egalitarianism: "I've never been on a commercial flight" can net the clever participant a point among princes as well as among paupers.

But the other big reason I liked to play it was because I always won, what with not having gone to school, not having done drugs, not having been to the Bahamas, not having cheated on my wife, not having seen, a basketball game, and so on....

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