The truth is, of course, that it’s incredibly tricky, and not something you can just foist on someone if they’re not keen. As Wilby points out, though: “Having the conversation, instead of just tacitly accepting monogamy as the only option, is really half the battle.” And we have had the conversation, over and over with each other, but also with others – incredulous friends who can’t quite believe that it’s “a thing”. We field the questions in turn: no, it’s not perfect; yes, we do row sometimes; yes, there are rules; no, we don’t know how long it’ll last. But it is “a thing” – although, after almost a year together, not in the way that I thought it would be. Sam has slept with more people than I have. Despite pushing for it, when the opportunities have arisen I’ve found it oddly difficult to switch into the necessary head space. There’s still a faint feeling of betrayal; and I wonder whether the deed will be worth the emotional cost. More often than not, I realise it won’t be. I’m not sure he feels it in quite the same way. And, yes, sometimes I get tense and irritable when we sit down to eat and he’s too tired to talk because he spent half the night with someone else.
Still, I prefer it this way. We can be really, brutally honest with one another without the fear of damaging our relationship. As far as I’m concerned, hardline monogamy is a recipe for disappointment, because even if you manage it (according to a poll by YouGov about one in five of us has had an affair, and a third of us consider it), there will always be a part of you – that bit that has crushes on colleagues, and fantasises about handsome strangers – that your partner cannot share. There will always be secrets.
In defining what the BLT is, it is important to also stipulate what it is not. It is not a potential party canape. There is no need to reinterpret it as a taco. Every time someone writes a recipe for a bread-free BLT salad, a 200-year-old starter culture dies.
If you want to experiment by adding new flavours to a BLT, a vehicle for that already exists. It is called the club sandwich, which, in its cavalier, anything-goes, let-it-all-hang-out second layer, allows you to add chicken, avocado, cheese, pesto, a fried egg or any of the other numerous unsuitable extra ingredients that, through sheer boredom, people suggest adding to this already perfect sandwich. If you need hot sauce on a BLT then, quite simply, you need to stop smoking.
The everywoman’s guide to exercising in just a sports bra. (You’re going to need some high-waisted leggings.)
When Leah Dieterich accidentally stumbles upon the phenomenon of vanishing twin syndrome, she believes she might have hit on an explanation she's been looking for her entire life.
"I've always preferred being in the company of one other person to being in a group," she writes in her memoir, Vanishing Twins. "I'd thought this meant I was antisocial, but maybe it's a desire to return to the relationship I had with another person in the womb."
As Elborough writes in his brief introduction, these pieces of correspondence are a reminder that “if we want to change the world, standing up for and voicing our personal and political beliefs is both a right and duty”. At a time of great political uncertainty and indeed when letter writing is almost a forgotten art, the collection demonstrates the vital and enduring importance of speaking truth to power.
What makes this book so appealing, besides the people you’ll meet, is that it’s not just for tourists. “The Manhattan Nobody Knows” is written for inquisitive New Yorkers, too. Professor Helmreich says his goal is “to reveal Manhattan in all its beauty, complexity, and mystery.”