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Posts Tagged ‘John Edwards’

On the airplane home from a college reunion, I watched “He’s Just Not That Into You” while reading about Elizabeth Edward’s forthcoming book, “Resilience” and her appearance on Oprah with her philandering husband. I don’t know which one made me more squeamish.

The movie is based on the best-selling book, which served as an upside-the-head smack for obsessed women everywhere. If he doesn’t call, if he always has excuses, if you suspect he’s not being straight with you then – hello? – he’s trying to tell you something without coming out and saying it: basically, he’s not all that interested although the sex might be fun. It’s taken years of bad date and mate experiences, plus one wonderful abeit criminally short marriage to understand that pursuing someone who isn’t that into you will invariably result in humiliation. By the way, guys, we know that and our best friends know that and hundreds of advice columns tell us that and don’t ask me why we continue to try and make you change anyway. Maybe if you came right out and told us directly we might accept your lack of interest – but I can’t be sure

Since we tend to assume marriage is the ultimate commitment, betrayal becomes more difficult. There’s history, there’s attachment, there may be children and there may even be love.  There’s also disbelief at the highest levels: how could he? Acceptance is long in coming. Women whose husbands deceive and leave aren’t left with much choice except to hold their heads high and get a good divorce attorney. Women whose husbands stray and stay seem to be from another planet, qualifying, we might suppose, for sainthood or at least martyrdom. 

The ultimate stakes seem to involve public figures, men whose egos and appetites blind them to the possibilities they will be outed. What do their women do? In olden days, they might suffer in silence, perhaps. No more.

HilBilI can understand that the humiliation of standing or sitting by your man  as he admits to his transgression at a press conference or on some TV talk show would be  enough to compel you to inflict maximum discomfort. Watching your husband take up with a woman young enough to be his daughter (or a man, for that matter) just because he can is hard enough. Having to suffer silently while it becomes tabloid and talk-show fodder has to be excruciating.Spitzer

So while good works and public service might do for some, a number of public figure spouses have responded with tell-all (or tell-some) books or articles these days, not to mention visits to Oprah, Ellen, “The Today Show,” and even perhaps a well-placed YouTube video. That makes it hard to think about  Elizabeth Edwards, her forthcoming book and appearance on Oprah.

Edwards follows in the footsteps of an infuriated Dina McGreevey, whose book about her husband Jim’s gay infidelity, about which she hadn’t, according to her book, a clue. mcGreevyThe ex-governor responded with his own tell-all book, the two books competing as the divorcing couple engaged in a fierce custody battle. Dina was obviously embarrassed and it’s entirely possible she needed the money; New Jersey governors don’t make all that much.

But Elizabeth Edwards is a lawyer and public health advocate, a mother of three who survived the loss of her first-born and is battling hard to survive a diagnosis of terminal cancer. She’s so  so respected she’s almost been canonized. She sits on several important boards and committees and is a leading advocate for healthcare reform. Why the tell-all book, which, by all accounts, lays far more of the blame on the other woman than on her husband?

The advanced buzz is that Edwards wanted to help other women by telling her story but there are ways to provide counseling, outreach and support without headlines. Money might explain part of it but I don’t think that’s it.  Of course, as we writers know, once we’ve gone through the painful yet cathartic process of writing it all down, we are understandably anxious to   get it our there. More than a few wronged women might be into perpetrating the drama, which also extends the attention.You could argue that Edwards has exacted the ultimate revenge: her husband is to appear with her on “Oprah.”

Mostly, though, I think I suspect Edwards is afflicted with our distinctly female need to explain – explain in print, explain again to Oprah or Ellen or Meredith or whichever sympathetic yeah-I’ve-been-there woman is gently interviewing you or to your best friend or the woman who does your nails or someone you’re sitting next to on the subway, explain yet again on the book tour or on YouTube or at your book club or your Pilates class, explain over and over and over again as many times as you need to – in the preposterous hope that explaining it will help make sense of it and may, in some distant time and place or possibly a parallel universe – allow you to get through to the cheating other who may – if the stars align and the earth moves under our feet  –  come up with an acceptable explanation and maybe even come home to stay.

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“Who are you going to support?” I asked a prominent Democratic friend who had been backing the recently departed John Edwards. “God only knows,” he replied. “I’ve got a week until the primaries to think about it.”

“Who are you going to support?” I asked a prominent Republican friend of mine who had been backing the soon-to-be departed Rudy Giuliani. “I’m really undecided,” she responded. “I’ll spend this week trying to decide.”

Now it gets interesting. Watch the polls and the pols but whatever you do, VOTE!

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