A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Numquam Fidelis

The least of the offensive photos of Anthony Weiner
 I live in a country where adultery by a married man is viewed as simply being "naughty."  Here, anytime a man strays it's always "boys will be boys" or interestingly, the finger points at the woman. "Surely, she wasn't meeting his needs. If she had, he wouldn't have been out trawling for someone else."  It's amazing how the buck is always passed to the woman after an affair has come to light despite the fact that she has already been dragged through the humiliation of the lies, the secrets and the deception. Having been on the receiving end of this sort of ridiculous pap, let me just say that often, a woman does attempt to meet a man's needs, more than not often jettisoning her own life and needs to do it. (Ask Maria Shriver.) However, sometimes a man is just a narcissist and sometimes predatory and a few are probably sociopathic and there is nothing that can be done on God's earth to change that. And when a man is already cheating on you within minutes of a marriage, then rest assured, it's not the woman's fault. It's usually simply that a man with an ego the size of Jupiter chooses to parade his "shortcomings" to some other unsuspecting victim. The challenge is over, on to the next one.  It's a game. It's all a big game and the wife is left emotionally stripped while he goes on without a care. That is apparently what happened to Representative Anthony Weiner of New York.

So, I wasn't surprised when Huma (the wife of the said politician) was singled out as being somehow responsible for the fact that her husband (of only one year mind you) was busy texting women photos of his buffed chest, his now famous Anthony Weiner, and whatever assorted body parts he could get into a tweet or online. Mrs Weiner has worked tirelessly with Mrs Clinton in the State Department and is often away which prompted Barbara Walters (the grande dame herself, so-called champion of women's rights) to imply that "perhaps she (Mrs Weiner) was away too much." But as someone pointed out to me when I mentioned this, Ms Walters (by her own admission in her biography) had a long-standing affair with a married politician.

Should Mrs Weiner now don an apron and stay home and bake pies? Do you think that this would change a man who is intrinsically a risk-taker in the worst way possible? No. Should it matter if a man is on the moon and the woman is in Alpha Centauri in a marriage? No. Fidelity is fidelity no matter where one is. Perhaps men should be subjected to a "faithfulness" test before they even marry. They should get hooked up to a lie detector and answer some questions like: "Do you have a girlfriend that you still haven't told you are getting married?"  "Are you really marrying for love?" "Have you ever cheated before?" and "Do you plan to continue dating even after you are married?"  Silly you ask? Not really. In the case of a marriage that happens when one is young, this might be considered forgivable. Sometimes, you simply outgrow your spouse when you marry young. Perhaps your interests diverge. But this man was in his mid-40's when he finally decided to marry. Mid-40's.  By that time,  aren't most men ready to just settle down? Haven't they sown their wild oats by then?

Anthony Weiner is known as one of the most vocal and strident representatives in office. He has been like a pit bull with his opponents and has always championed Democratic causes."He's a good representative," coo his supporters, "This shouldn't matter."  No?  How daft can a representative (a  United States Congressman, not some yob sitting at home in a baseball cap tweeting young girls) be to send photos of himself to random women online and not think he would ever get caught? What else is he sending to "impress the girls"? When a man puts himself in this position, he is wide open for blackmail. Granted, the women that Weiner tweeted were not exactly Mata Hari material. But to a man so enamoured of the power of his position, it may not have been long before he caught someone in his net who would not have been as amiable. Bad judgment? Definitely. Was he a good Congressman ? Most would say, "yes". But a good Congressman with bad judgment and over-inflated ego have proven to be a volatile self-igniting career conflagration.

Yet, the talk on Capitol Hill is that Weiner was not as effective in Congress as he was being a  spokesperson. He liked the limelight. He was so needful of attention that he was always queueing up to even appear on Fox News.  It's true he did not (as he says anyway) violate any laws. But a man who has done that to his family and still is so full of himself that he refuses to leave office, makes my blood run cold. Go home and take care of your business first. Seek restitution, do some good works, make amends to your wife and get your crumbling house in order. Your wife has a child on the way. Or perhaps that is it?  That a woman who is pregnant or a wife is no longer considered "sexy"?  That's exactly how little boys, not men, behave. But this behavior is more common than is reported. Long gone are the days of men who look at their wives as "beautiful beings" when they are pregnant.Or men who still see the beauty in his wife when she gets up in the middle of the night to take care of another sick child.  Instead you have a society of men who are busy on the internet looking for young, silly things to amuse themselves. The inside joke among older women is that these younger women are busy laughing at these doddery middle-aged men who fancy themselves as sexy rakes. They aren't. They are balding, paunchy and burp too much. Ask the wife who has to listen to that.

Adultery among the powerful is not a secret nor should it be condoned. But adultery with absolutely no grace, dignity and public humiliation of oneself and one's spouse is a travesty. And this wasn't some luminous, tragic scene from "Brief Encounter" where two lovers who should have been together are torn apart. This was a man engaging in junior high antics with women, one of whom is reported to be a high school student. Can anyone not spot the narcissism in this man? I heard the noted journalist Christiane Amanpour sum it up quite nicely, while making a point about the Weiner fiasco and the difference between men and women in elected office (paraphrasing) she said that "men go into office to see who they can be and women go into office to see what they can do."  Absolutely well put.

But Weiner is not alone in the "I'm a powerful politician and I can do what I want" club. He has a lot of company. Recently, it was uncovered that Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child with his housekeeper and kept it a secret for over a decade. The Schwarzeneggers were considered one of the most "enduring couples" in Hollywood. Maria Shriver had given up her career as a journalist to champion her husband's causes and to make sure that he won the gubernatorial race in 2002. That's how powerful a woman she is and the moxie that she had coming from the famous Kennedy clan that prides itself on strong, intelligent women who don't back down from challenges. It is well-known that Maria was the single greatest public relations weapon that Schwarzenegger had in his political arsenal. So, the fiasco that unravelled a few weeks ago was a blow. Not only did Schwarzenegger father a child, he did it at the same time he was fathering one with Maria so that the women gave birth within days of each other. And the housekeeper kept it all a secret for years while busy working for the family and having Maria as a close confidante and friend. This was just heinous. Maria Shriver had always prided herself on her independent spirit and her love of family and this man simply did what he wanted to do, driven by a huge ego and his desire to control and manipulate and have anything he wanted. I doubt that anyone would say that Maria did not give  her husband  200% as it is well-known that she came out and defended him when he was accused of sexual indiscretions while he was running for governor. Did she know they were true? Who knows? I just know that a serial cheater will always be attempting to run the show and part of running the show is intimidating his wife. And when a woman is intimidated she will often do things that she would normally not do.

John Edwards is still skulking around somewhere after his famed "mistress-meltdown". Last week found him facing a federal indictment for campaign finance violations. It has been charged that he used campaign funds to illegally fund his mistress and the child that he fathered with her. John Edwards, one of the stars of the Democratic Party had an affair during his Presidential campaign with a woman he "hired" to film him. Meanwhile, his wife was busy dying of cancer. "I will go and shag the hired help, impregnate her, and basically break your heart while you are getting chemotherapy, your hair falling and wretching and spend sleepless nights."  Having known two men personally who did the very same things to their respective wives... this behavior I find particularly galling. He denied the affair and tried to pawn off the child on one of his friends (who went along with the ruse even though he was married...as Edwards' deep pockets could buy people easily). Elizabeth Edwards did finally die of cancer. (No doubt aided by the explosion of this affair and the "love-child" Edwards fathered.) It is known that cancer in women can be  fostered by abuse, neglect, sorrow and emotional pain that is unresolved. I cannot imagine what Mrs Edwards endured. Once again, like Maria and Huma...she was a strong woman, an attorney herself who gave up her career so that her husband could enter politics. For what? To be degraded, humiliated and basically exterminated by her greedy and self-absorbed husband.

We haven't even gotten into discussing Berlusconi (the Prime Minister of Italy who has become a bit of a joke) with his serial philandering or Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF who was caught accosting a chambermaid in a hotel in New York. Both married, both in deep trouble.

Why does society look the other way when men cheat? When a woman cheats it's as if she has to somehow wear the proverbial "A" on her for the rest of her life. But when men cheat, they are just "being one of the guys."  More than that, cheaters like these men are never held accountable for what they do. They basically lie low for awhile and then just continue their behavior. Look at Eliot Spitzer, he has a talk show now!

What about men who "find their soulmate"? Is that possible when you are married to someone else? Yes, it is. But if a man has "found his soulmate" he should do things cleanly. Confess, don't lie. It's never about the adultery as much as it is about the lie. Most times, however, it's not a soulmate relationship, it's just a romp in the hay. And romps in the hay are just as destructive. Sometimes, more so, because when a man leaves a woman for another, at least they know where they stand. But a serial cheater is someone that thinks that sort of behavior is fine as long as they don't get caught. Most men aren't sorry they had the affair, they are sorry they got caught.  

All of these men were probably "good at their jobs"...though some Californians might have different ideas about their "governator" who left office with very low approval ratings. But what they needed to do was to learn to be "good men" all around. No one is perfect, all of us make mistakes. It's not the mistake that brings down a man, it's the way he handles it personally and publicly. And none of these situations were handled very gracefully at all.  But, stay tuned. Because after all, politics is a lot like Hollywood.  You sell more tickets with happy endings. Mark my words, they'll all be back.