Any wife who has been cheated on knows the visceral effect of embarrassment in her social circle. The gossips in the peripheral of her every move sing muffled chants about her role in the affair or why she bothers to stay in the marriage. But when that everyday wife appears in person, the tongues quiet and public smiles replace the wagging tongues.
A famous wife knows an entirely different kind of public embarrassment. She looks no further than her super-market aisles, the local radio, or the national news for the openly wagging tongues. Our hearts bleed for Sandra Bullock, Elizabeth Edwards and Elin Woods, and so we moralize, we bemuse, and we give advice as if these women were our own sisters. The media and general public feel safe in gossiping about famous people because they seem so far removed. We are reminded that their problems are much like ours, although often on a grander scale.
But what must the experience be like for an innocent wife who lives a public life? How can she tolerate the negative limelight now shinning on her family? Embarrassment often plays a role in people’s moral sense. It helps them “do the right thing,” but what if the scandal was not their fault? And what if their decision to save the marriage goes against the jury of public opinion?
The best answer to these questions, is to avoid. To emotionally survive the public humiliation, famous women must cloister themselves in the world of most intimate family members and wait for the media tide to change. Elin and Sandra are certainly doing that. And when they do eventually move forward they must defend against feelings of embarrassment by maintaining the fantasy that few people read those tabloid rags, anyway.
Case in point, a couple years back I was introduced to Christie Brinkley at a charity event. Our introduction came a few years after a media blitz concerning the infidelity of her husband with their young babysitter. When our mutual friend introduced us she attempted to find common ground for us by telling Christie that I had recently gone through a painful break up with the father of my children. Christie, immediately, clasped my hands and exclaimed, ‘Oh Honey so did I! And you wouldn’t believe what happened to me!” Then she proceeded to give me details of her husband’s bad behaviors as if I had never been in a supermarket in my life. Clearly her very efficient coping strategy was to maintain the illusion that few people knew. I commend her for that. It’s a high level survival mechanism. Compartmenting is the way our brain avoids being flooded with painful thoughts than can cause destructive behavior.And, by the way, I played along with her fantasy and acted astounded by her news.
Continue reading Famous Wives. Public Embarrassment.
Not so long ago, women who had sexual relationships with men who were legally bound to another woman were considered social outcasts. Our language clearly illustrated the sexual double standard that existed. While he was a gentleman who “stepped out” of his marriage, she was a whore, slut, or home-wrecker (as if he had never laid hands on the wreaking ball, himself.) My favorites are “Mistress” and “Kept Woman” because they, at least, imply some outlay of financial resources indicative of an emotional connection.
In cultures throughout history our complicated human social structures have always made room for extra-marital affairs. During the sexual repression of Victorian England where a high status woman faced scandal if even an ankle were exposed, the brothel business boomed. It is estimated that the ratio of prostitutes to males over the age of 18 in Victorian England was 12-1. And most of those young women died early from STD’s.
Sadly, the same tragedy is living itself out in the Indian/Asian sex slave business today. One of the shameful growing pains of feminism is that high status women are delaying marriage (often to the age of 30) to pursue a career, while keeping their hymens intact. The result is a lack of available sexual partners for men who are still required to marry a virgin. Today’s version of Victorian England? Millions of impoverished girls being sold into brothels by their own families.
Continue reading The New Trophy: A Married Man?
Of course we are splitting hairs here. Both men can jointly claim rights to the worst husband of the year award. Former presidential candidate, John Edwards had a love affair and fathered a baby out of wedlock while his wife was being treated for cancer. And, Tiger Woods, well, he dipped his stick in a pletheura of “liberated” women while wifey was pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
I appeared on two CNN shows yesterday to debate the hot topic and was surprised that in one not-very-scientific poll, viewers voted John Edwards the biggest skunk, because he was, after all, not only lying to his ailing wife, but he was lying to the voting public as well. Okay, so I get it. With Edwards, many Americans have a personal axe to grind. But now I ask you to stop thinking like a voter and instead think like a wife. Which dog would you prefer, if you had to be married to one?
To help you ponder this Sophie’s-choice, allow me to tell you about an enlightening psychology study. A group of married women were asked to choose which behavior they would prefer they husband engaged in: A) platonic, though emotionally intimate lunches with a co-worker or B) visits with a prostitute. If you’re a woman reading this, you might have guessed already that the prostitute won hands down over the work-wife. Anthropologists suggest that women fear a redirection of family resources before they worry about a little extra-cirricular nooky. And a business transaction with a prostitute represents a quantifiable amount of resource extraction. Now an emotionally intimate friendship is another matter — he could open the flood gates of the family bank account with that one. His platonic friendship could certainly morph into a full-blown love affair but even if it didn’t, that woman’s close family member might become ill or she might get that Vegas virus herself and boom, there’s her kind, deeply connected friend — your husband! — to write a check.
Continue reading Who’s a Better Husband, John Edwards or Tiger Woods?