Originally Published in the Times Union, Albany, N.Y. March 15, 2008
Keep wives out of public confessional
By STACEY MORRIS
Dear Famous, Powerful Men Who Bust Out of Their Marriage Vows and Get Caught:
I know what you're thinking, but keep reading. I haven't picked up my pen to condemn you, but to make a request: Please drop the tactic of using your wife as a raincoat when it's time to deliver that rote apology at the podium.
There's the saying: We come into this world on our own and we go out alone. But why is it when famous, power-hungry men begin their post-sex scandal freefall, you can't hold a press conference without your wives super-glued to your side?
Here are a few reasons why swallowing the bitter pill of public admission with no one at your side is an idea whose time has come.
Attempt to think about your wife for a moment. (I know, this is going to require you to focus on someone other than yourself, but go with me on this.) Why should she have to face the flashing bulbs, rolling cameras and millions of curious eyes that belong on you?
In the long run, her presence will be about as helpful to your damaged reputation as an adhesive bandage to a gushing flesh wound. And more importantly, leaving her out of the press conference equation would be a tangible gesture of compassion, the first step in your uphill climb to try to repair your marriage.
Put plainly, it's simply too much to ask of your wife. And it makes you look sort of ... weak. Why not also drag your mothers along while you're at it?
Witnessing yet another wife, her face drained of life and color, standing there stiffly, is something we should be evolving out of at this point in our history. And, frankly, the whole production doesn't seem to carry any magical power to restore your pre-scandal luster.
As a noninsider, I have no idea whether Silda Wall Spitzer did it out of genuine love for her husband, was talked into it or chose it out of knee-jerk compassion in the heat of the moment as the clock counted down to air time. Of course, it's a personal choice. And she may well have felt it was the right thing to do.
But since it's probably not the last sex scandal we'll see in our lifetimes, all I'm suggesting is, let's have a Plan B for the hurting spouses. And no questions asked if they want to take it, although the Mrs. Spitzers of the world (savvy and educated in their own right) can handle the heat.
But what's so wrong with a woman in Mrs. Spitzer's position being honest about her feelings at the time, even if they were disgust and anger? I'm not advocating grabbing the microphone to turn the air blue, but red-lighting an outdated obligation would be a far healthier alternative to playing along if it isn't what she wants to do.
There's also something profoundly wrong with the weight of reparation being on the shoulders of the betrayed. Leave her out of it. Don't even put it in the realm of consideration -- and that goes for all of your spinmeisters.
Some have argued that women like Mrs. Spitzer and Dina Matos McGreevey (ex-wife of former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey) do it for the sake of their children, to demonstrate a unified front. It sounds good in theory, but if there had been a unified alliance in the first place, there'd be no press conference.
Time will tell whether Mrs. Spitzer forgives her husband or decides kicking him into the next time zone is the best course of action. To say that an extraordinary amount of hashing out lies ahead is an understatement. Which is exactly why she should have been spared this insulting and unnecessary spectacle.
After all, it's heaping amounts of hubris that got you fellows to the apology podium in the first place, so what could be more therapeutic than following through without assistance?
And lest you think I'm harping on an issue already fading into old news, consider The Associated Press story last June announcing Hustler publisher Larry Flynt's offer of $1 million to "anyone who can provide proof of an illicit sexual encounter with a high-ranking government official." If that's not enough to scare a philanderer into Ward Cleaver-hood, I don't know what is.
But in case we're subjected to another of you falling from grace, Americans in general have had enough of the grind. We're tired of seeing someone who had no part in the unseemly deed paraded out like a prop to help cool that hot water you chose to simmer in.
So do whatever you need to do to make the evolutionary leap: Give yourself an aria of a pep talk in the mirror, memorize key passages from Emerson's "Self Reliance," or make it a party and call in the trifecta advisory team of Dr. Phil, Judge Judy, and Nanny Jo Frost. If they can't get you tap-dancing down that yellow brick road of integrity, no one can.
Hopefully a light bulb will at last go on, somewhere deep within your egos. It will illuminate the fact that you're about to make the most difficult speech of your life -- and taking your wife along for the ride is not an option.
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