When news broke in 2008 that John Edwards had been having extramartial fun times and subsequent child with Rielle Hunter, I was working for the anti-war organization CodePink in Venice Beach, California. I worked directly under one of the co-founders of the group, a hard-working and passionate activist who acted as Jerry Brown’s right-hand woman during his first term as governor of California. Like many Americans, having had the pants charmed off of me by Edwards’s Kennedy-esque looks, humble beginnings, adorable family, and ambitious political goals, I was crestfallen when word got out about his infidelity. After all that he and his wife Elizabeth had been through- losing a son, her cancer, his political career- how could he boink some Jay McInerney character and cheat on his sweet and supportive spouse of 30 years?
Due to her time in California politics, I assumed that my boss was privy to the inner thoughts of politicians. As we sat there watching the news of Edwards unfold on the television, I came up with what I thought was one of the most profound questions never asked: “Are politicians born bad or do they become bad once they’re politicians?” I was secretly hoping that she was going to say that all politicians were born from the fire-encrusted vaginas of Satan’s whores, but instead she said she felt that most politicians started out wanting to do good things- they wanted to make the world a better place– but that power and fame eventually went to their heads.
When news came out this week about Weinergate (Media! Quit putting “-gate” at the end of every scandal! Aren’t you more clever than that?!) I don’t think anyone was surprised. “Oh my God! A successful politician who is married to a beautiful and supportive wife who likes to poke his pickle in any orifice he can find?
That’s unheard of!”
Completely unheard of!
Politicians are truthful and moral servants to society!
They don’t cheat on their wives!
What are you talking about it?!
Sadly, what now comes as a surprise is when a politician doesn’t cheat on his partner.
Before my time at CodePink, I worked in Hollywood- the only other industry outside of politics that turns a blind eye to cheating. Being from a small town and naive to the ways of the world, I was surprised time after time when married or committed men in the business would hit on me or my friends. And I’m not saying I’m some hot piece of ass here. They liked me because I was young and I was naive. The more virginal the better. Politicians and Hollywood people love preying on the interns, the assistants, or the help. If I were Freud, I would guess it has something to do with these men getting pinned down and farted on when they were children and now that they’re big bad powerful adults, they try to dominate everything that comes in their path. But what do I know?
Having not grown up in a family where infidelity was prevalent (only abandonment), I couldn’t understand why men were acting this way. “Because every man cheats”, my cheating Hollywood friend said to me. I took offense to his statement. “My Dad never cheated!” I said to him. He just looked at me and rolled his eyes. It’s true. My Dad never cheated. And I have never been cheated on -as far as I know. However, I will never forget that statement my friend said to me. He said it with such assurance and with each media story that comes to light about a married man cheating on his wife, I’ve begun to think, maybe he’s sort of right?
I still believe that there are many men who do not cheat for a plethora of reasons- they only have eyes for their partner, they don’t want to hurt the kids, their religion, insecurity, they’re too lazy to pursue or continue an affair, their parents raised them better than that. But with religion becoming less of a foundation in American families, the media’s attention to infidelity that makes it almost seem the norm, and the anonymity that the Internet can create, I think people who would have been less likely to cheat may feel more comfortable doing it now.
We should not forget that cheating runs more rampant in industries where men and women are in positions of power, where constant adulation goes to their head, and they feel as thought they’re invincible to being held accountable to their actions. Pure and unadulterated narcissism. I’m sure Anthony Weiner loves his wife. I’m sure he loves himself a lot too. Enough not to think about how his actions could hurt his pregnant wife if word got out. The Internet and social media makes it easier to cheat- it takes minimal effort to shoot a raunchy text or Twitter message in between meetings- but it’s also opening up the cheater to a greater risk of exposure. Especially when they don’t know how to use the friggin’ platform that they’re cheating on.
In Hollywood, I recall hearing of affairs that almost solely took place via text or instant messaging. The anticipation of sending a message to another and waiting for the response is what keeps these guys and gals bustling through the day. Signing deals, meeting with big players, and winning awards is not enough. They’ve become fixed on keeping the excitement in their lives at full throttle. I wonder what would happen if they actually had a minute with themselves. And the same can be said for politicians.
Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe my experiences and the stories I’ve heard has made me into a disenchanted old boob. It’s easy to become indifferent when our leaders, our heroes, or our friends and family let us down and break the example. In a way, the media has made us desensitized to these reports of infidelity. Maybe it is the norm? I’d like to think that infidelity is not the reality we’re going to have to learn to deal with, but I can’t help but feel that it is. That every relationship runs the risk of one or both partner cheating and unless the lines of communication stay open, heartache and big ol’ ugly media attention is the inevitable.
Do you think infidelity is epidemic? Have you been cheated on?