Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eliot Mess

Back when I was first starting out in TV news, I worked closely with a male reporter who had a reputation for being an insatiable office lothario. A considerable portion of his spare time while on the clock was spent trying to seduce one impressionable, post-collegiate hire or another; these seek-and-destroy missions were usually undertaken in the same sickeningly cavalier manner -- with an almost comical lack of regard both for the wreckage of past relationships that he'd left strewn all over the newsroom and for the wife and young child he returned home to every night. Throw in a frat-boyish tendency toward male-bonding-through-conquest-comparison and you had a personal catastrophe waiting to happen.

While I was certainly no angel and had done my fair share of screwing around, cheating on women who cared for me and generally behaving atrociously, I always kept this reporter and his exploits in the back of my mind during my early 20s -- as a sort of object lesson.

I looked at him and told myself, "I don't ever want to become that."

He was in his late 30s, married, a father, and a fucking narcissist who just couldn't resist whatever ego-stroking power trip came from getting a 21-year-old to sleep with him. He was a walking hard-on who was constantly one lipstick smudge away from destroying his life, his job, his family -- everything.

I always wondered what he would tell himself if and when it all fell apart -- how he would even begin to justify not simply what he'd done but quite possibly who he was.

Needless to say, this little memory has pushed its way back into my consciousness in the last 48-hours, thanks to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's gargantuan indiscretion.

But while psychologists, self-help gurus and humiliated wives of news-cycles past now jockey for position in front of this camera or that -- with rubbernecking audiences gleefully joining in the obligatory pile-on and armchair analysis of "why men cheat" -- it's worth noting just how far off-point the whole debate seems to be.

Sure, we've witnessed the fall from grace of dozens of powerful men before the whole Spitzer debacle, but to imply -- even for a moment -- that deceit, betrayal and arrogance belong strictly within the realm of the masculine sex is both obscene and offensive. Eliot Spitzer's actions were indeed selfish and stupid, but to view them in such simple yet strangely accepted terms -- as indicative of some great anthropological mystery about men in general -- renders the entire argument worthless. The truth is that an inexplicable willingness to compartmentalize all that you've worked so hard for -- to bury the thoughts of your loved ones, your future, any potentially negative consequence -- in order to chase down a cheap thrill isn't a male trait any more than it's a female trait; in reality, it's a human trait.

People make mistakes. They screw up -- sometimes horribly. They do things without thinking.

And while Eliot Spitzer will now pay the price for what he's done, neither his crime nor his punishment will answer any larger questions about the nature of men let alone human nature. No matter how many scorned women might understand the hurt that Spitzer's wife is feeling, and as such want to beat the disgraced governor until he gives up the answer they believe any betrayed spouse is entitled to -- why? -- it won't ever come. Eliot Spitzer can only speak for Eliot Spitzer, and chances are even he doesn't fully understand what led him do something so shockingly dumb.

I've cheated on people who loved me. I never purposely set out to hurt anyone, but that excuses nothing. I'm now sorry for the pain I caused.

I've been cheated on by people I loved. The pain is unimaginable, but I found that beyond some healthy analysis, looking for an ironclad reason as to why it happened -- what might explain or even excuse the betrayal -- only made it worse.

Destroying those you love is beyond justification, and any attempt made to do so -- particularly one which falls back on tired sexual stereotypes -- is an insult to those from whom you may find yourself asking forgiveness.

It's that simple -- or maybe that complicated.

Just before I moved out to L.A. to begin a new chapter in my career and my life, that Casanova reporter started dating a co-worker of ours with whom I was good friends. Whereas his past conquests had been passive, compliant and staggeringly respectful of his need for discretion, I understood something that his insurgent lust had apparently blinded him to: His new paramour would be nothing of the sort. She wouldn't behave; she wouldn't romanticize his immaturity; she wouldn't give a damn if the whole thing exploded and took an innocent wife and kid with it. She wasn't looking for love or an emotional connection and she wasn't trying to fill some hole left unattended by the lover she'd kiss when she got home.

She was doing it just to do it -- and neither she nor anyone else could tell you why.


Anonymous said...

And he did it just to do it.He did it because he could.

Fungi said...

hmmmm. this sounds vaguely familiar.

chris rock said it best: A man is only as faithful as his options.

Calitri said...

I was starting to wonder when you were going to get to this. Popular headline, by the way. I have nothing more to add other than, I'm a steamroller.

Well done as always.

winged unicorn said...

maybe i have a different take on this because of my unique background as the younger sister of an SMBD play safe instructor, BUT..
has anyone considered that MAYBE JUST MAYBE, spitzer's wife knew EXACTLY what he was doing and gave her tacit if not blatant approval? that maybe his kinks are NOT her kinks and she'd rather he bang a professional than risk emotional involvement with a lusty amateur?
i've know men AND women whose needs were NOT being met within the parameters of their relationship (not everyone is vanilla; not everyone is vanilla with hot fudge) and who eventually strayed. in an open, honest marriage it can work. maybe.
and the kink does not have to be extreme. it can be as basic as a desire to perform/receive oral sex or as extreme as full head mask bondage with a 10" butt plug.
my opinion? what he does with his money and his body is between him, his wife and god. yes, its illegal. is it impeachable? i certainly would not have the audacity to cast stones. there are times i am VERY glad i am NOT in the public eye. VERY GLAD.

Robo said...

so I'm work in Insurance and pretty much everyone in my office have been passing along emails on this all week. Eliot went after Insurance Agents/Brokers and Ins. Co.'s for shady dealings (of which there were some, but little) and did it with such a GIANT Hard-on for prosecuting these folks that many just hate him. People who haven't ever met him but that knew someone in the industry who had to testify or was the target of Eliots zeal are laughing harder than ever.

If you want to go out and fuck prostitutes more power to you but not when you're standing on Moral Mountain waving a flag all the way to the Gov's Mansion.

Anonymous said...

I almost forgot about JT's exploits.

phosphor said...

Wow... touchy touchy... you get FIRED for blogging (thanks, by the way, for making blogging feel slightly illicit) and now what? ... it would be a Day Without Senators if everyone got the boot for visiting a pro, which as pointed out above, is more boundried and honest than starting an affair. Guliani got a pass for having an affair... ah, the joys of being a Legal fuck up. I keep seeing Mitterand's wife, children, his mistress, their children all standing side by side at his funeral. The other wrinkle is how bent out of shape the french press got when Sarkozy married Carla Bruni.... I don't know but my sense is, if she stayed his mistress that would have been OK but wife (!) ..."you are upsetting the order!"

lakelady said...

an unexpectedly thoughtful post, well done. and while I think winged unicorn has some valid points I don't think it applies in this case. Evidence: hiding the payments. If it was being done with approval then why so much secrecy?

Harris said...

Uh, possibly because he's a public figure and his expenedtures could involve public money. They were investigating a possible bribary case..

In any event, who gives a shit? So he fucks hookers. So the fuck what? Is somebody afraid he's going to start sneaking around, making laws with that whore Florida?

anonymom said...

Thanks for pointing the mirror at our sexist and reductionist attitudes towards dudes who can't keep their dicks in their pants. To a certain (hopefully lesser) extent, we're all selfish pricks, and to a certain (hopefully widespread) extent, we're all trying to evolve out of it.

I wish more people used public fuck-ups as an opportunity for communal self-reflection.

Aaron X said...

I take it you're familiar with Rick Sanchez, the man and the myth? I hated WSVN, but I used to watch it because Ricky was so mesmerizing, and the news was well produced, can't deny it. I've heard many accounts of Rick's exploits down South.

I'm glad to see that he's locked down a good job, but it told me something about what was happening at CNN. Maybe Ricky will hire you back as a producer, because I'm looking at his show right now and it's pretty poorly produced, it looks dated, and much like the kind of thing you see on Fox.

I was wondering why Sanchez didn't make it over at Fox, you would think he was tailormade for them, though they've already got one Latino from the South Florida market, perhaps they've reached their quota. :-)

How about Sally Fitz did you know her? Is it true, did she really get a toy stuck in her puta? :-)