I was just wondering what you thought about the controversy surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner since it sounds like his transgressions were not at all unlike your ex’s.
A close friend has encouraged me to weigh in on celebrity gossip a number of times. He believes that publicly discussing high profile scandals is how we dialog as a culture about ethics and values. He is right and what is being called Weinergate is an apt, if unfortunate, example. Many words have been spent on this salacious sex scandal, all while the economy is in the dumps and an obscene amount of money is being spent to fight three wars. Partly the flap is about the kinds of people we want making the kinds of decisions that must be made. It is about whether integrity is important anymore.
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, New York Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner tweeted the above now-famous photo of his bulging undie-clad “junk” one day last week. He had intended to direct message the photograph to some presumably hot twenty-three-year-old follower, but made a mistake. The image appeared in his public stream. (I’m betting somebody was into the sauce that night, too.) He realized what he had done and deleted the tweet. He then claimed his account had been hacked.
There was blood in the water and the sharks began to circle. Jon Stewart even took a hilarious swipe at Weiner although the two are reportedly good friends. Stewart publicly encouraged Weiner to come clean and Weiner did in a tearful press conference yesterday. He confessed to having had inappropriate online relations with six women over the course of three years. (He was married a year ago and prior to that, he was widely considered among New York’s most eligible bachelors.) In case you are wondering what inappropriate online relations were, he confirmed that there were dirty pictures, some of which were not undie-clad, they were nothing-clad. He confirmed naughty messages and he didn’t deny—gasp—phone sex.
Weiner claims he has never met any of these women in person. No exchange of bodily fluids, no foul, right? Weiner also says he did nothing illegal and he is keeping his job, so there. (Oh, and he is very sorry and hasn’t ruled out psychiatric counseling.)
JC, you were exactly right that these transgressions were not at all unlike those of my ex-husband. Like Weiner, Ex was masturbating with women (more than six) online, sharing images of his naked junk, and having phone sex when he should have been governing his life. Fortunately he was never trusted to govern much more. When his naughtiness came to light on a frosty January morning in a little Midwestern farmhouse, I looked at my then-husband and I realized he was a stranger. (Which is exactly why Rep. Weiner does not seem like a stranger at all. No, I think I know that guy, a little too well.) The man I thought I had married would never have engaged in this sort of thing, for dozens of reasons. The man I thought I married was not a liar or a sneak or an addict. He was a good man.
Once the cat was out of the proverbial bag that Ex wasn’t a good man, wow. It is nearly impossible to respect a middle-aged man who is sending pictures of his penis to twenty-somethings he has never even met. I am not sure a marriage can survive such a loss of respect. Huma, you may want to divorce him now. (Huma is Mrs. Weiner, although she kept her own last name. Wouldn’t you?) The thing about my ex—and I would wager it is true of Rep. Weiner, too—is that those first revelations were just the tip of a very large and stomach-turning iceberg. It wasn’t what he did that was objectionable, it was who he was. He was not someone worthy of respect. He was not someone worthy of trust. He was not someone I wanted to remain tethered to. Still, I may have stayed had violence not tipped the scale.
Certainly shadier politicians have remained in office, just as marriages to sleazy, pitiably narcissistic spouses have sometimes survived. I’ll leave it to New Yorkers to decide if they want to remain in such a marriage.
Dear Annie is regular Tuesday feature of The Bitter Divorcée unless a certain someone’s ADD brain deems it otherwise. Annie’s sole gumball-machine-gotten qualification for advice-giving is that she survived one extraordinarily nasty divorce. The Annie answers are in no way meant to substitute for professional advice and readers should always use their own best judgement. These questions and reflections are posted in hopes of inspiring other readers to chime in on the discussion, to offer support, and to help one another to work out solutions to the complex situations that can arise as we collectively reconstruct our lives post-divorce. Please leave comments or if you have personal feedback for the questioning reader, drop an email to be forwarded to her. If you have a question of your own, send it to Annie.
Just in case you missed Jon Stewart on May 31: