The following article is taken from yesterday's edition of The Toronto Star.
No girl power in shaming cheats
May 11, 2009 08:50 AM
Advice to cuckolded women: Man up a bit.
(Yes, cuckold is technically a term applied to husbands of unfaithful wives. But there's no reverse equivalent that I can find in the dictionary. Suggestions welcome.)
Two such high profile missuses have been in the news lately – Elizabeth Edwards, a.k.a. St. Elizabeth, and Veronica Lario Berlusconi, née Miriam Barolini.
Both have been profoundly wronged, certainly to hear them tell, which each is doing via the vehicle of biography and TV confessional, for one, and ambushing emails to the media, for the other.
Say what you will about husbands who are cads – as their respective spouses, disgraced Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – appear to be. Yet males, even those who have been on the violated end of infidelity, are rarely wont to open a vein in public.
There are exceptions to this generalization, of course. But for the most part, men do not go whingeing to Oprah or pen avenging memoirs that simultaneously mortify a couple's children or wash the dirty BVDs out in the open.
I suspect this comes from the social conditioning of boys, who are still raised to not shed tears in public or otherwise reveal themselves as pussies. Girls, by comparison, are nurtured in the culture of tattle and tell-all grievance from the time they're subjected to their first schoolyard name-calling.
Females are inundated with mass media messaging – subliminal and overt – about bred-in-the-genes persecution, the biological and manifest destiny of their X chromosome, the gender for whom offence is endlessly done to.
The consequence, too often, is a kind of emotional indigestion with public burping as the antacid, especially for women who can command an audience.
They seek public validation for their pain.
Elizabeth Edwards has always seemed a smart, tough lady who might have been a fine public servant on her own merits had she not subsumed herself in the advancement of hubby's career. There have been dreadful tragedies in her life, from the loss of a teenage son in an automobile accident to a recurrence of cancer, untreatable.
But of one thing she remained assured: That devoted husband would not betray her, sexually.
As everyone now knows, John-Boy Edwards was a two-timing cheat who may have fathered a child with a woman who had been making campaign videos for him in 2006. Before the world found out, Edwards admitted the "indiscretion" to his wife, at which point she screamed, sobbed and threw up. He said it was only that one-night-stand time, a lie.
Elizabeth Edwards has recounted all this, wincingly, in her just released book, Resilience, and appeared on Oprah last week to discuss same – the only proviso that the name of The Other Woman never be mentioned during the interview.
The purpose of dragging her hurt into the limelight escapes me. Quite apart from further embarrassing the father of her children, she also makes herself pathetic and sound like a fool; can't understand the why of his unfaithfulness. But the why of adultery is never that complicated: Attraction, availability, boredom, horniness, because it's there.
Instead, beyond a vague reference to her husband's "narcissism," Elizabeth Edwards puts the blame on a woman she portrays as a bimbo and whose baby she describes as "it."
"It didn't occur to me that at a fancy hotel in New York, where he sat with a potential donor to his antipoverty work, he would be targeted by a woman who would confirm that the man at the table was John Edwards and then would wait for him outside the hotel hours later when he returned from a dinner, wait with the come-on line "You are so hot" ... And if you had asked me to wager that house we were building on whether my husband of then 28 years would have responded to a come-on like that, I would have said no."
Shows how little she knows about men in general and her husband in particular. What planet is this trained lawyer living on? Must be the one where bitter women wield their anguish for vindication and town square shaming.
There's nothing dignified or girl power-ing about it.
Meanwhile, back at the palazzo ...
That would be the suburban Milan mansion where Veronica Lario has been living, apart from her vulgarian husband, for several years. This marriage has been over for ages and Lario has maintained a mostly low-wattage existence, except for the occasions when she wasn't – by unburdening her ample chest on the public zeitgeist.
Long-suffering is how Lario is usually described.
That's manipulative, the conventional take on a wife who chose to stay wedlocked to her perma-tanned husband despite his chronically cheesy behaviour, from phone calls to a sex chat line (purportedly for the purpose of opinion polling, a typical Berlusconi stunt) to old-coot flirting with curvaceous TV starlets (some of whom he put forward as candidates in the upcoming European parliamentary elections) to verbal (at minimum) groping of women who usually sex-wagged right back.
Two years ago, Lario – by newspaper correspondence – demanded a public apology from her boulevardier husband for telling a former Miss Italy contestant (now minister of equal opportunities in Berlusconi's cabinet): "If I weren't married I would marry you immediately." Of his many gaffes, that one seems fairly harmless, actually.
But a baroque mea culpa was issued forthwith, published in the many Italian newspapers Berlusconi owns: "I beg you to forgive me."
More recent provocations – especially Berlusconi's attendance at the 18th birthday of a Napolitano nymphet who calls him "Papi," when he allegedly has been a no-show for his own kids' 18th birthday celebrations – had Lario blasting away again in late-night emails to two news agencies. "I cannot stay with a man who frequents minors," she sniffed, while dismissing those bimbette election candidates as "shameless rubbish to entertain the emperor."
Cue the divorce lawyers and upcoming war over the 72-year-old billionaire's fortune.
It's hard to view Lario, 52, and gorgeous if cosmetically enhanced, as the fregato victim.
The couple met almost 30 years ago when she was performing topless in a play at the theatre Berlusconi owned. While still married to his first wife, Lario bore him a son, then two more children before they wed.
No doubt the first Mrs. Berlusconi thought her usurper was a home-wrecking seductress too.
You reap what you sow. Sometimes you weep over husbands spreading their seed elsewhere.
But public parading of intimate betrayal – by book or by online crook – is tawdry payback.
Stay or go. Just take it like a man, ladies.