What follows is my family’s emails about the Anthony Weiner scandal. I’ve given everyone a different color, but don’t worry, you won’t be quizzed. This is as much for the topic as it is for posterity – I think it’ll be interesting to see how families communicated via email, if anyone happens to see this forty years from now. Here y’go:
Linda (Mom) wrote:
I know it’s fun to play internet games, (and I’m sure it’s a thrill to get a blow job in the Oval office). Or fly to Argentina to see your honey, leaving your wife at home. Or even troll for sex in an airport bathroom. Except for the oval office thing, which I found tacky, I don’t even care about that stuff.
What bums me out is when a really good legislator or leader destroys their career with a move so stupid and puerile that it takes them out of the game. OK, you say, Clinton survived. But instead of a great presidency he had a good presidency marred by the whole ugly (in every sense) Lewinski mess.
I just feel like it’s a great loss and not even a “tragedy.” Dirty pictures on Twitter? It’s comedy. But it probably means we lost one of the good guys, and that IS a tragedy. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
It was stupid, but only because it’s difficult to understand. He did what? He twittered a digipix of his wangage to a broad in Spokane? Or something? The whole thing is like someone coming out and saying, “I’ve spent the last year filling my shoes with pancake batter because I find it sexually gratifying. This shows a total lack of good decision making on my part, and I apologize.” It’s like… What? It *sounds* like something gross, but I don’t think I understand what it even *is*.
You can get the playboy channel on XM/Sirius. Every time I pay my bill, they ask me if I want it, and I finally said, “I’m sorry, how does one *use* this channel? This is audio pornography for me, WHILE I DRIVE?…. To what end, exactly?” The poor woman on the other end of the line didn’t know how to answer. Everyone likes getting boners, and we’re still figuring out the best ways to play with ourselves, and none of us really knows what we’re doing. Sending camera pictures of your panties via twitter is just… It sounds “wrong”, but mostly it just doesn’t make any damn sense at all.
That’s why they call it a peccadillo.
I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure 100% of human beings do things in private that they’d be ashamed to have found out by the people close to them. Family, constituents, whatever.
Compared to closeted politicians railing against gay rights, this seems pretty tame. Or actually, like, being in the same state with a woman not your wife. Or taking money under the table.
Politicians are human, but they must pretend to be perfect. They are, by definition, more narcissistic than most, so they can handle more cognitive dissonance than you or me.
When we turn on the TV and see someone smart, well-spoken, on the right side of the issues, we think, “paragon.” We have to really work to remember that everyone is human. The only question is how ugly are their secrets.
The Internet still doesn’t feel like real life to most people. So they do things they wouldn’t do in real life. It’s also instantaneous, so it’s bad when you’ve downed 3 scotches and you’re alone in a DC apartment at 3 AM.
That being said, it displays a stunning lack of judgement on Weiner’s part. Apparently people do send pictures of their naughty bits to either, but even at my most libidinous and inappropriate, I’m like, ew?
On the other hand, he sent pics of his underpants to a woman he never met over the Internet. George W Bush bankrupted the country and started two disastrous wars. It’s important to maintain perspective.
Linda (Mom) replied:
I really dislike the “Yahbut” responses to this, on our emails, in the media, overheard in the Deli… whatever. “Yah, but women are unfaithful, too.” “Yah, but Bush and Hitler and Bin Laden did worse things.” “Yah, but Clinton was worse, He…” “Yah, but we all have secrets…” of course. But all that is irrelevant to why I’m so bummed about this.
It’s the entitlement, the lack of impulse control, the succumbing to male adolescent peacock behavior, the lack of awareness of how this could play out. Here’s a guy who was, in spite of his cocky (no pun intended), sarcastic, firebrand ways was one of my great hopes for the future of democracy. He wasn’t afraid to call the republicans “shameful” when they cast shameful votes. He wasn’t afraid to stand up and tell some rude conservative to shut up and stop interrupting him.
Yes, the internet is seductive in its anonymity. Yes women are not perfect, though they really are not, as a group, prone to the kind of unevolved sexuality issues most men are. Yes, Hitler was worse. Yes, Dr. House, everybody lies.
But in addition to so many of them being addled by their every-eight-seconds contemplation of their cock, men hate to be wrong, hate to not be in charge, hate to admit any weakness. And it’s too bad. When they do rise (god, the puns) to the occasion, tell the truth and move on, like (as Sean pointed out today) Letterman did, it becomes a non-story n about ten minutes.
In short, I am out of patience with the “but X did a worse thing” way of thinking about it. Even though I know it’s true. Nothing about this inappropriate Wiener stuff approaches the sins of Dick Cheney, the heinous crimes of Pol Pot, even the self-destructive insanity of a Charlie Sheen.
Because there was so much promise, I’m really bummed.
Anthony Weiner can go and sin no more, as it were. A sadder, wiser, and more embarrassed person. George W Bush & Dick Cheney committed unforgivable sins and feel completely justified and unrepentant for doing them. Furthermore Andrew Breitbart is a scumbag.
I think there is a hierarchy of transgressions, and Weiner’s is forgivable. It’s annoying when someone who you respect fucks up in such an avoidable and ridiculous way, but think of all the people like Weiner whose private idiocies you don’t know about. You have to be willing to give people some slack for their sad, icky humanity, or you’ll be disappointed in everyone and everything all the time.
I would just like to state for the record that I think Wiener’s actions don’t even merit the level of “mistake”. I don’t even think what he did was bad.
We’re gonna get to a point where our inner most thoughts are gonna be recorded, and it will be the most liberating thing that ever happened. People are so much more disgusting and base than we can currently admit, all you have to do is think back to your worst moment, your lowest moment, and then realize that almost nobody is any worse than you, they might just have those moments slightly more frequently. We are also more beautiful and noble than has ever been expressed, and that’ll be nice to see as well.
The worst thing you’ve ever seen, the worst thing you’ve ever imagined, the worst thought you’ve ever had, they’ve all been had by other people, and if their impulse control is 2% worse than ours, they end up spending twenty years in prison. Steve and I were talking about the pornspambots that follow us on Twitter, and if I were 5% less knowledgeable, and someone sent me a tweet of their 26 year old chest in a tank top with the message “I feel like my boobs have gotten ridiculous”, then I might be tempted to tweet back a picture of my chest and say, “My chest is *awesome*.”
And it wouldn’t occur to me that I was cheating on my wife, it would just be a silly thing I did on the internet. I don’t do it because I know the internet, I am terrified of screwing up my marriage (which is NOT the same thing as fidelity, by the way, it just has the same outcome) and I have a particular distaste for Paying For Nudity. But that’s just me.
(Also, the women cheating twice as much as men is something I read about ten years ago, but it could have been specious for all I know. I’ve held on to it as a lovely concept, as a myth-buster when it comes to the inequality of the sexes, and I might be able to find my source for it, but I haven’t done it yet and I might not until I get some extra time. So, I actually should probably never say it again unless I can back it up.)
I hear you. It has always driven me crazy that most great men in American history have demonstrated sucky judgment when it comes to their sexual conduct.
And there’s no evidence that women are behaving this way in equal proportion. Sadly, we have had so few women in leadership but even accounting for discrepancy, in a list of 53 political sex scandals, there was one female, which would equal about 2% of the list. Whereas women account for roughly 18% of elected officials in the US. Unlike my husband, I don’t think women are superior. Women suck in all kinds of different ways. But they don’t seem to do this.
There are all sorts of conjectures about why this is true… It points up some central differences in sexuality and in executive function, but it also reminds me how – in American culture – women are nowhere to be found. That 18% of elected offices are held by women is appalling. The US trails Rwanda, Costa Rica, Nepal, Macedonia – and the list goes on – in female elected officials.
And, Kent, I think it’s a false equivalency to compare Wiener to Bush/Cheney. I mean, that’s not really the discussion here. It’s just sad to see people with potential behave in pathetic, puerile ways, particularly as it relates to sexuality.
i wonder if it’s specifically about a general profile for women who seek power versus men who seek power, as opposed to a general profile for men versus women.
Wiener has a pattern of this sort of thing, which is what your mom is responding to, I think. Mistakes are mistakes, sad compulsions are another thing. (Irrespective of Sean’s statement that it doesn’t rate as a mistake, I think it’s fair to acknowledge that it has certainly will be viewed as a mistake in his career). And I also think our modern digital age makes it more transparent but no less disheartening.
I feel like everyone keeps telling Linda to get over it because people are people. But I really hope everyone in this conversation is doing our best to be better than our basest impulses. And when we see someone that we otherwise admire succumbing to those impulses, it’s a bummer.
I’m just saying, for me, there’s nothing wrong with sending a picture of your junk to some girl who’s sending pictures of her junk to you. It is a *mistake*, because sending your junk over Twitter hasn’t been going on for centuries and he’s in the public eye, but the act itself isn’t immoral.
If he was flirting ridiculously with these women in person, but never laid a hand on them (and all signs point to the fact that Wiener never even MET these women in person) then we would shrug it off – because that HAS been happening for eons.
I don’t think there’s anything inherently *wrong* with what he did, except for the fact that he lied about it. And that I think is terribly wrong. In the same way that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with consensual anal sex among adult males, but lying about it actually hurts those who *don’t* lie about it.
Please, please, I beg everyone here to know that I have the most boring predictable sexual appetite imaginable. But there are people getting peed on and tying each other up and having rape fantasies and schoolgirl uniforms and leather daddies and cutters and straight up regular folk doing it missionary, and all of that is the span of the human imagination.
The very basic stuff does it for me, but that’s because I’m a natural enthusiast, I tend to find profundity in stuff that other people aren’t all that impressed with. Some people are far more complicated, and I don’t begrudge them their appetites.
But lying about it *is* the issue. I don’t think anyone is saying that sending pictures of yourself to someone else is inherently immoral. It’s maybe a little sad but, really, it hardly rates. If he and his wife had an agreement that this was how he conducted his affairs, and it was no one’s business, so be it. The whole thing would have been an odd footnote. “Yep, I sent picture to that chick, and my wife is fine with it. I represent New York, remember, so fuck off.”
But, according to his own statement, he revealed his predilection for internet liaisons to his wife before they were married. Presumably, he mea culpa’d, swore off the bad habit, and committed to traditional heterosexual monogamous conduct. And then he slipped back into his sad little habit. Irrespective of how accepting we might be of anyone’s proclivities, this is stupid. As a married man, it’s stupid. As a public figure, it’s stupid. As a 46-year-old tweeting a 21-year-old, it’s stupid.
You trade in some of your rights to privacy when you opt to become a public figure, even from a legal perspective. This was a behavior that he knew, as a politician, had potentially negative consequences for his future and his family, and he did it anyway. That’s not immoral. That’s just sad. So, his inability to control those impulses is disappointing to people who had hopes he might be more interesting than that.
Also, I think Linda is reacting to the tiresome history of men in power acting like idiots when it comes to sex. And, again, I don’t think women are better. We’re idiots too but on this particular subject, men suck worse. It’s just endless. It’s like movies with Tom Cruise in them. They just keep coming.
I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying here, and I’d hate for there to be a united voices of Linda’s Sons™ saying “Well, boys will be boys, no point in being disappointed” and mom, I’m sorry if it’s coming across like that. I just think it sucks that he lied about it, and I guess that he felt like he had to lie about it.
The sad thing in my mind is that he admitted to his wife BEFORE this all happened, and then he got sucked back in. It reminds me of how long it took me to quit smoking.
And I would also like to say how grateful I am to be a bit older and no longer in the hold of my libido. Things really have calmed down in my brain in the last few years, and it has been an enormous relief. I hated how much of my day was driven by sex, how much of every single action involved some aspect of getting laid, and to have bigger fish to fry is a wonderful feeling.
I’m not disappointed in “Linda’s Sons, etc.” at all. I agree that what he did was sad, not illegal, not even horrible in and of itself. But if I were his wife, I’d be a) more than sad that he couldn’t keep out of this particular quicksand and b) scared shitless that another shoe is going to drop.
And I agree with Tessa that there are, speaking in broad strokes here, a lot, probably an equal number, of negative (for want of a better word) female proclivities. I could name a dozen without even thinking hard. Start with women, as a group, having a hard time “getting over it”– getting over slights, getting over betrayals, getting over not making Miss America.
Men, bless them, tend to blow up, have it out, and move on. That sort of thing. But this obsession with the genitalia, with sex, is not one women share in the same way or nearly to the same extent as men do.
I’m just sayin’. And I’m sayin’ too much. I really started a firestorm. But it’s been great to get everyone’s take on it.
And I’ll do my best to “get over it.”
various members of above conversation, Xmas ’10