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No reason to stand there

Silda Wall Spitzer stood by her husband, even though it was his behavior that was at issue. He should have been all by himself.

Associated Press

Silda Wall Spitzer stood by her husband, even though it was his behavior that was at issue. He should have been all by himself.

I tried to write about something else this week. I had a different subject researched and was ready to tap out my thoughts, but Client No. 9 kept pulling me back.

I just couldn't get that image of Silda Wall Spitzer out of my mind. Following the revelations that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was caught engaging high-priced call girls, his wife Silda, a Harvard-educated, former powerhouse lawyer, valiantly stood in her pearls (why do deceived wives so often retreat to the pearls?) beside her cheating husband. The man who just ruined her family, defied her trust, humiliated her, and possibly put her health at risk (since apparently Client No. 9 demands unsafe sexual practices), was using her one more time as a P.R. prop. (And again at the resignation speech.)

Since Spitzer was apparently so motivated to have someone other than his wife on a trip to Washington that he paid thousands of dollars and concocted elaborate ruses in order to make it happen, why not tell him to have one of the women from the Emperors Club stand in for the public apology portion of the show? He obviously prefers their company.

I'll never understand why women like Silda go along with this bit of theater. If I were in her shoes I would be at the courthouse filing for divorce before one could say "Kristen who?"

I want the day to come when a politician husband has to stand at that podium alone during the traditional mea culpa or empty denial. It is entirely his behavior that is at issue and he should answer for it without asking the woman whom he just emotionally pummeled to share the load.

But for some reason, even when political wives had accomplished, professional careers and could dump the jerk in a New York minute without worrying about losing a meal ticket, they are willing to subvert their own dignity and spend down some of their own character to prop up his.

In just the last year we've had Suzanne, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's wife, stand publicly next to her man after the infamous bathroom incident came to light; Wendy, the wife of Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, there to proclaim her forgiveness after her husband's number was found in the phone records of the "D.C. Madam;" and Carlita, the wife of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, beside him following the explosive text-messaging scandal linking him romantically with his top aide.

This unreconstructed loyalty reflects badly on women as a gender — run our hearts over with a truck and we'll forgive, make us feel gullible and disposable and we'll forgive. That is not noble, it's weak, like a variation of Stockholm Syndrome. No matter the wrong done to us, we're just grateful that he's sorry and wants to stick around.

Cheating should be a one-strike-and-you're-out phenomenon. Trust is the foundation of any marital relationship, and when that's gone all you've got is farce. Are the trappings of marriage really worth it when a husband exhibits so little respect for you? Is that the lesson you want your children to internalize?

I'm sure I'll be asked whether I felt the same when Bill did it to Hillary.

Yup. A column of mine written at the time of the Monica Lewinsky scandal said: "Why is Hillary Rodham Clinton 'standing by her man' after such a bruise to her dignity, when by all objective measures she shouldn't be the stand-by-your-man type?"

I said she and those like her should leave. Had Hillary done so it would have been a great example to women everywhere, demonstrating that even when you are married to the most powerful man in the world, you don't have to put up with being treated like dirt.

I know what women feel when a man like Spitzer engages young, beautiful women for sex. They feel that youth and beauty are the only qualities men value in women. It doesn't matter if a wife worked hard to remain slim and attractive as she ages, at one point had her own prestigious career, raised children to be fine young citizens, and was a supportive and dependable partner. All of which it appears Silda did and was. None of it apparently stacked up to lithe and new.

I wonder what men feel when they hear of Spitzer's dalliances? Do they sympathize with Silda's predicament and her devastation or do they focus on the reproach, that a powerful and wealthy man with a holier-than-thou-streak got what was coming? Are they as disgusted by his behavior as are most women or do they harbor an unspoken jealousy of Spitzer's trysts? Do they think that only his getting caught was the problem?

On second thought, maybe I really don't want to know.

No reason to stand there 03/15/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 4:46pm]

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