A Willingness to Be Uncertain

As I mentioned last night, Republican Senator David Vitter apologized for “a very serious sin in my past” after he was discovered to have frequented a prostitute. His statement noted, in part: “Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling.”

And, evidently, his wife has indeed forgiven him, rather than making good on the threat she issued in 2000: “I’m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I’m walking away with one thing, and it’s not alimony, trust me.”

What a lovely sentiment. It’s like I always say: True love is the simmering threat of brutal violence.

Now, the interesting thing is that Wendy Vitter came out with this pecker-imperiling proclamation in response to having been asked by a Times-Picayune reporter “whether she could forgive her husband if she learned he’d had an extramarital affair, as Hillary Clinton and Bob Livingston’s wife had done.” And, presumably, to demonstrate her superiority to a philanderer-forgiving, castrating feminazi with no family values like Hillary Clinton, she swore instead to be an unforgiving, penis-severing, good conservative lady with family values just dripping off the end of her knife.

No doubt, it was easy to talk big shit when its only purpose was to demonize Hillary, when the thought that some distant relations of those demons might come home to roost hadn’t even entered her good conservative mind. And, no doubt, it’s not easy at all to be the spouse of a person who has an affair that becomes public knowledge, that is not just embarrassing but deeply hypocritical. If it is a marriage of mere convenience, a business arrangement, she is humiliated. If she loves him, she is also painfully betrayed. And she knows, perhaps better than most, that her decision to stay at his side will be judged by snarky bitchez, some of whom might only be callously taking an opportunity to put on brilliant display their own righteousness.

Judge not lest ye be judged, someone once said. I think it was Jim Bakker.

But of course it is so tempting, when there is such a public story, when we are granted the chance to say, “I would never” or “I certainly would.” Almost a decade ago, when Hillary was standing by her man, I recall conversations with friends, most of whom swore from here to eternity they would leave him were they her, and none of whom believed for a moment her decision had anything to do with love. I said I believed that she loves him, and it was if I’d delivered the punchline to a splendid joke, the laughter was so rollicking. No, no, I was told; she is just an opportunist. They were so sure.

I’ve never been sure of anyone’s marriage but my own—and even that is a dubious proposition some days. Only the two people inside a marriage know its truth, and even then only insofar as they are honest with each other. I’m more sure of my belief that it can’t be easy to be a woman like Hillary Clinton, to find a partner who’s truly your equal, and I’m quite sure of my feeling that, having found mine, I can’t possibly say with any certainty what I’d do, faced with what she was. The person to whom I turn when troubled is Mr. Shakes, always Mr. Shakes—and my reason for loving him, for choosing him to be the one to whom I turn, is more than fidelity alone. I don’t know if its loss would undermine the rest, if, were it he who had betrayed me, I could no longer turn to him at all. I don’t hope to find out.

I know only that I am a work in progress, and so is he. And I’m not sure which of those is scarier; each has its moments, I guess. Both of us have messy slates, filled with the ticks and scrawls and scratches of lives lived with a willingness to be uncertain. And the honesty to know that means we don’t really know fuck-all about what that means for our future. I wouldn’t even presume to make a joke about what would happen if or if or if…

Judge not cuz who the fuck knows, dood? That was maybe Bill or Ted.

I’d like to think those insistent upon leaving a clean-slated life—who convince themselves with certitude of the future, and who from that future cast judgments on the rest of us stumbling about in the thrilling and frightening darkness of uncertainty—might look at the Vitters and reconsider whether the bitter judgment of others is wise or right. I’d like to think they might see that the sanctity of anything, maybe especially a marriage, is undermined only by inattention, by a failure of vigilance, and that from such a realization might commence a whole new respect for difference and choice, and a recommitment to the care and consideration their own lives, and the people in them, need. I’d like to think all that.

But the clean-slaters don’t sully themselves with reality. The erasers have already come out, and certainly with certainty they move on.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “A Willingness to Be Uncertain

  1. NameChanged

    I feel that the “sanctity of marriage” folks forget that marriage is a private situation. The wedding is a public event, but the marriage is between those in it. They spew their garbage and judgement about others, and then they shun onlookers into their lives.

    I know that marriage is a trial. I am currently feeling the pains of my past judgement, and I regret it terribly. My marriage is between my husband and myself. We are burdened with our decisions, and no one else can judge the way we carry them.

    As for the clean-slate in marriage, I feel it is disrespectful of the “markee” and the spouse. There must be recognition of wrong in order to grow. This does not equal cutting off organs, but examining the past in a way that honors the committment.

    I think I have rambled enough, and sorry for using Shakesville as group therapy. 🙂

  2. Jeff

    This putz says that he asked for and received forgiveness from GOD? Oh, great…yet another conservitive who believes that he has the right to speak on behalf of GOD. Here’s MY prediction…If GOD were here right now, I bet a paycheck she’d call him a bald-faced liar, deny the conversation ever occurred, and state unequivically that she rarely if ever forgives HYPOCRITICAL ASSHOLES.

  3. The “sanctity of marriage” folks thing divorce should never happen — unless it’s Hillary and Bill, then it was requisite. That Hillary Clinton stood by her husband and stayed married to him through all of that baffles them.

    Divorce is not always wrong; I know this from experience. But it’s certainly not a matter to be jumped into lightly, no matter the provocation. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter what the state of Hillary and Bill’s marriage is, whether they’re living separate lives or screwing each other like rabbits. They chose each other, and they’re choosing to stay together, and that’s their choice and nobody else’s. And not being in either of their shoes, I’m not going to gainsay it.

    But anyone who says “I would never” is almost certainly lying.

  4. Gee, Liss, sometimes I really love your writing. (Not that I ever really dislike it.)

    I remember when Love Story was popular, my mother hated the movie slogan, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” She said, you goddam right better be able to say you’re sorry. (My parents have been married 50 years now.)

    People like the hypocritical Vitters creep me out. I know every couple and family creates their own reality, but it cannot realistically be separate from the common reality we all have to live in. Unless you’re just a couple of dipshits in denial.

  5. I agree with Jeff – people who say “I would never” often get proved wrong. If a couple can get past infidelity, then great for them. In the Vitter’s case, I think there can be a psychological distinction made between someone who cheats by “having an affair” and someone who cheats by visiting a prostitute. An “affair” implies both sexual and emotional infidelity, while visiting a prostitute is just about the sex. (I know it isn’t that cut and dried, but I’ve heard people talk about it that way.)

  6. Gee, Liss, sometimes I really love your writing.

    Thanks, Kevin. Much appreciated. 🙂

    She said, you goddam right better be able to say you’re sorry.

    A wise woman indeed!

  7. Pingback: University Update - Hillary Clinton - A Willingness to Be Uncertain

  8. She’d call him a bald-faced liar, deny the conversation ever occurred, and state unequivically that she rarely if ever forgives HYPOCRITICAL ASSHOLES.

    What Jeff said. The thing I want to know about this direct line the jerks have to God is: IS IT AN 800 NUMBER?

  9. Jeff

    Quixote,

    Actually, given the facts, I would bet that the good congressman’s “penetence” probably involved telephoning a “1-900” number, and the woman on the other end of the line charged him by the minute for his act of “absolution”.


    “Ooooh….You’ve been such a very naughty boy….tell me slowly about every naughty little thing you’ve done….”

  10. DBK

    What are these people on and shouldn’t it be on the controlled substances list? Where do they get the idea that it’s acceptable to announce their propensity for sexual mutilation in interviews? How freaking nuts are they?

  11. mamajane

    I always go back to Atticus Finch on this one, walking in anothers’ shoes and such…

    No one can prejudge how they’ll react in a traumatic situation, be it physical or emotional. I used to say that I could never, ever, forgive my husband if he were to be unfaithful. Then once, while he was deployed, I found myself in a situation where I was the one who was on the edge of infidelity, and saw how easily one could cross that line, feelings for one’s partner not diminished in any way, temptation rising from simply being in a vulnerable place. Fortunately I was able to pull muself back, but since then my perspective is forever changed. I can honestly say now that I don’t believe in absolutes, and that growth can come from unexpected places.

    As for Mrs. Vitter, I’m finding it hard to see past the hypocrisy, would like to be more empathetic towards her, but they had to bring that whole god (who I’m sure wants no credit for this mess) thing into the mix and muddle things up.

  12. “Where do they get the idea that it’s acceptable to announce their propensity for sexual mutilation in interviews?

    I think that was a republican attempt at being “edgy” — unfortunately, it is, imo, simply “creepy”.

    One of the things that I find interesting in our culture is the weird state of “shock” people still express over infidelity, when, in my experience, the long-term couple who hasn’t dealt with the issue of infidelity (energetic or physical) is the exception, not the rule.

    Great post, as usual, Melissa.

  13. Beautifully written post. Love is complicated. I love this quote:

    The person to whom I turn when troubled is Mr. Shakes, always Mr. Shakes—and my reason for loving him, for choosing him to be the one to whom I turn, is more than fidelity alone. I don’t know if its loss would undermine the rest, if, were it he who had betrayed me, I could no longer turn to him at all. I don’t hope to find out.

    Reminds me of a Prince lyric I always found moving and intriguing:

    If I was your one and only friend
    Would u run 2 me if somebody hurt u
    Even if that somebody was me?
    Sometimes I trip on how happy we could be
    Please

    I like the lyric because it’s honest. It’s fucked up, but in that way that people are kind of fucked up.

  14. I remember when Love Story was popular, my mother hated the movie slogan, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” She said, you goddam right better be able to say you’re sorry. (My parents have been married 50 years now.)

    Gosh, I’m glad to find someone besides me who hated that idiotic line!!!!

  15. blusilva

    “This putz says that he asked for and received forgiveness from GOD? ”

    Well, yeah, he’s Catholic. If he went to confession and blabbed to a priest who assigned him his three-Hail-Mary penance, that’s asking for and receiveing forgiveness from God.

    Yet another reason I’m a “recovering Catholic”. That didn’t make sense when I was in second grade, and still doesn’t.

  16. It’s fucked up, but in that way that people are kind of fucked up.

    Totally.

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