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Hell to the Chief: The Neckties that Bind
Were all you romantics aware that this month is National Romance
Awareness Month? By way of celebration -- according to Ultimate TV -- the fine folks behind the new
men's hair coloring product Just for Men reportedly surveyed 750 women and
found that most of them would prefer a little bit of affection to a lavish
gift. "The results of the survey are a wakeup call to men," commented
product spokeswoman Tina "Ginger" Louise.
As far as any sort of "national romance awareness" is concerned,
clearly Louise is doing a better job of spreading the word -- setting an
example, even -- than the fine folks in our nation's capital. Looks to me like
the First Family (not to mention the First Fling) needs a little romance
awareness, Breakup Girl style. Their people did call my people, of course, but
we all had to agree that to formally summon me to the White House for a
consultation -- like Marianne Williamson, Jesse Jackson, Eleanor Roosevelt, et.
al. -- was just too risky (Starr subpoena, yadda yadda yadda). So instead, I'll
have to go through regular BG channels to make my observations and tease out
some lessons for us all (such as: YOU ALWAYS GET CAUGHT). So read on.
(Oh, before I forget. To those of you who have
requested photos/more details about the Merchant-Ivory 80s' comedy that was my
tour of Tuscany: Sorry, BG respectfully declines. Even superheros have private
Dear President Clinton,
I have to say that (admittedly, in a non-ideal way) you have helped prove
the very point that justifies Breakup Girl's existence (if not a raise).
Anecdote: last year, an earnest young feminist approached me to play a little
devil's advocate. "So," she said, "your whole website, your
whole job, is just about ... dating and relationships?"
"JUST" about relationships?!?! Mister President, you have
reminded us -- for better or for worse -- that EVERYTHING is all
about relationships (love, lust, romance, dating, whatever you want to call
it). All relationships, all the time. They are our comeuppance, our downfall,
our overlord. The bombs may drop, the floods may come -- but we are rarely a
moment away from thinking "Did he call?" "Should I wear the
tie?" Relationships run us, and some of us, um, run the world.
SO WE MIGHT AS WELL HANDLE THEM RIGHT. YES?
You don't need me to tell you where you went wrong (okay, just a hint: EVER
CHEATING, EVER.) (Also: location, location, location.) (Oh, and I have a few
things to get off my chest about welfare reform, but that's a different
letter.) Ideally, in Breakup Girl court, your punishment should have been:
having to live with yourself (i.e., not with Starr). Crying -- rotting
slightly, even -- on the inside. Kicking yourself, really hard, every time you
see your stellar wife and daughter. Hearing -- being haunted by, even -- the
vows you made and broke (no loopholes, sorry).
But I will cut you a wee bit of Slick slack, if only to stir a few points of
light up out of these tawdry ashes.
So here goes. Lots of people, as I'm sure you're aware, are saying
"Well, if he lied about this, who knows what else he's lied about?"
Sounds logical ... but it's not. Hey everyone: people lie about sex. (As
Seinfeld has quipped: "If it weren't for lies, there would be no
sex.") People lie when they have a libido to protect -- never mind a
family, or a direct interest in national security. I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS
OKAY. I am simply saying that just because someone lied about nooky does not
mean they lied about NAFTA. They might have, but the latter does not follow
from the former. Since love is a special way of feeling, it is something we ALL
have a special way of judging, complete with our own private custom set of
loopholes and permissible fibs. Which means, among many other things -- to
quote NOW President Patricia Ireland -- "If
Congress is going to take any action, the only people who should be allowed to
vote are ones who never lied about their sex life." (Which means we risk a
So yes, love/'sex makes you two things:
As far as #2 is concerned, people need to quit scratching their heads and
saying, "I can't believe he'd be so stupid." I mean, well, I really
can't believe it either, but let's put this in perspective. Lots of people, as
I'm sure you're aware, write to me to say, "Dear Breakup Girl, I missed
receiving my Nobel Prize because I'd gotten up to check my voice mail to see if
he'd called." D'oh! You see my point.
Bottom line: Breakup Girl understands, but she does not approve. You have A
LOT of groveling to do, Mr. President. Do not, repeat do NOT, let it happen
again. Even after you're out of office.
Now get back to work.
Oh wait, they won't let you.
P.S. And no more Zegna semaphore, okay? It's embarrassing.
Dear Mrs. Clinton,
Don't worry, you're not on The Breakup List.
But the fact that you're not does raise an interesting question. As Jane
Mayer writes in the August 24 New Yorker: "In the seven months
since Monica Lewinsky appeared, Mrs. Clinton has gone from seeming too
controlling ... to seeming unable to control her own husband. Americans have
never liked her better." Hmmm. So how come we love you both for being
independent and badass, and also for doing the Tammy? The answer is: we don't.
What we're down with is not so much what you're doing, but how you're doing it.
We are talking class. We've noticed that you are, like, the only person
who's managed to keep this whole mess in the realm of the personal. And we
sense that your game face and steady pace come out of innate dignity --
not what is, in this case, its opposite: denial. Look, Breakup
Girl can assure everyone that people put up with far more in return for far
less. There are people who Energizer Bunny their way through lousy
relationships repeating, "S/he'll change. S/he'll change. S/he'll
change." Then there are people who strap on the cleats and
clearthinkingly, lucidly pick their way through rocky relationships that might
indeed be smoothed over.
That, as far as BG can tell, would be you. And my sense is this. Not that
it's not extremely painful, but you've dealt ongoingly with the fact that your
husband has been unfaithful. Not to mention dumb. But the very above-it-all
dignity that we so admire about you may also be what compounds the wear and
tear. At what point will you buckle under the weight of being the smart one,
the cool one, the classy one, the standard-bearer, the clean-up crew in pearls?
In my estimation, that point -- if it ever comes -- will be the one at which
you contemplate doing the other Tammy ("D-I-V-O-R-C-E").
Your call, needless to say. But in the meantime, here's a corny-but-apt
survival tactic from BG (one that may, in fact, already be your secret): make
sure you do indeed have opportunities -- private opportunities -- to vent, to
lose, to let that necessarily frosty exterior do a little healthy melting and
flooding. Scream and stomp your feet at the mirror. Do all that cathartic girl
stuff. Rent "Thelma and Louise" with Janet Reno. And read my advice
column, where it may help you to see how many other people out there are
smarting from being betrayed by the commander-in-chief with a 21-year-old
intern. Oh, wait.
Dear Ms. Lewinsky,
If it makes you feel any better, we are all jealous of you. We all like to
think, in our own little worlds, that our breakups are major international
incidents. For you, lucky girl, that is actually true.
I would also like to commend you on your maintenance of, for the most part,
a non-tabloidy reticence and discretion -- one that impressed me if only
because of its stark contrast to the conduct that (with the help of Tripp &
Goldberg, LLP) brought about this whole mess.
But. I've read reports that you were "hurt" by the President's
dismissal of your "relationship" (yes, "relationship") and
silence about the impact this debacle has had on your family. Sorry, kiddo. You
should have surrendered your expectations way back at the White House security
checkpoint (you had, like, 37 chances). As an 8/22/98 letter
to the editor of the New York Times stated: "[You] may have been
a 21-year-old intern, but [you were] also a sexually mature young woman who
entered into a relationship with another woman's husband, who happened to be
the President. When you play that game, you don't get apologies." Got
Now, a look to the future. My advice: somehow, somewhere, you've got to
enter into non-fantasy relationships. With people your own age. People who are
truly available to you, as lovers AND friends. People who are not famous now;
people who are not going to get famous by betraying you. Or, at least, start by
looking at why you have, as far as I know, been dodging such relationships.
What, for you, is so scary about real life, real peers, equal footing, actual
commitment? You tell me. In words, not ties.
Dear Linda and Lucianne,
I hope you're satisfied.
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