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August 24, 1998 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


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 lives.)

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.


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 1-1 tie.)

So yes, love/'sex makes you two things:

1. lie

2. dumb.

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.

Breakup Girl

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.

Breakup Girl

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 that?

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.

Breakup Girl

Dear Linda and Lucianne,

I hope you're satisfied.

Breakup Girl



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