Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 18, 2011 ~ Day 159
Mommy Doesn't Let Us Say "Schwarzenegger"

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a dirty word in our household tonight, and not just because he’s a dirty old man who apparently fathered a son outside of his 25 year marriage to Maria Shriver.

My husband and I are both a little angry with him - but for very different reasons.

For me, Schwarzenegger is the perfect example of the stereotypical male who can’t keep his pants zipped despite the fact that he !had! a beautiful, smart, successful, sexy wife and four healthy children.

I don’t know if his (multiple?) indiscretions are related to an insatiable hunger for power, a sex addiction or just the sense that rules which apply to normal people don’t apply to him. To me, the reason really doesn’t matter.

I’ve simply lost a lot of respect for him (not that I ever had too much... most of it was based on his climate change record) since his revelation today that over 10 years ago he fathered a love child with a household staff member... a maid or housekeeper, I believe.

He is a cheater, plain and simple. He has crossed one of the two vital rules I have for myself in relationships: Never stay with a cheater and never stay with someone physically abusive.

I have never been physically abused (well, except for the beating my sons and daughter have each given me as toddlers as they gleefully kicked and punched me, pulled my hair, head-butted me and laughed as they brought tears to my eyes... all in the name of avoiding the diaper change, bath, putting on their pajamas or refusing to get in the car to go to school).

But by a man, an adult with whom I was spending time in any capacity... I have never been abused - a fact for which I am very grateful.

I have, however, been cheated on... and I’m not going to lie, it remains a subject I am exquisitely sensitive about. I myself have never cheated on a boyfriend or lover, but when I was younger I did have the misfortune to go out with more than one guy who later revealed that he had a girlfriend ~ even falling in love with someone who had a girlfriend ~ and I’ll never forget the total scumbag (such a cliche... the bad boy lead singer-guitarist of a moderately successful local band) who hit on me and brought me and my friend back from a bar to ‘hang out’ at his friend’s house ~ and also went to kiss me ~ before revealing that he was married.

“What? Why are you LEAVING?” he asked when I found out. “What’s the big deal?”

“Are you F*(#ing kidding me? The reason isn’t obvious to you?”

“So I’m married, so what? My wife doesn’t care.”

“What do you MEAN she doesn’t care?”

“We have an open relationship. She likes it when I bring girls home. She’s into that kind of thing.”


“Hey man, you weren’t there when we made our vows. You can’t judge.”

“No, but I sure as hell can leave!”

I grabbed my friend and we were out of that house within about 1 minute. To this day, I still feel ill thinking about that guy - and worse thinking about his wife, who turned out to be some kind of elementary school teacher. I’m so glad I’ve never met her, I’d have a really hard time not telling her the kind of man she’s married to... although, according to him, she knows.

Maybe he was telling the truth, maybe she WAS into that kind of thing - but how awful for her if he was just another lying sack of $*&# trying to have his cake and eat it too.

Anyway, I don’t like cheaters. I’ve been cheated on, lied to and left by a cheater and it absolutely broke my spirit and self-esteem for a long while. Once I rebuilt myself into a stronger and more resilient woman, a very gentle and beautiful part of my younger self turned out to be permanently broken or missing. I’d learned the hard way that a person can call you their soul mate and hide an entire part of their life from your view, even when you live together and ‘share everything’. I lost some innocent, soft, trusting part of my own personality and became a much harder girl.

So I have no compassion for Arnold Schwarzenegger or any of the philandering politicians out there who lie to and hurt their spouses, not even my favorite President Bill Clinton. I don’t respect their choices.

I believe that there are many people including me who *would* have respected these men for doing the courageous thing - leaving their wives before cheating and living openly as skirt-chasers (or gay men, or whatever they really are!)... but I do not respect them for lying to the respective women they’d promised to love, honor and cherish until death.

Warren Beatty, for example, was a legendary skirt chaser for years. I have no judgment about this. Good for him, if that’s what he wanted - and good for the ladies, if that’s the kind of relationship they were into. No big deal. When he finally decided to settle down, he seems to have done well by his talented and gorgeous wife Annette Bening. From my experience many times the “bad boys” who have gotten all of their oat-sowing out of their system before settling down often seem to turn out the most faithful and devoted husbands.

I don’t have a problem with sex, or people that want a lot of it. I have a problem with broken promises and lies. Yes, I realize this viewpoint is very American and even Puritanical of me. Call me a product of the society I was raised in. Cheaters never prosper... at least, they shouldn’t!

* * * * *

My husband is also angry with Arnold Schwarzenegger tonight - but for a very, very different reason. He’s frustrated because yet again, he’s had to sit through the inevitable conversation that springs up in our kitchen or dining room whenever one of these heavyweight actors or politicians turns out to be a cheater.

The conversation typically goes something like,

“Honey, I just don’t understand men. Why do you guys DO these things?”

“Well, um... not all of us do!”

“Yes, but WHY do so many men do it? Why do they bother getting married at all if they just want to mess around on the side?”

“Well, I guess they think they can have it all.”

“Have it all? Do you mean this is what men want? A wife and a mistress too?”

and this is where the conversation gets dicey and my husband’s shoulders tense up, because really - what is he supposed to say to me? What words can he possibly use to explain the biological instinct that we both know men possess... without incriminating himself in any way?

I have to laugh out loud just thinking about how hard he tries to phrase things just right.

It is a very, very tricky conversation for a faithful husband to explain the mind of the red-blooded American male without getting into hot water, despite the fact that he himself has done nothing wrong.

So if my husband had a beer with Arnold this evening, I believe the tenor of their conversation might be something like -

DUDE!!! Why you gotta make the rest of us look bad? My lady’s going to be edgy for a week just because you couldn't control yourself!

(Of course, my husband would sound a lot more articulate than this... but you get the point.)

In an effort to deflect the attention from the male gender this evening, my husband parried my question and asked, “Well - don’t some women have similar urges? Don’t women cheat too?”

The truth is, of course they do. It’s just that I am not one of those women... although a deeper part of me believes that anyone is capable of anything, depending on the circumstances. I don’t think I’m better or worse than anyone else out there, and I wouldn’t judge my friends of either gender for having affairs. Which is a totally hypocritical thing for me to feel, given that I’ve just admitted that I judge politicians and my own ex for doing the same exact thing.

I guess affairs of the heart and the bedroom are a very provocative topic for discussion, even within the safe grounds of a loving and committed marriage.

When I see a husband and father like Arnold Schwarzenegger willingly throw away a long relationship and the emotional well-being of his own family due to the inability to control a lascivious urge, it makes me feel pretty bummed out - especially for his kids. My husband, on the other hand, may see a person that he can relate to in some way... at least biologically.

I guess he and I will have to agree to talk about something else, some other bit of newsworthy gossip like the fact that Saturday is purportedly Judgment Day.

I’m trying to wrap up my own thoughts on the whole Schwarzenegger debacle though... so here is the sum of how I feel:

There is a passage from the Bible, I think, that says “Let he who is without Sin cast the first stone.”

I’m sure I’ve sinned throughout my life in plenty of meaningful ways - just not this particular way. I don’t believe in stoning a person for lapses in sensible judgment, and I don’t think Arnold Schwarzenegger is a terrible human being for having an affair and a love child. It isn’t like he murdered anyone or stole their life savings.

I just wish I could come to a peace with the whole concept of infidelity. The truth is, I’m still an idealist raised on fairy tales and ‘The Princess Bride’. I believe in true and lasting for everyone - and like most married women, I truly hope I’ve found it. Watching another woman’s fairy tale marriage fall apart gives me pain, because I know that it could happen to any of us. It *has* happened to lots of us.

More than anything, now that I am a mother I pray that my own children will learn by example and grow to be compassionate, loyal and true life partners - with steady hearts. Despite her own grief and outrage I’m guessing that’s what Maria Shriver is praying for tonight too.

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