Wimpy Groom; McClain Surrenders

Susan Page
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Wednesday - May 11, 2005
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Just about everybody — media pundits, politicians, regular folk — has an opinion on the recent Jennifer Wilbanks “Runaway Bride” story, even those who think it’s an obscene waste of air time and ink.

Granted, it’s a story better suited as a People magazine quick read than 24/7 headline news. But beneath the smarmy surface, the whole affair actually speaks to a disappointing side of American life: media exploitation, double standards between men and women, and how totally selfabsorbed we’ve become.

The contrast between a socialite bride-to-be stressed over her wedding for 600 guests, with 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen in Atlanta and the millions who struggle with starvation, HIV/AIDS and persecution in much of the world is dizzying.

Some in the media give Wilbanks a complete pass. Poor thing, she was stressed. Who wouldn’t be? Who? I bet an orphaned 13-year-old South African girl raising three young siblings wouldn’t mind some of Wilbank’s brand of stress. Or a wife in Saudi Arabia who can’t leave her house unless covered head to toe by a black abaya and without a male relative escort might not see Wilbank’s problem as unbearable either.

And many men are furious over the double standard in how Wilbanks was treated. One man I heard on the radio said, “If it had been the reverse, the groom had run away and lied like that, he’d be headed for jail time.” He’s right. But Wilbanks, who needed some “alone time” and cost the town of Duluth, Ga., thousands in search-and-rescue expenses, got a teddy bear and lots of hugs and understanding.

Especially from that wimp of a groom to be.

Here’s how my cynical mind reads the scene:

The bride split to get rid of him. Maybe this went through her mind: I wish John had a backbone. I’m a spoiled, self-centered brat who walks all over him, yet he never complains. It’s always, “It’s OK, I forgive you.” Hmmm. Maybe if I run away without a trace, hop a bus to Vegas, make him look like a murder suspect, humiliate him before the world, put both our parents through hell, lie through my teeth about being kidnapped, then fess up that I just wanted to be alone, finally he’ll get the picture.”

But he didn’t seem to get it. He’s still forgiving and excusing her. Forgiveness is divine; not seeing the writing on the wedding cake is lame. Even Dr. Phil gets it. He told CNN’s Larry King: “I’d really have problems with this woman if I were him.” Face it, John. She’s just not that into you.


And speaking of a runaway situation, I believe a dangerous precedent has been set by besieged interim UH president Dr. David McClain, who has given over his private office for seven days (at this writing) to protesters against a proposed joint Navy research program.

Where exactly will this tactic stop?

Will he surrender his private office to any group with a grievance?

How can he do his job? My tax dollars help sustain the university. Maybe I and a few thousand of my fellow taxpayers should’ve staged a similar protest over the university’s Ward Churchill visit or some egregious campus policy.

A university president’s private office is private. I would’ve had the protesters escorted out to the street where they could rail against the military as long as they liked, since freedom to protest is one of those precious rights assured to them by the sacrifice of members of our U.S. military.

Runaway brides and overrun offices. What a country!

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