What Was Mrs. Spitzer Thinking?

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - March 19, 2008
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It was sad watching the destruction and humiliation of a prominent person going down in a sex and money scandal, and I’m not talking about Eliot Spitzer. The disgraced ex-governor of New York certainly deserves whatever censure is thrown his way.

I’m talking about his wife.

Silda Wall Spitzer stood by her man not once, but twice in three days as he first apologized briefly and then as he resigned. Millions of women watching around the world stared in fascination, sympathy and anger at her ashen face and said to themselves, “What the hell is she thinking?”

Well of course, we don’t know. What’s more, we can’t - and shouldn’t - judge her. She is a privileged, elegant and educated adult woman who met her husband at Harvard. They have shared 20 years of married life. They have three daughters. The fact that she has suddenly and shockingly become an object of pity and a poster child for betrayal does not erase two decades of shared history and, yes, love. You can’t erase love overnight. It may be irrevocably altered. It may be mortally damaged. But it is not gone. Not yet.

I consider myself a feminist, but I am not judge and jury of all women. I have made too many mistakes in my own life to demand perfect behavior in others. Admittedly my first reaction on seeing her there, suffering and silent, was anger. Why allow herself to be used? Why publicly support the man who betrayed her and her family, and why be a role model for feminine passivity?

But my cooler side prevailed. Years in journalism have taught me that there is always much more going on than meets the eye. What is crammed into a two-minute TV clip or front-page news story is seldom all there is. On TV it looks like black and white. In real life there is nuance.

For all we know, Silda Spitzer may be making a different kind of statement by standing there beside her shamed and humbled man. She may be saying to the world, I am not going to hide. I am still here. I will decide to forgive or not, to stay or to leave, but I will do it on my own timetable and for my own reasons and no one else’s.

Or she may be saying to her children, I know he is your father and you love him. We will be strong and try to keep our family intact.

Maybe their marriage has been in trouble for a while. They may have had an “arrangement.” Or maybe she really is a puppet of her husband and his handlers. Somehow I don’t think that’s the case, but as I said, we just don’t know.

The investigation and the law will be the deciding factors in Eliot Spitzer’s case. Silda Spitzer will decide what is best for her and her children. You shouldn’t worry what your own daughters would do in similar situations. They are watching and thinking and forming their own conclusions.

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