I was never a pretty girl, not traditionally pretty anyway. Maybe charismatic, got “sexy” a lot, but pretty? Not really. There is something in Rielle Hunter I recognize and identify with. She is so many good things – and yet, she’s the object of our collective scorn, along with our collective disgust at John Edwards. I think Rielle, despite the spiritual gobbledegook she spouts, really does get the bigger picture — the biological forces that drive men to do what comes naturally to them – fuck anything that will let them fuck it — and that it’s hard for one woman to satisfy that need. I like the matter-of-fact way she lays it out in this revealing, must-read interview in GQ magazine.
Rielle clears up a few things I’d long been wondering about. The media machine has cast Rielle as the predator who went after John Edwards with no consideration to his cancer-stricken wife. The truth is that John Edwards saw in Rielle a girl he knew he could “own” in a matter of minutes. Why did he know this? Because she wasn’t a pretty girl. I think she is probably very attractive, though, just not traditionally pretty. When you are pretty you are treated differently; you are less accessible. And when you aren’t pretty, it is a big thrill when the captain of the football team looks your way. It might seem old fashioned, but I’m wondering if it isn’t true.
Cute and charismatic guys like John Edwards know exactly the kind of power they have over girls who are not their equal in the looks department. One guy in my past cured me quickly of the Edwards-like appeal and it was so mortifying so early on that I became very wary of that flash of smile, those sparkling eyes and that begging tone. A couch, too many beers, and a half-forced sex act gone wrong reminds me of how I almost lost my virginity at around 14, maybe 15. And that guy looked exactly like John Edwards. I knew that no matter how much they poured out words of love and affection what was really happening was that I was being used. I don’t say this with judgment. Like Rielle, I get it that men need to do this, or if I may say, certain kinds of men. That was why when Rielle says that John Edwards wanted him to call her immediately. He knew within seconds that this girl would melt and it wouldn’t take much.
Of course, in Rielle’s mind it was true love, deep and meaningful love. I think it probably evolved to something like that but it wasn’t that to begin with. It was an open door and he walked right through it – because he could, because he had so many times in the past. John Edwards, like so many of our falsely elevated male gods, need to have it both ways in order to be who they are. Edwards needed Elizabeth and the long marriage, the illusion of stability — just as he needed to have sex like only an alpha male needs to have sex. We want and need that kind of charm and charisma in our leaders (they simply can’t get elected otherwise) but we can’t abide their infidelity.
So then you might say, what about Obama? What about men who are charismatic and remain faithful to their wives? I don’t know what to say about it. I think that Obama really loves his wife and is still attracted to her. But I also believe that he is a man whose own integrity outweighs his need to get laid. We have reason and thus, if we want to badly enough, we can control ourselves. From the sound of it, Edwards had been cheating on Elizabeth for many years — yes, even when she had cancer, maybe especially when she had cancer. No one is ever going to give him a pass for that. His political career is over. It’s a good thing he has money. I would never want to give him a pass either, but I do like to ruminate on the idea of our expectation that a guy like Edwards should keep it in his pants when he has so much power and indulgence staring him in the face every day. He probably still does, even now.
Rielle Hunter never seemed to view the situation with much compassion. She never really mentions John’s kids, for instance. One of the reasons people in loveless marriages should stay married is for the kids. In fact, when I look objectively at marriage I think that men having mistresses is the best of all worlds. Marriages can stay intact, empires can be built, kids can have some stability – the wife can get a break once in a while and the husband and father can get laid as often as nature intended.
Unfortunately in this case, people got hurt. No one so much as Hunter’s little baby girl who has now been born into this unholy mess. That Rielle could still say she loved John even after he lied about fathering her child is evidence that she can’t bear the idea of her child not having a dad. If it were me, Edwards would be missing a few teeth. And that’s just for starters.
GQ took many photos of Rielle Hunter. This video shows that they took very pretty pictures of her. But they chose instead to portray her as a loose and sexual woman. They did this to take the heat off of themselves, to sell magazines at a time when magazines aren’t selling very well, and to help we American women play into the fantasy that if only bad girls like Rielle would go away we could keep our husbands happy and satisfied for decades. Yeah, think again. In this case, a girl fell hard for a pretty boy who whined like a baby to her about his cruel and abusive motherwife. The only truly baffling thing about the whole scenario is how a smart girl like her fell for a skeez like him. Does she not have any standards? Or was she merely flattered by the attention, the way we almost pretty girls often are.
I feel badly for Elizabeth because I see in her something different from the usual – Jackie O, Hillary or even Eleanor Roosevelt– these women seemed to be willing to look the other way for the sake of the institution of what their marriage represented. They were first ladies. There is no way Marilyn Monroe, Monica Lewinsky or Rielle Hunter are ever going to be first ladies. And there is no way Jackie and Hillary are ever going to be girls you pick up on with one line on a street corner.
But Elizabeth seemed like she really wanted John’s exclusive love. And he being such a narcissist — one woman was never going to do it for him. She would have to have been in it for something other than love. And if she had been – if she was reaching instead for her place in history – maybe she would be willing to forgive her husband’s weaknesses. Or maybe she thought she could contain it. As it turned out, she couldn’t. Not with a baby involved.
In the end, I find that I don’t feel the same hatred towards Rielle Hunter as many others out there. I understand John Edwards better, I think. And I don’t feel that betrayed either by what he did. If anything, I hate the lie. I hate that we Americans are so wrapped up in this illusion of the perfect man and the perfect marriage. I worry for our culture when we beat back male sexuality as something wrong — that hurricane of desire is bound to go somewhere and if it isn’t out in the open it’s going to go places we really don’t want it to go.
Let’s just legalize prostitution and be done with it. That would solve everything.