In Her Words
Public Humiliation and the Dutiful Woman
I wouldn’t be on that stage with Eliot Spitzer
By: Kristin Blank
My father cheated on my mother for almost three years before she divorced him. Tolerance for infidelity is not in my nature.
Last week, when I watched now-former New York governor Eliot Spitzer’s wife, Silda, stand next to him at the podium as he “apologized” for his involvement with prostitutes, my mind flashed to my father at our small-town church one Sunday morning. My father stood at the lectern, reading a verse about husbands honoring their wives, as my mother, my sisters and I sat conspicuously in our pew, remembering the months of late nights and work-related travel that had kept him with his mistress, Debbie.
My mother had wasted away to 120 pounds over the previous two years as she tried to bring him back to her; she knew exactly what was going on. And Silda Spitzer probably wasn’t shocked, either, when her husband’s story broke publicly.
Humiliated, I’m sure, but not shocked.
Mom didn’t storm from the sanctuary, toss his clothes on the lawn or slash his pickup’s tires. She did nothing but watch him read his verse, like Silda Spitzer watched her husband read his statement, even though our friends and his co-workers in the congregation knew about the affair and said so after the service. By that time, Dad had gone back to work instead of to Sunday brunch.
My mother didn’t go to brunch, either, but followed him with my aunt as he drove with Debbie in his truck, the “honor thy wife” hardly gone from his lips.
Mom kicked him out six months after that church service.
My mother had loved my father wholly ever since she got pregnant at 16 years old; she loved him through three daughters, layoffs from Ford Motor Company and almost 25 years of marriage. Ending that marriage was the hardest thing she ever did, and it made her stronger.
I wonder what drove Silda Spitzer to stand supportively next to her husband – deep love, obligation? I am a wife now, and I don’t think I would quietly allow myself to be publicly humiliated like my mother was, like Spitzer’s wife was, like Hillary Clinton once was.
I would not be on that stage with him. Let the press wonder about his absent wife. Doesn’t he deserve that?
Maybe she’ll divorce him when the bright lights go away, once the public no longer knows what goes on at home. And we shouldn’t know. But to me, her quiet message right now is, Women, support your men at any price. Compromise your dignity to preserve a desecrated marriage.
When, really, her message should be, Fight.
What do you think about women standing by their cheating men?