Two Cheers for Hypocrisy

Posted: Mar 19, 2008 12:01 AM
Two Cheers for Hypocrisy

Make it stop, please. Uncle.

In New York, the Daily News featured intimate details of the new governor's old marital infidelity, which the poor man disclosed knowing that it would all become public somehow, anyway. The New York Post highlights an alleged threesome among former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, his wife and his chauffeur, blurted to a reporter by the driver after he was deposed under oath in Dina McGreevey's divorce-related lawsuit.

James McGreevey cheerfully confirmed the driver's story to the press, leading one almost to the degradation of hoping the charges are true in order to avoid believing the only possible alternative: a conspiracy of guys shamelessly ganging up on a single mom because they understand that it is still possible to shame a woman sexually in public, (thankfully, because there are worse things -- for example, shamelessness).

What if conscience is no more than the little voice that whispers, "No woman will ever want you if you act like that"?

Even the New York Times Science section gets into the act with a depressingly headlined story: "In Most Species, Faithfulness Is a Fantasy." According to DNA studies of offspring, sexual "infidelity" is common in almost all pair-bonding species, and so is the jealous revulsion it creates in the cuckolded mate.

The human ideal of becoming one flesh has few outward visible signs in the animal kingdom, unless you count the Diplozoon Paradoxum, a species of flatworm in which adolescents hook up and literally fuse together, "whereupon they remain faithful until death," according to the erudite David P. Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington, who wrote a book with his psychiatrist wife called "The Myth of Monogamy." (No, I don't want to know more about that marriage, either.)

Meanwhile in my lunch dates with middle-aged wives and ex-wives, we just can't stop talking about "The Week," as one friend put it. The week we discovered these truths to be, not self-evident but relentlessly rubbed in our faces:

A Harvard Law degree, three beautiful daughters and astonishing beauty is no guarantee against heartbreak.

When the governor and former attorney general of New York is caught with his pants down breaking the law, an astonishing number of one's male colleagues see it as an excellent opportunity to discuss at great length the virtues of legalizing prostitution.

Not only does sex sell, but prostitution pays.

On the one hand, the line between at least some of our daughters and prostitution grew strangely, dizzingly fuzzy as we heard that Ashley Dupre's former career was launched when she left home after crashing the family Porsche. (If you're going to have meaningless sex anyway, why not get paid for it?)

On the other hand, the once bright line between wife and prostitute also seemed to shimmer around the edges, as psychiatrists, marriage counselors, radio talk show hosts and "sex workers" were trotted out to explain to us what wives must do to keep our men from straying.

Meanwhile, on the Wall Street Journal's online comments page, an obviously well-intentioned Dave from Miami blurted, "After seeing photos of Silda, it's clear that she could gain employment at the Emporer's Club -- she's beautiful."

Gee, Dave, thanks. Quite an era we've entered when a guy means to compliment a lady by telling her she too could be a prostitute!

Enough. Where is Hypocrisy's conjoined-twin sister, Propriety, when you really need her?

Propriety is the art of appearing better in public than we are, which sadly requires a whole lot of hypocrisy, it seems. The human heart can only stand so much reality.

And, yet, the dream refuses to die.

Oh, the final bittersweet middle-aged truth: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And this week, of all these things, the greatest was love.