I know, I know. Just writing the name Anthony Weiner in this space is sure to unleash the furies. But I can’t help it. I’m fascinated. And really, it’s not the (virtual) sex or the (weirdly creepy) chest photographs.
What fascinates me is the psychology of successful men who seem compelled to put their carefully-constructed lives at risk, often over peanuts. (Phone sex? Really?)
(Does it make all this any more topical if I point out that Weiner was a SUNY Plattsburgh grad, class of ’85?)
Over the years, I’ve collected a kind of mental gallery of these feet-of-clay figures, some of them very public and famous, others just average Joes who I’ve known in my private life.
Taken together they are interesting, intelligent, complex people. They are talented and driven, and often motivated (at least in part) by the highest of virtues.
Most are good fathers and reasonably solid husbands, and they are inevitably married to incredibly cool, beautiful women.
But tucked away in a corner of their world is a black hole, a void. They live on the edge of a precipice, and apparently wouldn’t have it any other way. Naturally, they frequently fall.
It would have the quality of Greek tragedy — fatal flaws, Achilles’ heels and so on — if the foibles in question weren’t so often pathetic and sad.
(One almost thinks that successful men should be forced by their staffs to give up their digital cameras…)
In some cases, I suspect that these men are looking for a way out. Their station in life forces them into such narrow pathways that they feel trapped, constrained.
Maybe sending that icky photograph feels like decadent freedom, a cry of rebellion. They sound their barbaric yawps from the roofs of the world, or at least from their Twitter feeds.
Or perhaps they enter public life carrying their ticking-timebomb fetishes and neuroses. After a while, they just can’t keep it under wraps any more.
And then of course there are the cases where married men really just seem to fall head-over-heels in love with someone other than their wife. It happens. And for these poor saps, that sordid business unfolds in the spotlight.
In the end, I do think some compassion is in order.
Yes, it’s annoying that in pursuing his pleasures Rep. Weiner let down his 700,000 constituents (not to mention his wife) and dropped the ball on the people’s business.
But this kind of self-immolating behavior seems to be part of the human condition — or to borrow the French phrase, of the human comedy.
Which means we might as well end with the words of Honore de Balzac. “Love is a game,” he wrote, ” in which one always cheats. “