We Thought Sanford Was Different

July 06, 2009|By Susan Reimer

We thought we'd found true love.

Not airport bathroom love. Not high-priced, call-girl love. Not congressional intern boy love.

Real love. The kind of love that causes kings to abdicate thrones. "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love."

That kind of love. The kind of passionate love women dream about even as they settle for accommodating love.

The kind of love that comes with dreamy missives that talk of lightning strikes and soul mates and wind-swept dance floors under the moon.

The kind of e-mails that caused one politician to predict that if married men wrote like that to their wives, divorce would disappear.

Turns out, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford isn't the one. He's just another one. Another narcissistic one. Another selfish one. Another unhinged one.

As the story emerged of his star-crossed love affair with an Argentinian woman, those of us who have witnessed just about enough of this kind of thing among our politicians thought we were hearing a different kind of story. Not a tawdry one but a tragic one.

He has a wife and four sons and a very public job. She lives half the world away. He would have to lie to more than his wife to be with her. He had to lie to an entire state. It would not end well. Even if they found their way to each other, there would be public humiliation, exile; innocents would be hurt.

When he talked of weeping in Argentina for five days, we imagined the pain of an affair ending. Lancelot and Guinevere parting for the sake of king and Camelot. Bogey and Bergman saying goodbye to the sound of a propeller's sputtering start.

"If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."

And, perhaps, "We'll always have Buenos Aires."

He wasn't one of those powerful men who treated women like jet skis - something risky to ride for the thrill of it. An adrenaline junkie, in it for the high of almost getting caught.

He was motivated by love, then brought down by love. But that was proof that he could love.

He could love more than one other woman, apparently. Or, as he put it, "cross the line" with more than one woman. Not the sex line. Some other line. But it was a line, and he crossed it a bunch of times while blowing off steam with his buddies. On dance floors, apparently. Were they wind-swept and moonlit, too, we wonder?

Ugh.

Mark Sanford says he will die knowing he has met his soul mate, but he is going to try to fall back in love with his wife, Jenny, who refused him "permission" to see Maria Belen Chapur again, warned him not to try and kicked him out when he did.

She is demanding a show of genuine remorse. She says she doesn't give a damn about his political career; she needs to hold onto some self-respect. She is the new paradigm for the wronged political wife. No press conference appearances. Only a pound of flesh will do.

That will happen when your husband says he's found his soul mate but will try to fall back in love with you.

We want to believe in love, for our daughters' sakes if not our own. Despite each new revelation about the powerful, public men in our lives - one more repugnant than the next - we continue to believe in love. Stubbornly. Determinedly.

We are still waiting for the one. He doesn't have to be ours. He just has to be out there. He has to be the one.

Susan Reimer's column appears Mondays.

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