“He soon felt that the fulfillment of his desires gave him only one grain of the mountain of happiness he had expected. This fulfillment showed him the eternal error men make in imagining that their happiness depends on the realization of their desires.”
– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Far be it from me to guess what really happened between the CIA Director, the biographer, the general and the family friend, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that what Tolstoy understood about man’s nature is what’s known as a SNAFU in military slang.
Situation Normal: All Fucked Up.
In other words, as bad as things may look for the ménage à quatre the morning after the Petraeus Affair, this state of affairs is more or less status quo where married life is concerned.
As the press spins itself into butter over the latest installment of Midlife Marriages Gone Wild, all I can think is “Who the hell are we to to determine who can, and cannot get married?”
And by we, I mean straight people.
I was jumping for joy on Election Night when Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to endorse same-sex marriage by popular vote. But I was also ashamed for the electorate because I believe this is a victory that was long overdue. The milestone also made me reconsider the privileges, assumptions of virtue and presumed innocence traditionally enjoyed by straight couples… whether or not we have earned the right to such high regard within our marriages. And when considering the track record of the institution– not to mention the spotty reputations of those bestowing the prize– the victory seems as pyrrhic to me as it is epic.
Isn’t it ironic that no matter how many times straight married men and women lie, cheat, risk careers, ruin reputations, subject their loved ones to public humiliation, break hearts and render any quaint notions of marriage a punchline– no one ever questions whether we are up to the task? No one ever threatens our constitutional right to marry the person we love? And none of us ever have to worry that the privilege could be revoked if we trample over it one too many times– as we have for thousands of years, if fidelity is any measure of conjugal success?
Conversely, isn’t the notion of gay couples being subjected to a disproportionate amount of judgement, speculation and scrutiny (by straight people, no less!) where love & marriage are concerned– not owing to the gay person’s character, but solely to their sexuality– positively offensive? Isn’t the logic of allowing straight people to determine if and when gay couples might choose whom “to have and to hold, till death do [them] part” as insulting a proposition as it is injurious? And given the fact that so much discord between heterosexual couples stems from the reality that one is from Venus and the other is from Mars; might this not suggest that same-sex couples are, in fact, at a distinct advantage as lifetime partners if only because both hail from the same planet?
I am not so naive as to think that gay couples don’t have to grapple with infidelity, or are somehow immune to utter devastation when finding out that they’ve been deceived by their husband or wife. But it stands to reason that getting to the heart of any conflict would be a lot more efficient if the need to know why one’s partner did whatever they did (whether talking to her best friend 12 times a day, or sleeping with his White House intern) was taken off the table. And as men tend to think like men, and women tend to think like women– it wouldn’t be totally irrational to conclude that heterosexual couples might actually be handicapped where truly understanding our partner is concerned– when compared to our same-sex counterparts.
Case in point, while 99% of my girlfriends would love to see General Petraeus decommissioned, demoted and de-balled today; 99% of my male friends are saying “Maybe he fell in love. Have you seen the wife?” (as has one of the more compassionate among the species, who shall remain nameless to protect his ass), or some variation on that theme.
Right or wrong, we men and women are just very different animals. And the sooner (straight) people drop the pretense that we have the lock on what it takes to be happily married; give up any ridiculous notions that we are the rightful heirs and/or chosen stewards of the sacrament; 86 the assumption that we’re the only ones deserving of marital bliss (or, let’s face it, abject misery… because marriage can be a crap shoot) and finally evolve, the better society will be as a whole. Hell, we may even learn something in the process!
Who knows? Maybe the CIA Director will expound on some of these thoughts when he pens his requisite tell-all memoir… as might the biographer, the general and the family friend (who apparently never got the military’s memo on loose lips) when they tell their sides of the story.
Which brings me to what I consider the most egregious crime in this true confession: the revelation that the General Petraeus’s biography was not actually written by his biographer, Paula Broadwell, but a ghost writer named Vernon Loeb. A man so earnest and focused on his work that he told The Washington Post, “when the news broke Friday that Petraeus was resigning in disgrace because of an adulterous affair, I was dumbfounded.” Leading Loeb’s wife to observe that her hubby is “the most clueless person in America.”
Be that as it may, I have to say that whereas cluelessness can be forgiven, and that I am far from qualified to lecture David Petraeus, or anybody, on how to run their marriage– even I have to draw the line at taking credit for another man’s writing. Because that’s just messed up, Bro. Or what’s known as FUBAR in military slang.
Fucked Up Beyond Any Repair.