Friday, June 10, 2011
Power and Infidelity
NPR aired a segment today about something that's been on my mind a lot over the past few years What Science Tells Us About Power and Infidelity begins by telling us that the Wikipedia entry under "Federal Political Sex Scandals" totals six single-spaced pages. Power generates infidelity, and many of the high-profile men who have been quite literally caught with their pants down in recent years have resigned. All of the brouhaha has forced me to reveal something to myself that I'd rather have kept zipped up: I have a double standard.
It's my opinion that we ought to stay out of other people's bedrooms if it's consenting adults who are inside. The skill with which a congressman or senator or governor represents his constituents doesn't really have much to do with his sex life as long as he isn't spending taxpayer's money or shirking his duties to go "hiking in the Adirondacks." But whenever I've thought this or said it in a discussion, I've found myself secretly wishing that lawyers in private practice were held to the same standard as the politicians who've been forced to resign. They've been sworn into their state bar associations--isn't there something implicit in that oath that says they should be held to a higher standard? That they shouldn't lie or cheat even if the lying and cheating is done only to their wives and families? It would serve my personal cause to have the lying cheating attorneys I know dragged out into the limelight.
But not really. More people would be hurt. More wives. More children. And it wouldn't stop the way power influences the risk-assessing mechanisms in the brains of those in power. Maybe in a perfect world the continuing education the bar associations provide could give attorneys a heads up on what might happen to them. Maybe there could be biofeedback demonstrations, aversion therapy, free marriage counseling. The thought of all that makes me smirk. It sounds like A Clockwork Orange. I know! Big fat bonuses dolled out by big law firms to partners who stay married to their first wives. But money equals power. And well, we know what power equals.
I wish I could poll the trophy wives of powerful husbands. Would they cop to the idea that power attracts? Or would they say they love their husbands for their senses of humor, their over-the-hill physiques, their maturity, who they are as a person? I'm not ruling any of this out. My dad was twenty-six years older than my mother. She was movie-star gorgeous. And now that I think of it, maybe power was involved. My dad owned a grocery store then, and his name was emblazoned on a brick building in Dubuque, Iowa. Maybe she thought they would be rich. T-bones and good booze every night.
Everything fell apart when the big supermarket chains moved into town. The lack of money was a source of stress in our household until the day he died. Maybe that helped them stay together. And that my mother said he reminded her of Clark Gable.