You're a braver woman than I, Hillary
What Hillary has shown me is that there is nothing to be ashamed of when you love a cad
Yasmin Alibhai Brown
Known for her sharp commentary on issues of politics, race and religion, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown won the George Orwell Prize for political journalism in 2002 and the Emma Award for Journalism in 2004. She is also a radio and television broadcaster and author of several books including the acclaimed 'The Settler's Cookbook: A Memoir of Migration', 'Love and Food' and 'Who Do We Think We Are? Imagining the New Britain'.
Thursday 05 August 1999
To me, she emerges as a heroine. Even more so after reading the long catalogue of sins of her husband detailed in a new book on this, the best and worst of marriages about which we know too much and understand too little.
The book, by Christopher Anderson, does much to feed our hunger for ever more sordid details about this master of the universe who cannot keep his tap turned off.
The infamous Monica was one in a long line. On his wedding day, Bill was so happy he was found by a friend, kissing a young woman and fondling her breasts. There was the long affair with lounge singer Gennifer Flowers; the Paula Jones allegations; the affair with Susan McDougal (dubbed "Hot Pants" by the press, and the wife of Jim McDougal, one of Bill's best friends); the pretty nurse, Juanita Broaddrick, who claims Bill raped her and bit her lips so hard they were left swollen and bleeding (being a gentleman, he advised her to put some ice on them before he departed); his long-standing mistress, Dolly Kyle, who he screwed in an open Cadillac in full view of the neighbourhood when they were teenagers; the 25-year-old he seduced on the night of her engagement (which he had attended), and the other women who were brought to him and whisked away during the years he has been in the White House. We also know how badly Chelsea has been affected by this behaviour, and how she has been rushed to hospital three times owing to stress-related conditions.
Knowing all this makes the Talk interview even more extraordinary. Hillary still feels a kind of love for Bill. But more than that, she pities him. She makes excuses for the fact that he is "such a hard dog to keep on the porch". He does what he does because his own father died before he was born and his stepfather was a brute. Worse than that, he was caught between his mother and grandmother who were forever quarrelling. This is why the poor lad is a sex addict.
Of course, derision has been poured on these simplistic psycho-cliches. I think Hillary is far cleverer than those who laugh at her. By dousing her husband in this kind of hollow understanding, she has found the perfect way of humiliating him while ennobling herself. Sure, some feminists will spit blood at these pathetic assertions; others will think she is a Lady Macbeth figure who would sell her heart to the devil to get power. But I think that this might be the perfect revenge for a sorely tried woman who is an intellectual giant but who also has complex views about marriage and love.
I wonder if people really understand what it feels like to be with an adulterous man, when you could be free if you wanted because you are independent (both in mind and pocket), but when you feel an almost religious attachment to the vows you made and the children you chose to have.
I lived in such a marriage once and I loved the said chap immeasurably. So much so that I turned a blind eye to what he did and at times paid back in kind, something which is always sordid and inexcusable. I know that during those years I felt unattractive and unworthy.
I remember giving him a copy of She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir which is a biting portrayal of an open relationship, much of which feels intensely autobiographical. My scribbled message inside the front cover spoke of how I felt poisoned by our lifestyle. But I still believed in what we had and wanted to keep it going, especially as we had a son we both loved very much. When my ex-husband left I was hysterical with pain and carried on like a Bollywood actress on speed. It was not good, it was not dignified. Sadly, I was not like Hillary.
What Hillary has shown me is that there is nothing to feel ashamed of when you love a cad. We are all capable of falling for worthless but charming men. I understand why she cannot allow herself to think of the other women, even though she should. She no longer pretends that she is immune from normal emotions. She says she is angry, lonely, betrayed and humiliated. And yet, for now, she is going nowhere alone.
She has not given up easily on a long relationship, and she is fighting to keep faith for the sake of her only child. I can only admire such courage, which hangs in there in spite of knowing that the man is not worth it.
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