I wrote this post back in August when Amthony Weiner's new round of "sexting" came forth and Huma Abedin formally separated from her husband. A lot, of course, has happened in the interim - not least of which was an FBI investigation of Weiner's communications with a minor girl that led to the discovery of a cache of e-mails Abedin, possibly inadvertently, loaded onto Weiner's computer that were from her day tp day communications with Hillary Clinton. That revelation came out when I was overseas, but as I suspected within hours, nothing new or shocking turned up. In time, we may get a fuller picture of what happened and why. But like many, I thought, "this just underlines why she really needed to leave him."
As I just happened upon the piece, I realized it was still timely, and so I'm going ahead and posting it.
Ephron's feminist approach to cultural issues was always bracing - don't believe me; go watch Good Girls Revolt on Amazon - but rarely more so than on the level of interpersonal dynamics. The obvious example is Heartburn, Ephron's lightly fictionalized account of the breakup and dissolution of her marriage to Carl Bernstein.
Like others, I thought specifically of Heartburn in relation to Weiner and Huma Abedin because Ephron made her book so pointedly about being a Jewish New Yorker. I also thought of the line about her son "being caught in some dopey conscriptive way" as part of the affair when Ephron discovers a children's book with an inscription from the woman having the affair with her husband, and the parallels, altogether unfortunate, to Weiner tweeting a picture of his son sleeping next to his dad's shorts.
Lots of people want to psychoanalyze Weiner - it's the times, and our nature to want to label conclusively - but I wish we had Ephron to remind us that the important thing here is not why he did it or how he feels. Perhaps, a better, more human focus is on the woman whose life just fell apart, and the things she counted on most - a supportive spouse, a caregiver to her young child while she pursued her work - were all taken away. News reports focused on "Abedin's absence from the campaign" and all I could think to myself was... "how's she gonna find the kind of childcare she needs to remain as Clinton's closest advisor?"
And yet... as much as this feels like a sudden, final straw, the timing also feels curious. It's a slow news week; Clinton is largely offstage going to fundraisers and keeping out of the public eye, and Abedin was in the Hamptons, largely taking a break. "Friends of Abedin" appeared out of the blue in news reports to indicate that this separation had been in the works for weeks if not months, that they'd grown apart, and she was disillusioned with him. How convenient, then, that evidence appeared, as if on cue, to justify a clean final break.
Conspiracy theory aside, I highly doubt it's the case that Abedin wanted more humiliation for herself or her child this public or this upsetting. But it seems clear that Abedin was also more prepared than one might otherwise be to end things quickly the minute bad news surfaced. It's the readiness that says, I think she was onto him. It's about time; and in some ways, it felt overdue.'
People trying to speculate on parallels to the Clinton marriage miss the point that make these comparisons useless: every marriage is different, every couple makes their own set of compromises, some deal about what you live with, and what you can't. Nothing Bill Clinton has ever done suggests an instinct for publicly compromising images as Weiner has done; but that's really not the point. Give Abedin credit for trying to see the best in the man she married; and fault Weiner, as we all should, for not being that man.
In a presidential campaign season full of sideshows being portrayed as the Main Event, Abedin's breakup will surely seem beside the point in less than a week. Labor Day has a way of clearing the air, insisting that it's "time to get serious," and put away summer's colorful distractions. Hillary Clinton's campaign doesn't hinge on the state of the marriage between Weiner and Abedin, certainly now that it's over. And if the lasting resonance to the campaign is that even here, Donald Trump needed to opine on other's private business... well, if he doesn't want that rep, you know, he could stop.
As for Captain Underpants himself, what can be said? Weiner's triumph, and tragedy, is somehow making his flaws and bad behavior not just his own problem, but everyone's. Some people - we're looking at you, Kanye West - seem to have this instinctive need to be public and messy and somehow "larger than life." Being involved with these people, surely, is tiring (eh, Melania?). It's the mistake of equating notoriety with fame, and fame with being liked. There's a lot of that going around, these days. What a wonder it would be if Abedin can, like Ephron, transform her bad experience into something better, and be herself from a real place of living through experiences, both good and bad. At the very least, I hope she, like Ephron, finds the place where you look back on all this and laugh. Because you gotta admit... he's ridiculous.