The Clinton Affair

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I watched this six-part series because I have always been fascinated by Monica Lewinsky.  Horrified by what she went through, what our “justice” system put her through, what our President put her through, what the media did to her. It seemed like a nightmare life. Maybe I like nightmares or flame engulfed car crashes. I also like(d) Bill Clinton.

So many people hate the Clintons, especially Hillary, and I wondered if this documentary would shed some light on why. I did learn a few things, but not why so much of America hates Hillary. I learned for example that Bill Clinton has been accused of rape and sexual harassment. Of course I know about Paula Jones, but she was the only woman who I knew of that claimed he’d forced unwanted sexual attention onto her.

Then I saw the interview with Juanita Broaddrick. And I believed her. She said when Bill Clinton was running for governor, he raped her. She gave details that rang true. About how every time she screamed he’d bite her upper lip and press down hard on her left shoulder. Very precise. And her emotion was unmistakable. She said she had to quit going to church after the rape because in her church there was always a prayer for the President and she couldn’t pray for him.

Juanita didn’t tell her story for a long time. Why? Because she didn’t think anybody would believe her. That also rings so true. Women know all about this. Just ask Christine Ford. And Monica. Monica was a revelation. She didn’t do a strip tease, feeding out juicy morsels to the public, one at a time. She didn’t save her blue dress for the big reveal. She was betrayed by a friend, entrapped by the FBI, used and dumped by Bill Clinton. She only testified after she got an immunity deal, which was smart, but she wasn’t trying to be smart, she was scared of going to jail. The FBI had also threatened her with putting her mother in jail, too.

Ken Starr is a horrible person. But he also did something surely unintended for women. He made Monica so infamous that everyone knows her name. Everyone knows a lot of things about her. And everyone, including me, judged her too harshly. She was 22 years old when Clinton beguiled her. This was, at the very least, an abuse of power. I didn’t use to think so. I thought their affair was consensual. She admitted she loved him, after all. She started the flirting. She inexplicably saved the blue dress.

I had no idea to the extent our government went to silence women who had been sexually abused by Clinton. Kathleen Willett. I remembered her. How did I brush that off? Where the hell does HE get off treating women like that? There’s a story I used to tell myself: all men, given power or money, will behave this way with women, so be careful. Don’t ever be alone with a guy like that, because sexual abuse of women by men is a DNA fact of life. My own life history supports that idea, but I don’t believe it anymore. I don’t think Obama ever raped or sexually abused a women in his life. Nor did Jimmy Carter.

I have always supported Bill and Hillary Clinton but that’s changed. I now support Monica Lewinsky and Juanita Broaddrick. And I no longer think, given half a chance, all men are sexual predators. My own experiences led me to that crazy theory. Maybe yours did, too. But we are in a new era. Eyes have been opened, including mine.

 

The Truth About Single Moms

2015PromoPosterCollageSaturday I attended a writer’s conference. I had a long-standing commitment to participate on a panel with writers Cindy LaFerle and Lynne Cobb on women’s issues. The always fabulous Cindy LaFerle moderated the panel, so all I had to do was show up and say something smart. Not easy, but I’m a woman, I’ve been through stuff, I’ve written about it plenty.

I also had a spot in the bookstore, giving Luke a final push. Of all my novels, Luke’s #1 Rule has been the book closest to my heart. It’s got the most substance and I don’t just mean the various chemicals Spence ingests.

Like Chloe, I was once a single mother, so I talked about my real experience raising two little boys, trying to decide if dinner would be mac ‘n cheese or hot dogs. Chloe, I realized driving home from the conference, did not have to make hard choices about what to feed her kids. I had softened her life, given her the kind of support I didn’t get from her loving widowed mother, Ursula.

I made the story gritty for Spence, the ex-husband addict, but, except in love and work, I let Chloe way off the hook. She had a better job than mine as a secretary. As a “pink collar” worker, I was smack on the poverty line. Not so Chloe. She lived with her widowed mother, who handled childcare and cooking so Chloe could get on her feet as a single working mom.

My mom gave birth to me when she was 16. When I left my husband, she was not happy about it. She lashed out, saying she would not be babysitting while I “went off to work.” This was a hurtful thing to hear, not that I had asked. I never had any intention to ask. But that remark made me create Ursula, a grandmother in the most selfless sense of the word. LukeCH In real life, I had already arranged childcare before my mother’s remark. It was after school, until my dragon boss would let me go home. Yeah, the employer in the opening of Luke is based on the type of men I have worked for most of my adult life. Entitled, uncaring, unconcerned about my small children and smaller paychecks.

This post is a direct result of Cindy LaFerle’s “Writing Memoir” workshop. Cindy’s talk gave me the courage to write about real things in my past I have always preferred to fictionalize. Creating Chloe and Ursula was a way to mother myself, to live in a world for awhile with a happier alternative to the stark truth of being a single mom with nobody on your side.

It only occurred to me as I drove home from that conference that I didn’t do anybody any favors by softening the truth of what it means to be a single mom. Certainly not single mothers looking for some comfort. Of course, single moms in Detroit can’t afford to buy novels. And if they can, they don’t have time to read them.