You gotta have friends

I’m watching Doug Hampton on my television screen. He’s on “Face to Face with Jon Ralston”:

“This is a grievous act,” Doug Hampton says. “When you look at the details, when we talk about all of the things that have taken place as a result of John’s actions and leadership, and the decisions that he initiated, and things that were covered up to help this happen … It’s unbelievable.”

Doug is talking about John Ensign, of course. Senator John Ensign. That would be the same John Ensign who had a several-months-long affair with Doug’s wife. Note the preposition “with.” Senator Ensign did not have an affair ON Cindy Hampton. Nor did he have an affair OVER her. Not THROUGH her. Not AT her.

He had an affair with her. Cindy Hampton. An adult, married woman. With her.

Anyway, as I’m watching Doug and listening to Doug, a question pops into my head. I’m not going to censure or edit the question. I’m going to let it startle you the way it startled me. Just sitting there, watching my television, and this sentence formed in my head: “Doug, do you have any friends?”

Like I said, the question startled me, too. But it wasn’t invective. It was more incredulity. Because, I know what my friends would do if I was on TV complaining to the press about the guy with whom my wife had an affair! (Let’s be clear that I don’t have a wife; this is just an illustration.)

My friends would come and find me. Hunt me down. And they’d deliver a curt little speech, boiling down to this:

“Uh, Steven, what are you doing? Are you really dropping your drawers on TV? You’re reading another man’s love letters to your wife? On television? What do you hope to get out of this? What’s your end-game, cowboy? What on earth gives you the idea that mobilizing public indignation for the man who had sex with your wife will in any way make your world a better place? Seriously. We wanna know. Because we think you’ve tipped over.”

Oh, my friends wouldn’t stop there …

“Hey buddy, we know you’re hurting. But here’s the deal: Your wife had a tawdry-ass affair with a U.S. Senator. Threw you and your marriage under the bus, just like that. For what? Who knows. Maybe we’ll never know. And kinda doesn’t matter, right? Because the issue is between you and your wife; not you and her erstwhile boytoy. And there’s nothing about your broken world that heals any faster with this Strip ‘n Tell thing.”

And then the zinger. Oh yeah. I know my friends …

“There’s a lot of losses here, buddy-o. Don’t add self-respect to that list.”

Then would come the real blistering …

“You took the money, right? You cashed the 96,000 dollar check. And now you’re waving that money in the senator’s face? That’s a key piece of evidence in making your case that the senator is a bad guy? That the senator lacks credibility? Dear boy – (and here one of my buddies would actually, physically smack me in the head) – you gotta hand the money back before you can make that point. See, Steven, you can’t take the money and take sore offense about the money. You gotta pick.

Essentially my friends would tell me that, while they wouldn’t have thought it possible, I’d actually managed to become a caricature of a Jerry Springer episode. A caricature. And that takes some real doing.

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