You Can’t Love Someone to Change
The recent spate of sex scandals involving married men who are celebrities or politicians has, hopefully, ended with the outing of Sandra Bullock’s husband, Jesse James. Despite the fact that I claim to hate the deterioration of our country’s news into nothing more than fluff pieces and tabloid journalism, I found myself obsessed with this “news” story.
Was I just glad that celebrities could have it worse than me? Was I happy to have it confirmed that there are worse things than being a single middle-aged woman living alone with her dog? I’d like to think that I’m not that petty. Nevertheless, I was consumed with getting to the bottom of just what happened with Jesse James and poor Sandra Bullock. From the popularity of the news story, I take it that I’m not alone.
If you’ve been living in a cave on a remote island with no internet access, telephone reception or television, I’ll fill you in. About two weeks ago now, right on the heels of Sandra Bullock’s Oscar win for Best Actress (where she gushed throughout the awards season about her hot husband who had her back), a press release came out stating that Bullock would not be attending the London premiere for The Blind Side due to “unforeseen personal circumstances.”
A day or two later a story came out in a tabloid, alleging that Jesse had carried on an affair for months with a tattooed stripper of ill repute. This skank woman, Michelle “Bombshell” McGee, was paid $30,000 for her story. Along with her claims of adultery with Jesse, she also said that James had led her to believe that he and Sandra were separated. She says that he told her that his marriage to Sandra was a publicity stunt and a sham. Her story is substantiated by an employer who says Jesse used to pay money to chat with Ms. Bombshell at her cybersex place of employment. Text messages from Jesse on Ms. Bombshell’s phone were sent as recently as days after Bullock’s Oscar win.
Then came the report that Bullock had moved out of the home she shares with James and the three stepchildren that she was helping to raise about two days before the tabloid story broke. Bullock flew to Austin for the weekend, presumably, to lick her wounds in private and maybe see her gynecologist about a fumigation of her vagina. Jesse James, instead of allowing the issue to remain a private affair between himself and his wife, issued a public apology that admitted to nothing more than “poor judgment,” to Bullock and his children through the venerable hard-hitting news source, People Magazine. Sandra returns to Los Angeles but remains underground.
More mistresses come out of the woodwork with sordid tales of trysts that began as long ago as mere weeks after his and Sandra’s wedding. An ex-wife says that he was never faithful to her. Employees of James’ West Coast Choppers become “sources” for the shocking news that James is a bit of a chameleon and a randy dog as well. They say that it was no secret at his motorcycle shop that Jesse James was never faithful to any of his three wives. Journalists dig up a past law suit for sexual harassment that was settled out of court. Finally, James issues a statement through his lawyer that he is going into rehab for an unspecified reason.
Of course, rehab is all the rage among celebrities nowadays. Even Ashley Judd and Chynna Philips both went for “perfectionism,” of all things. Last time I checked that wasn’t an addiction. Why not just go to a psychiatrist on a regular basis, like everyone else in Hollywood and New York has been doing for the last forty years? Why feel the need to involve your public relations advisor? Rehab for perfectionism? Really?
I hear sex can be an addiction, and I have no room to judge there, when it comes to addictions. What seems heinous to me about this is not that I can’t recognize that sex addiction is a disease like drug addiction or gambling or compulsive spending or eating disorders, or any one of a variety of mental illnesses – pick one.
What seems heinous to me is to hurt someone else in the process of destroying yourself. You want to punish yourself? Fine. Lots of people do. It’s not unusual. Here’s a razor blade and some laxatives, a porn DVD and a vial of cocaine. Knock yourself out. What I don’t understand is the selfishness of taking someone else along for the ride.
Why would a Bill Clinton or a Tiger Woods or a John F. Kennedy or a Jesse James feel the need to live a lie and deeply wound someone that they purport to love? If you can’t be faithful, then don’t commit. Or commit to someone who doesn’t mind being in an open relationship. It’s not my cup of tea, and I don’t think it’s right, but at least you probably wouldn’t be hurting someone else. And if you did, it wouldn’t be because you misrepresented the facts. I am struck by the fact that these men aren’t sorry that they cheated. They are just sorry that they got caught.
In the cases of Woods and James, it’s only shocking that they didn’t get caught sooner. Both men were men of some renown, messing around with mostly opportunistic young women who were largely employed as “models,” strippers, hostesses, “entertainers,” and outright porn stars and prostitutes. They sent indiscreet messages from their personal cell phones. They engaged in unprotected sex with women who were just as promiscuous as they were, and then brought those cooties back home to their faithful mates. Nothing says love like herpes and AIDS. That’s eternal love.
Years ago, when Sandra first married this sorry excuse for a human being, I remember being shocked that she would even entertain the possibility of dating him. I fill my head with a steady diet of both Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. There was a cover story on Sandra Bullock immediately after her marriage where she told the story of how she met James while he was giving her and her godson a tour of West Coast Choppers and how he persistently courted her.
He sent her letters. He changed her mind about her initial reaction to a heavily tattooed biker with a criminal past. She said he opened her mind to the good in people and not judging books by their covers, and I really, really hoped that she was right and her faith was well placed. We all want to believe that people can change and that what’s on someone’s outside doesn’t always match what’s on the inside. She knew that not only had he been married and divorced once before but that he was married when he met her. He and his second wife, a porn star, separated when Jesse walked out on her in her eighth month of pregnancy.
I think it’s safe to say, as a stereotype, that a man who marries a porn star is not overly concerned with fidelity. I think it’s also safe to say that when a man walks out on a woman when she’s eight months pregnant with his baby that he’s a cad. I further think that it’s safe to surmise that when the aforementioned cad starts courting you with letters before there are even divorce papers on which the ink could dry, that you are messing around with someone who doesn’t believe in the sanctity of marriage.
So, while I agree that Sandra Bullock was undoubtedly hurt without justification and that that is very sad, indeed, I have to question her culpability in the wisdom of the choices she made to put herself in that situation. That, I think, is why both myself and the rest of the American public is so fascinated with Sandra Bullock’s marriage. We want to believe that people are capable of change, that great love can do great things.
That is why movies like Angel and the Badman or, for a more contemporary example, As Good As It Gets, are so popular with American audiences. The bad boy reforms, all for the love of a good woman. He changes his ways. He comes to have faith who didn’t believe in God. There are countless more examples from literature and film and even more from real life. But for every lucky woman or man who, for example, marries the drug addict/stripper with a heart of gold and lives happily ever after, there are probably at least one hundred more tales of tragedy.
I do believe that people can change. Absolutely. There would be no point in putting myself through counseling and AA meetings if I didn’t believe in the capacity to change for the better. I even believe that Jesse James can do so…if he wants it. But that’s just it. He has to want it, and he has to want it for himself. And the next woman who makes a bet on Jesse James had better be smart enough to insist on a track record of the kind of behavior that she wants from a partner before she commits.