Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

Still Monica-Bashing After All These Years
Okay, raise your hand if you weren't an asshole of one sort or another in your early 20s.

I call the 20s “the fuck years” and “the fuck up years,” and see it as the time you’re supposed to make mistakes. (They’re generally cheapest then.) You're also sure to make a number of them. That's why, if you're smart, you'll avoid doing anything too permanent, especially in your early 20s, as your head's very likely only beginning to wind its way up your ass -- and has a bit of road to go and some visiting to do before you can even start trying to yank it out.

I was reminded of this as I read an especially nasty little piece in The Washington Post by a woman named Libby Copeland. The occasion? Monica Lewinsky's graduation from the London School Of Economics. Copeland just couldn't let Lewinsky have her day. Either that, or she just didn't have an idea for a real story. Copeland wrote:

Lewinsky, 33, is known more for her audacious coquetry than for her intellectual heft, and the notion of her earning a master of science degree in social psychology at the prestigious London university is jarring, akin to finding a rip in the time-space continuum, or discovering that Kim Jong Il is a natural blond.

Even more staggering, the same bubbly gal who once described the act of flashing her thong at the president as a "small, subtle, flirtatious gesture" has now written a lofty-sounding thesis. Its title, according to Reuters: "In Search of the Impartial Juror: An Exploration of the Third Person Effect and Pre-Trial Publicity."

Monica! We hardly knew ye!

A revelation on this order suggests Lewinsky belongs to a fascinating subspecies, dumb-but-smart. Dumb-but-smart folks defy our low expectations. They appear dull or ditzy but possess unpredictable pockets of intelligence.

For example, dumb-but-smart: Ashton Kutcher! Majored in biochemical engineering in college. (Huh?) And: Jessica Simpson, who famously didn't know the difference between tuna and chicken, and posited that buffalo wings are made from buffalo. Simpson's mother once told Vanity Fair that her daughter has "this, like, 160 IQ And, you know, that's, like, a genius level."

Like, no way.

No, Lewinsky was no tower of judgment in what happened, but Clinton, who should've been the grownup in the situation, was the real idiot, having sex with a girl whose appearance and demeanor surely screamed "Beverly Hills Bigmouth." Yes, of course she kept the dress as a souvenir. This is what 22-year-old awestruck girls do. If she'd had a cell phone at the time, she probably would have been on it under the desk while blowing the guy. But, her biggest mistake was placing her trust in a seemingly maternal figure, the snake known as Linda Tripp.

Monica's another one I wrote a letter to -- a letter considerably more supportive than the one I wrote to my new pen pal, Jack Abramoff. I sent the letter to Sheila Nevins, the HBO exec in charge of the Monica docu they produced, and asked her to forward it. I'm hoping she did. Here's an excerpt:

25 January 2002

To: Monica Lewinsky

Dear Monica,

I read that you had a bit of a hard time at the press conference for your docu. I just wanted to write and offer you a little support. I did some completely dumb things in my twenties -- everybody did. The way I see it, your twenties are supposed to be the time you fuck up. Then you learn, and go on to your thirties, and do your best to live smarter. The only thing that makes you different from the rest of us who fucked up as twenty-somethings is that our mistakes didn’t get splashed across the international press.

I ended the letter by telling her I thought she'd handled herself well in the aftermath; that she seemed resilient, and she should just stand tall and she should be able to have a nice life.

Well...maybe she can, maybe she can't. Maybe, more than 10 years after the Clinton/Lewinsky thing came out, we could unshackle this girl from a dumbass thing she did in her 20s and let her put that degree to use. No, we can't make the memory of what went on go away. But, there's really no reason for mean-spirited pieces like Copeland's.

My message to Copeland: Think about the dumbass things you did in your 20s that you wouldn't want smeared all over the international press, branding you forever, and maybe let the girl be?

Oh, and a final note for any politicians or anybody in power contemplating an affair: Have one with somebody else who's married, or who has a lot to lose if the affair comes out. At the very least. For a primer on that sort of thing, read Judith Brandt's The 50-Mile Rule: Your Guide to Infidelity and Extramarital Etiquette.

Posted by aalkon at December 31, 2006 11:19 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.advicegoddess.com/mt4/mt-tb.cgi/1965

Comments

She'll never be able to count on walking through a day without someone she's just met and maybe kind of liked saying something allusive and hurtful. Five years after the Leno interview I saw a photo of Hugh Grant, and he'd aged like hell... Imagine if people snickered every time you walked into a room.

Here's a list of things about Lewinsky (see center of page):

http://tinyurl.com/yhnxut

In late '98 I saw her in Westward Ho in Brentwood once. (The irony of the setting is clear only as these words are typed.) Her eyes were down, but there was a fractional lift to the corners of her mouth that made it seem like she was enjoying being recognized, celebrity-style. I saw Tori Spelling in there six months later. Monica looked better. A faster man would have noted what they were buying.

I heard Prager talk about a 50-mile rule in Judaism... If you absolutely must bang a floozy, find one in a village far from where you live, and keep your mouth shut.

He also said this about fidelity in Jewish marriage: If an older married man with a family has an affair with a younger woman, then he is considered adulterous, but the younger woman is not.

Posted by: Crid at December 31, 2006 8:24 AM

I'm a fairly risk-averse guy, so I can't say I did anything too stupid in my 20s. Life was like "Rent," but without the really good soundtrack.

Posted by: Lena at December 31, 2006 9:34 AM

I don't think that's a rule in Judaism...I think it's yet another rationalization by the Prager, like his rationalization of smoking: If it serves him, it's okay. Perhaps, regarding the 50-mile rule, Mr. Holier Than Thou speaks from experience?

I like Monica, and if it were a crime to be into being known, half of America would be in jail.

Great list -- thanks for linking to that -- and a smart piece. Too bad that girl wasn't given the space they gave to Copeland. Could some sort of jealousy be motivating Copeland? I have to wonder when I read a piece that nasty.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2006 9:36 AM

> Mr. Holier Than Thou

Don't be bitter!

You're right, but don't be bitter.

I don't know about the adulterous thing, I was hoping some other observant Jews would offer thoughts. It's not the sort of question you can ask friends and coworkers (and certainly not their wives), because they'll think you're trying to make a point.

> Life was like "Rent," but without the
> really good soundtrack.

!

Posted by: Crid at December 31, 2006 9:49 AM

I'll look it up. I have a bunch of Jewish thought books -- The Encyclopedia of Jewish Concepts, Telushkin's Biblical Literacy, etc. I'm post-Jewish, but I did my studying while I was in the fold!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2006 9:52 AM

Telushkin, p 504, Encyc. of Jewish Concepts:

Turns out The Bible, in typical shittiness of religion, even punishes the children of an adulterous union. (Jews shouldn't feel so superior about not having the concept of "original sin.")

p 435 "In the biblical view, adultery is also regarded as a crime against God."

I see Prager's up to his usual tricks.

Does that sound bitter?

I just love when you say I'm right!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2006 9:58 AM

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2006 10:01 AM

"For example, dumb-but-smart: Ashton Kutcher! Majored in biochemical engineering in college. (Huh?)"

I take exception to anyone bashing Ashton! And Copeland is obviously too stupid to tell the difference between the behaviour of an actor playing a part in a show on television, and the behaviour of a person in their 'real life'. What exactly has he done that is stupid in real life? (and correct me if I'm wrong guys, but I think that having sex with Demi Moore is probably a smart thing?!)

Jessica Simpson's show was one of them there 'reality shows' that that's not the same thing.

Posted by: Chris at December 31, 2006 10:32 AM

Right on. And biochemical engineering isn't exactly the "cake" major. I don't think they let you in just on the strength of your good looks.

Anybody who thinks they "know" an actor or know anything real about them from what they see or read in the media is an idiot.

Furthermore, I can tell you my I.Q. is 190 and made of green cheese, but that doesn't necessarily make it so.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2006 10:39 AM

> I'm post-Jewish

With passages like this, is it any wonder?:

> 1) Gold argues that there exists a double
> standard: Halakha defines adultery as a
> sexual encounter between a married woman
> and a man not her husband. An affair
> between a married man and a single
> woman is not considered adultery.

So it was worse than Prager said!

Postwar American women aren't going to want to put up with that kind of thinking.


OTOH, there's some insight about human nature at the bottom of that. And the Jewish couples that I know seem a little better able to deal with these tensions than do your average shiksa princesses, who want to believe that everything that moves in their partner's heart was put there to flatter themselves. They don't want to believe tension exists.

Posted by: Crid at December 31, 2006 11:18 AM

Creepy.

Telushkin says the same, p435: "An unmarried woman who has sex with a married man has not committed adultery, nor has her lover."

> I'm post-Jewish

With passages like this, is it any wonder?

The biggest wonder is why more people -- of every primitive relgious stripe -- don't follow my lead.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2006 11:42 AM

I can't speak to Ashton Kutcher's smarts or lack there of, but there is a huge difference between majoring in biochemical engineering (which can mean as little as one semester before dropping out) and graduating with a degree in that discipline (which none of his bios says he did). In other words, he doesn't have a degree. And you don't have to declare a major as a freshman, at least not at state schools like U of Iowa.

So saying someone majored in something is pretty meaningless.

Otherwise I'm with you on letting Monica Lewinsky alone.

Posted by: Punk at December 31, 2006 12:50 PM

Good point, Punk.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2006 1:56 PM

The Goddess writes:

I ended the letter by telling her I thought she'd handled herself well in the aftermath; that she seemed resilient, and she should just stand tall and she should be able to have a nice life.

Please tell me that was sarcasm. Ms. Lewinsky "handled herself well in the aftermath"???

Do the words "Bill Clinton ruined my life" ring any bells for you? First of all, it was classless and infantile to suggest that her life was ruined, and a repulsive denial of personal responsibility to blame it on Bill Clinton. Did Monica happen to have a gun to her head, forcing her to flash her thong straps to Bill Clinton? Was she under duress when she candidly admitted she went to Washington with her "presidential kneepads"? First Bimbo Lewinsky did not "handle herself well in the aftermath" by any stretch of the imagination! She even attempted to become Jenny Craig's national spokesperson. Just what the world needs! More information about what Monica Lewinsky swallows!

She handled herself well? When was this? What reality are we talking about here? Not this one, I can assure you.

Posted by: Patrick at December 31, 2006 4:51 PM

She did, considering the circumstances. See the list in Crid's link.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2006 4:54 PM

On the subject of "smart-but-dumb" people, I'd like to submit Sharon Stone. She was rumored to be a member of Mensa (which she is not), but then has the nerve to tell us, "the frontal nudity in 'Basic Instinct' was done without my knowledge or consent."

How the hell does someone get in front of a camera not knowing she isn't wearing panties while dressed in a micro-dress? At the risk of sounding cliche, either she's a complete moron or she thinks we are.

Posted by: Patrick at December 31, 2006 4:59 PM

I dunno, I'm generally a fan of excess. And again, movie stars are treading a funny line...certainly many or most go for the fame and all, and the life in the public eye. This is something that happened to Monica.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 31, 2006 5:35 PM

Yeah, and some of the stupid things she said (kneepads) were never meant for public consumption (or courthouse transcription). Patrick's right that she made some youthful errors. But she was in fact youthful. They were mundane bungles... Until other people compounded her errors again and again. Next time you drive by a ten story office building, you can bet a similar story is playing out for some kid, but without the Jenny Craig payoff.

Posted by: Crid at December 31, 2006 6:15 PM

Here's the list in Crid's link, in all its laughable glory.

For more than a year, this ordinary California girl has been the most reviled woman in the world. After reading Morton's book and watching Monica's performance with Walters, I jotted down some of the redeeming qualities that ought to count in her favor:

When was she "the most reviled woman in the world"? Seems like every time I turned around, some airhead (or collection of airheads) was being supportive of her. If anyone was reviled in this mess, it will Clinton himself.

In an interview with Matt Lauer, he read an excerpt from his book, and point blank asked her what she was thinking, knowing full well that Clinton is a married man, and what statements like hers would mean to Hillary Clinton.

Lewinsky was her inimitable stereotypical California self, as I recall, saying something like "Oh, wow. Like, what about your responsibility as a journalist, like? Hillary Clinton could be, like, watching this show, fer sher."

And the IDIOTS on "The View" were actually complimenting her. "She told him!" said Star Jones. Told him what? She avoided the question. More to the point, Matt Lauer wouldn't have anything to report if Lewinsky hadn't written her "tell-all" book in the first place, so that kind of makes Blewinsky's question somewhat moot, doesn't it?

1) She has a pretty face.

Too much chin, and not just because she's porcine, either.

2) She is not skinny.

That's for sure, but she's certainly not normal sized either. Let's compliment Kate Moss for looking malnourished. Hey, she's not obese.


3) She is not sexually repressed.

Yes, well, in her relationships, that's certainly going to be a big selling point. Obviously, whoever hooks up with her will not be the sort of guy to worry about, say, monogamy or loyalty to the nuptual vows. She doesn't even see nuptual vows.

4) She likes poetry.

You know someone who doesn't appreciate a good, funny limerick?

5) She doesn't like politics.

Then why work as an intern? And why is this in her favor?

6) She trusts people even when she shouldn't.

This is a VIRTUE? Whoever wrote this needs get a crowbar to pry his head out of his ass!

7) She loves her mother.

So did Hitler.

8) She is not a neat freak.

I suspect, like the "skinny" comment, this is a complimentary way of describing a disgusting slob. Well, someone who holds onto a spooge-stained dress for months at a time can never be accused of being too neat.

9) She was unpopular in high school.

Can't understand why. She's certainly accomodating. And why is unpopularity to her credit? Most people appreciate those who were popular in school.

10) Tori Spelling didn't invite her to her birthday party.

This is to Tori's credit, not Monica's.

11) She can sing.

So can everyone with working vocal cords.

12) She has a sense of humor.

Most people have a sense of humor of some kind.

13) She can knit.

Not rocket science to learn.

14) She is generous.

Especially when servicing someone else's husband.

15) She has a fucked-up family life.

Yeah, I bet it really blows, doesn't it? You shouldn't use sexually-connotated words to describe anything about Monica Lewinsky.

That aside, 85% of all families are dysfunctional. And again, why is this to her credit?

16) She is loyal to her friends.

Yeah, right. I guess sexual contacts don't count as friends.

17) They are loyal to her.

Like there's a scarcity of idiots who couldn't be duped into misplacing their loyalty. Look at those who voted for Bush.

18) She refused to wear a mike to help Kenneth Starr entrap the president.

Like this was out of some loyalty to the president instead of trying to protect herself.

19) She refused to let her ditsy lawyer, William Ginsburg, accuse the president of sexual harassment.

Like that could possibly have been proven anyway.

20) She believes in love.

What, she loves bacon double cheeseburgers? That's obvious.

21) She eats pastry when she's down.

That's also obvious. She must be down alot.

22) She hangs out in the East Village.

Her and about 10 million others. Who knew there were so many cool people in the world? And that it was so easy to demonstrate how cool they are? Just hang out in East Village, and you're cool.

23) She cares about the homeless.

Does she offer them blowjobs, too?

24) She is not Linda Tripp.

No, just Linda's best friend for a while.

25) For an entire year she was subjected to a relentless smear campaign calculated to destroy her, her family and her friends.

"Save the drama fo' yo' mama!" Someone's self-inflicted woes are not to their credit. Whoever wrote this needs that crowbar in a big way. When were her family and friends ever threatened by this?

Crid writes: Yeah, and some of the stupid things she said (kneepads) were never meant for public consumption (or courthouse transcription).

No, they were just meant for a tell-all book. That aside, mega-duh, Crid. The point was not that she made the comment, it was the attitude behind it. She candidly admitted that she came to Washington with designs on the President. What an amazing disregard for his wife and spouses, even significant others, in general! The sentiment suggests that there wasn't even a moment's hesitation, not one second of, "Hey, this guy is married." (Or even the common sense to realize the potential for backlash when you have an affair with a public figure. Does she live in a box and has never heard of a sexual scandal in her life?) Just matter-of-factly intending to blow the President.

Posted by: Patrick at January 1, 2007 3:05 AM

1. > Too much chin

Nobody said perfect!

2. > not normal sized either.

Zappa: "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible."

Francis Bacon: "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."

Crid: "Bigguns can't catch a break, especially from the Gays."

3. > She doesn't even see nuptual vows.

Your point is correct and taken, but as the ancient thinking recently linked here demonstrates, the primary responsibility for that boundary lay with other parties. We'll take this up again later in the list. (Gimme abreak! She was a kid from a broken home.)

4. > appreciate a good, funny limerick?

There's more to wordplay than bitchslaps.

5. > why is this in her favor?

Demonstrates absence of cunning.

6. > This is a VIRTUE?

Yes. Many kids from broken homes never trust anybody at all, ending all opportunity for progress (and happiness).

7. > So did Hitler

Godwin's Law is invoked (see Wikipedia): In many settings of internet discussion, your argument would be regarded as forfeit. Also, plenty of tyrants hate their mothers. Respecting one's loving parents is indisputably good.

8. > describing a disgusting slob.

Or someone more concerned with the spirit of rules than with their details.

9. > Most people appreciate those who were popular in school.

Nay. She's aligned with the great unwashed majority of us who were delighted to go back twenty years after graduation to see the football hero washing dishes in a downtown eatery.

10. > This is to Tori's credit

The last thing Tori needs is credit. Not being invited to TS's birthday party isn't even a metaphor; it's an historically quintessential example of a kind of teenage pain.

11. > So can everyone with working vocal cords

If only.

12. > Most people have a sense of humor of some kind.

Patrick, I can't believe you mustered the audacity to type those words.

13. > Not rocket science to learn.

It ain't about complexity, it's about the zen of craft and the affection for the one who gets the sweater.

14. > when servicing someone else's husband.

Not on point / backhanded / cheap shot.

15. > 85% of all families are dysfunctional.

And we try to award forgiveness in proportion.

16. > sexual contacts don't count as friends.

To whom was she disloyal? She treated her lover the way clumsy girls from broken homes treat lovers. As Amy's noted in a couple of posts and columns lately, people in their early twenties do terrible things to each other anyway. She did better than most. And even if she hadn't, the middle-aged man who took up with her should have known what could happen. And of course he did know, and that's the core of this thing.

17. > misplacing their loyalty.

Some people don't move through the world in insular cynicism (e.g., "Look at those who voted for Bush.") Is it always about Dubya?

18. > instead of trying to protect herself.

You're precisely wrong. She stood up to the Man for a girlish feeling. We can't imagine what you'd have said of her if she hadn't.

19. > could possibly have been proven

There was sufficient evidence to impeach, what with witnesses and all. Many lawyers would have been happy to take a shot.

20. > she loves bacon double cheeseburgers?

This weight thing is a big point with you. Lotsa energy about it.

21. > That's also obvious.

People who internalize pain should often be admired for it.

22. > hang out in East Village, and you're cool

Far too many rejected friends of Tori Spelling grow insensitive to the vibes that make the East Village interesting.

23. > just Linda's best friend for a while.

Right, until betrayal.

24. > Does she offer them blowjobs, too?

See #14.

25. > When were her family and friends ever threatened by this?

Do you think her father never heard the chuckles when he walked through the locker room at the country club?

> No, they were just meant for a
> tell-all book.

You give her a LOT of credit:

> She candidly admitted that she came
> to Washington with designs on the
> President.

Every day at LAX, young, foolish women drop out of the sky with $74 in their purse and a plan to blow Brad Pitt like a trumpet. By the weekend they're hauling fries at Hamburger Hamlet. Feminine guile is just not that potent, especially in children.

The texture of this scandal was not from Lewinsky's cleverness. You can't reconcile her alleged capacity for "designs" with her girlish naivete. This was all about Clinton, the Rhodes scholar.

Paglia was one who accurately talked about Clinton's psychological machinery before the scandal broke. Paraphrasing (I'll try to find the precise date and quote later): "He wants us to catch him with his hands in the cookie jar, and love him anyway." Which is exactly what happened.

Patrick, OF COURSE sexually alluring young women are going to try to get close to the President... In your words, it's a matter-of-fact. We expect those in authority to observe boundaries. Or in sexual matters, to at least keep quiet about it when they can't.

Happy New Year, Patrick! We're underway!

Posted by: Crid at January 1, 2007 5:43 AM

As I wake up on deadline, and a little behind, I have to say...you guys make it all worthwhile!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 1, 2007 6:16 AM

Lena, I'm with you. I was so darned broke in my 20's I didn't have time to do anything but work two jobs all the time. On my nights off I just slept. I was 30 before I took so much as a vacation. I do more crazy things in my 30's because I can finally afford to.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at January 1, 2007 7:58 AM

I do more crazy things in my 30's because I can finally afford to.

With or without a cigar?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 1, 2007 9:08 AM

Thanks for the vacuous non-reply Crid. If my points didn't remain so perfectly intact after your lame-ass attempt at addressing them, this would have been the cruelest insult you've ever hurled at me.

Posted by: Patrick at January 1, 2007 11:08 AM

Haw! Cigars, no - but I didn't start smoking weed on a regular basis until my 30's. I keep all that stuff away from my nether regions, however. ;-)

Posted by: Pirate Jo at January 1, 2007 2:02 PM

I bought one of Monica's bags after she started a bag company in an effort to move on with her life. I can tell you that so many people, literally from all walks of life and persuasions, really love the bag when I carry it and are flabbergasted beyond belief when I tell them that Monica Lewinsky made it. It is a very cool, very well-designed and well-made bag. She nailed it. I don't think that's a small feat. I have a very large bag collection and it's the only bag I have that gets such widespread appreciation. I'm not sure her bags sold well -- she closed down the company and shut down the website. Very unfortunate.
Sadly, she maneuvered herself into too high (and low) a place at a much too young and immature time in her life, and turned herself into the ultimate scapegoat for American misogyny. As I see above in some of these comments, she's still quite a target.

Posted by: Nan at January 1, 2007 4:13 PM

"Thanks for the vacuous non-reply Crid. If my points didn't remain so perfectly intact after your lame-ass attempt at addressing them, this would have been the cruelest insult you've ever hurled at me."


Is this the pesudo-intellectual equivalent of "I'm rubber, you're glue. What you say bounces off me, and sticks to you!" Add in "neener-neener," "nyah-nyah," and "pppbt!" at your leisure.

Posted by: Jamie at January 2, 2007 10:41 AM

Here's a similar piece (to this blog item), by Richard Cohen:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/01/AR2007010100701.html

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 3, 2007 1:45 AM

Leave a comment