A year has passed since the sexual exploits of Tiger Woods hijacked the front pages and first five minutes of every broadcast from major news outlet, severely damaged his reputation and, ultimately, cost him his marriage. Woods was linked with a dozen women, including porn stars, waitresses, hostesses and lingerie models. Woods went into rehab -- many experts declared he was addicted to sex -- sought spiritual shelter in the tenets of Buddhism and reemerged in the world of competitive golf, only to disappoint.
Woods is, of course, only one in a long line of famous men—including Gary Hart and Bill Clinton—who have suffered more or less damage to their reputations when their extramarital affairs were revealed. The perceived ugliness of their behavior (and Woods’) is tied directly to the fact that they were behaving badly while married; bachelors acting like sex addicts never incur the wrath of the public. Witness Wilt Chamberlain.
I’m still waiting for one of these men to state what he really believes, rather than the pat, scripted apology for his sex drive and rush to religion that has become the prescription for self-preservation. In my imagination it goes something like this:
I love my wife. I would, in fact, give one of my arms, to spare her hand. I would willingly have cancer in her stead. When I stop to think of it, her presence in the lives of my children is worth more than all my worldly goods. Yet, our very connection—the fact that I no longer know where I end and she begins—prevents us from worshipping one another in the way that sparks sexual intimacy. We are invisible now, warm ghosts in one another’s night, holding each other close, yet entirely missing each other, at the same time.
When I was with these other women, I was looking (perhaps foolishly, yet, about this I am not even sure) for that lost embrace, looking then for a part of myself, wanting to feel loved when my marriage had forgotten to remind me and may never be able to again.
To pretend that my marriage of a dozen years could have been restored to make me feel alive inside it, exclusively, would have been to burden it with unreasonable expectations.
So, it was, ultimately, a human thing I did, and I do not know if I could have done anything differently.
I do not hate women; I am mesmerized by them—not like one addicted, in fact, more like one shocked into a peculiar kind of worship by the beauty they embody.
Okay, okay, I know we are not likely to hear this speech any time soon. It comes too close to what so many men (and, increasingly, women, substituting terms of gender where appropriate, above) feel about their marriages and their extramarital affairs. It would mean stitching on a “Scarlet A” from head to foot, clothing oneself in the human condition, rather than railing against it.
We would rather continue to pretend that marriage is working in America, despite the fact that most people divorce, that a new study shows that 40 percent of Americans believe marriage is becoming obsolete and that millions upon millions of American men and women promise their spouses that they will spend their entire lives with them (see, marital vows), then retract those promises, and promise other people the same thing.
This turns too many Americans into liars, when we can scarce afford toxic fictions in our lives. The false economy and false fellow in the corner office is about all we can bear.
Whatever I might think of Tiger Woods’ extramarital relationships, I hold him more in contempt for the scripted, cowardly, fake apology he issued when he pretended to explain himself. He may have cheated his ex-wife Elin out of passion, but he cheated us out of a window on the truth.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. He is a New York Times best-selling author, and co-author, with Glenn Beck, of the upcoming book “The 7: Seven Wonders that Will Change Your Life.” Dr. Ablow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.