Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sanford's Real Legacy

God forbid this should ever become a blog about celebrities, gossip, or both, but something struck me today about the tenderness of the love letters between Mark Sanford and the mysterious (one-named) Maria. Although there is a non-negligible connection between this whole affair (pun!) and public-policy arguments about the privacy rights of elected representatives, my reaction to the letters was focused more on the privilege of being privy to them.

The tepid moralist in me wants me to make an exculpatory statement before launching into a thorough analysis of Sanford's obsession: these letters are no longer private, and one should not feel bad about the enjoyment that comes from reading them. In my humble opinion, these letters have officially been published, whether Sanford intended it or not, and just like the compromising pictures your ex-boyfriend "accidentaly" sent to his college buddies, they are now a permanent part of the public domain.

That said, the content of the letters is still rather sacred. This is what makes them so enjoyable to read (and hopefully, worthy of discussion). I think an excerpt might illustrate my point:

(From Mark to Maria)
You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that is so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificently gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night’s light —

Besides the delicious boob reference, this is pretty standard fare as far as poetry goes. At the same time, it's enlightening to see a 49 year-old republican express such fond sentiment. I would challenge you to consider the last time you wrote, or received, such tender words from your lover, regardless of your age (or political leanings).

After asking myself the same question (I'm not telling you the answer), I gravitated toward two theories to explain the intensity of the letters. The first theory was that Sanford had finally met his other half. After giving myself a swift kick in the ass, I had my second thought: affairs are naturally going to propel us to romantic heights hitherto unexperienced (or at least not experienced in quite some time, as I'm guessing was the case for our eloquent elected official).

Is this really the case? Do extramarital affairs afford the only opportunity for middle-aged men to express their unbridled longing for women holding themselves a romantic partner? Oh shit, I've started to sound like Cary Bradshaw. Oh shit, I know that the Sex & the City chick with the curly hair is named Cary Bradshaw.

To avoid the painful journey down the moral road that question poses, let's answer with a simple "no" and move on. My real theory is twofold, but this time they aren't mutually exclusive. First, men grow afraid of the woman they spend time with. I'm sure this is fueled by our own inadequacies... yada yada yada, but men eventually get embarrassed to say, do and ask for things that they wouldn't have been afraid of back when they were hooking up with their partner in Karaoke rooms (if this doesn't apply to you, insert your own local de liaison here). Second, and more importantly, as animals, men crave variety.

Well, that's about all I really want to say about Sanford. I could wrap up with some moralistic message about overcoming both embarrasment and biology to forge a loving relationship with your own significant other and all the parts of herself she (and you) can hold, but that would be a little too self-rightous for my tastes. Instead, here's a letter-excerpt from a slightly more well-known writer of love-letters.

"No ill prospect has been able to turn your thoughts a moment from me. This perhaps should be as much a subject of sorrow as joy - but I will not talk of that. Even if you did not love me I could not help an entire devotion to you: how much more deeply then must I feel for you knowing you love me. My Mind has been the most discontented and restless one that ever was put into a body too small for it. I never felt my Mind repose upon anything with complete and undistracted enjoyment - upon no person but you."

As an ending note, Keat's never actually got his girl either, but that didn't stop him (or helped him, perhaps?) from writing his heart out in the attempt.

And as a true ending note, what's to be done about this from a policy perspective? Lets.. um... well... I'm sure there's something here that relates. While you attempt to figure it out, I'm going to be thinking about tan lines and hips and truly magnificent...

1 comment:

  1. love the letters- but i wonder if anyone has googled them to see if he actually wrote them, or lifted them from some great american novel.

    After all, he was a politician, and sometimes the thing they're best at is using other people's words to benefit themselves...

    just a thought.