Opinion Extra

Herlong: Staying true ... to what?

Just when I thought our first lady had broken the mold by not standing by her man while he blathered on about his breach of trust, she writes a book and cashes in on her family's pain.

In her media blitz ad nauseum, Jenny Sanford mechanically relates the pain she felt when her sons read their father's steamy (more like smarmy) e-mails to the Other Woman in Argentina that The State published online.

That kind of pain is understandable. No kids should ever read scarring-for-life tripe written by their dad. No parent should ever be thrust in the position of having to explain a spouse's infidelity to the family.

But if that was so agonizing, what makes Jenny think that her sons will benefit from reading about their father's personal and formerly private foibles, known to their sainted mother only by virtue of marriage? I soooo don't care about Mark Sanford's worry about his growing bald spot, his sexual naivete, his world-class penny pinching, his second-hand gifts, his insistence that expensive gifts (that he gave) be returned or his desire as a newlywed to bunk with his brothers at the farm instead of with his bride.

If I don't care, how could her four sons really care, or benefit, from this exposure?

Saint Jenny says she wrote the book for her sons. What therapist in her right mind would suggest telling your children the intimate details of your marriage and/or about their father, let alone in a book for all the world to read (and buy)?

She reveals that her then-fiance insisted that their marriage vows be amended to omit faithfulness. But that's not news. What's news is that Phi Beta Jenny agreed to the edit. (I think I might retract my previous assumption about her being the brains behind his throne, but then again, everything is relative.)

Speaking of marriage vows, we need to add a clause to the standard version. Edit out that nonsense about obeying (as my Reason for Living and I did), and put in fiduciary guarantees.

Think about it. If your lawyer learns confidential, personal things about you during the course of your lawyer/client relationship, he or she can never reveal that information to any third party without your permission. That's also true of your accountant, and even your Realtor. Seriously.

Marriage is so sacrosanct that it makes pundits parry, priests pontificate and politicians pander. But if it is so special, so blessed, why is it acceptable for a "wronged spouse" to make the private nuggets of a marriage public grist for their money mill?

If my Reason for Living were to kick me to the curb, he has already promised he won't even the score by writing a tell-all book about how I routinely scorched dinner, left shoes everywhere and counseled our children to tell obnoxious peers to go to hell. (They never would listen to me, though.)

Even the "marriage privilege," as it's known in legal circles, is eroding. No one can be compelled to testify against a spouse, but it is becoming more difficult, on a state-by-state basis, for someone to prevent your spouse from testifying against you in court if your spouse wants to.

At this point, even my comatose friends are more aware of the sad and sordid details of "the Sanford affair" than they ever wanted or needed to be. That's one of the consequences of a public demolition of the marriage of two people who chose the sparkle of life in the public eye.

But the private details gleaned from the comparatively happy days of a marriage should remain just that: private. If you share the intimate details of your marriage with others, you forfeit intimacy.

Jenny Sanford pleaded for reporters to respect her and her sons' privacy during the immediate aftermath of Gov. Sanford's stunning and stumbling public confession. All well and good, bravo.

In a bizarre turn, she's now tired of privacy. Like her estranged and strange husband, she likes the limelight, seeks it. She says writing Staying True was cathartic for her (but then again so is writing nasty e-mails, and then hitting delete instead of send - or so I'm told).

We are supposed to be inspired by her memoir, the final act in their tragedy where she "stays true" to her principles, to her sons and to her faith.

I don't buy it. I have no intention of buying it (nor will I buy Elizabeth Edwards' screed). When it comes to underwriting things that undermine the privacy of marriage, I pinch my pennies even more tightly than her hapless ex ever could.

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