So here we go. Amid the relentless reports of Tiger Woods and his ever-growing roster of vixens
and hookers, madams and skanks
, big-boob blondes and big-butt brunettes, finally we've got ourselves a Good Woman. Jenny Sanford filed for divorce from her husband, Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, and instantly became Exhibit 1 in the week's Good vs. Bad Girls wars.
It was a long time coming. In June, Mark the Soulful confessed teary-eyed to a tumultous, bicontinental affair with a (nice, apparently) woman in Argentina, María Belén Chapur. He did it in front of national television cameras and he did it at great length, telling a winding story worthy of García Márquez's magical realism. The affair, or the words Sanford put to it, had the old scent of passionate, tragic letters, like a modern-day "Love in the Time of Cholera.''
Too smart to stand at his side in the glare of cameras while he told the world of his Evita, Jenny Sanford soon packed up her bags and her four sons and left the governor's mansion in Columbia and took off for the balmy air of the Low Country to the family beach house on Sullivan's Island, near Charleston. We saw video frames of Jenny biking, skinny arms and athletic body, reveling in the sun and in the love of her sons, all handsome preppy boys. She said little to the media -- a few sentences about reconciliation and forgiving, or not -- and her restraint (so unlike his) made her all the more appealing. She was discreet, not secretive; she was strong, not callous; she was serious, not grim. If there were bouts of desperation, we didn't see them. She was no helpless victim. That was clear from the outset. And she was no wallflower. That was also clear from the start.
Jennifer Sullivan Sanford, 47, Irish Catholic, heiress, and former investment banker at Lazard Freres & Company, cut her teeth in wealthy Winnetka, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. A magna cum laude Georgetown University graduate, she met Mark Sanford at a beach party in the Hamptons on Long Island. You get the picture. This is a woman of substance. This is a woman to the manor born; a governor's mansion in a Southern state need not impress. But it was that very same Jenny Sanford who gave up her career to help engineer and finance her husband's political ascendancy. It wasn't peanuts.
She's been busy since the separation last summer, working on a memoir, "Staying True,''
due out in April. She appeared on a Barbara Walters special on Wednesday, and she has kept her hand in South Carolina politics, endorsing State Representative Nikki Haley, a Republican, to succeed Sanford as governor.
We should be rejoicing for her, no? Why are some of us now feeling sorry
for him? Why do we find her grating? Why can't we not take her at face value? Why do we suspect she's a product of her handlers, publicists and p.r. flacks?
Maybe we chafe at seeing a woman stand her ground despite pain and hearbreak while most of us in her place would be lost.
Maybe it's a female conundrum. Why don't we always support our own? Why do we have to yank her down, just a bit?
I'm thinking of WomanUp favorite
"The Good Wife,'' a new drama on CBS, with Julianna Margulies, who plays a role obviously grabbed from the headlines, the wife of a cheating state attorney husband. The bruises on her heart show at times on her face, in a grimace or a faraway look, but mostly she swallows the hurt and stands stoic and dignified in her lawyer's skirt suit, smart as a whip in the courtroom, infinitely patient with her two brassy kids, trying to hold her family together, her life on a tightrope. We wonder, will she finally divorce her piggish husband (who else but Chris Noth) who was caught in bed with a whore and jailed over corruption? Which is the good wife? The one who stays, the one who goes?