When I wrote a column last week calling Anthony Weiner yet another Broken American Male who needs to feel attractive to women in order to feel whole, one of the outlets that publishes my columns refused to publish without significant changes. “It sounds like you’re making the assumption that he’s lying about being hacked.”
There are good and bad liars and to his credit Anthony Weiner is a terrible liar. One of the worst I have ever seen.
As he gave TV interviews about he had been pranked, and then blamed the Republicans for his troubles, he looked away from the cameras, brought in complete nonsequitors, made infantile jokes about being attacked by his toaster, and said that he won’t go to law enforcement because he doesn’t want to waste their resources. If there is any truth to the widespread theory that men who cheat actually want to get caught, then the stupidity of Anthony Weiner in sending tasteless pictures of his underwear to complete strangers constitutes high proof indeed.
In his confessional press conference Weiner was asked what he was thinking. He responded he honestly did not know.
He was thinking that this felt darn good. That feeling wanted by women made him feel special. That having strangers want to check out his state of arousal made him feel desirable. That having women lust after him made him feel accomplished.
This isn’t rocket science. Men like Anthony Weiner live in the permanent fear that they are not special. Their greatest fear is that they are ordinary. And they spend their lives trying to disprove that fear.
But he’s a Congressman, you say. Yes, but he’s not a Senator. And if he were a Senator, then he’s still not President. And even if he were President, he is still not on Mount Rushmore. There is always someone more accomplished, more special, more beloved. It is a peculiar trait of the Broken American Male to always be combative, to forever be on the defensive. Because the BAM always feels that he is under threat. And when you nurse feelings of failure of that magnitude you need something – anything – to rescue you from the blues. Women are the quickest and most reliable way for broken men to feel good about themselves.
But they are also the most destructive.
Not because you’re going to get caught as a married Congressman who breaks his vows. But because the online or offline affair is like any other drug that masks rather than remedies pain. You have solved nothing save to put a salve on your fragile ego. When the novelty of the affair wears off, or when the woman in question loses respect for you for behaving so immaturely and hurting your wife, you’re going to feel even worse, further confirming that you really are a loser after all. And then the addiction will only increase. You’ll need more women. A stronger hit. A more radical drug. And that’s when you’re going to start getting reckless and careless, sending out Tweets on Memorial Day Weekend from your Blackberry of your bulging underpants without even checking that you’re sending it to the right party. You bring in your other 45 thousand followers into your extreme state of brokenness.
There is a better way.
You have a wife. Go and tell her how broken you are, how you take so little joy from your many achievements. How you have a cavernous black hole at your center that were all the gold and fame in the world to be dumped into it you would still not feel full.
And as your wife listens she offers you comfort. She tells you that you don’t – you can’t! – spend your life proving yourself. You are not special because of the titles you possess or the property you own. You’re special because you’re loved. And you don’t have to earn that love. It’s a free gift given by a woman to a man. All you, the man, has to do is be open to receiving it. All you have to do is fight and dismiss the self-loathing that makes you feel unworthy of the love and causes you to bat it away.
It takes no activity on the part of a man to be loved by his wife. All it takes is being passive. Learn to live in comfort in your own skin. Be accepting of yourself and find your unique place in the world that is not in competition with others. Work on yourself to be happy for the success of colleagues. Their success is not your failure. Every person has share in this world and you will find yours, so long as you do not envy that of someone else.
So, did Anthony Weiner want to be found out? In a manner, yes, but it’s more subtle then simply saying he subconsciously wished to expose himself. Rather, he wanted to get rid of the pain. He wanted to live free of the feelings of failure. He would do anything to be liberated from washout demons that forever haunt him. So he cried out – even to a complete stranger – to help him. He used the immense power of the erotic, not to draw closer to his wife but to soothe his macerated ego, not realizing that all of his followers – whom he has consistently sought to impress with Twitter proclamations of TV appearances, charm, and wit – would witness what they have also witnessed: a man desperate to be loved. Sometimes he pursued that love by telling his constituents how much he fights for them. Sometimes he pursued that love by making sure we all know that a former US President officiated at his wedding. And sometimes he pursued that love in the most toxic way possible, by desperately seeking the affection of a woman – any woman – to make him feel desirable when all along a woman that was not a stranger desired him so profoundly that she agreed to be his partner and soul-mate for her entire life.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the author of “The Broken American Male and How to Heal Him” (HarperCollins). Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.