In the past week since Monica Lewinksy resurfaced on the pages of Vanity Fair, her life has been tortured and scrutinized by the media like never before. Or, well, maybe just like before, when she was 21, and had what she describes was a consensual affair that she now “deeply regrets” with President Clinton.
According to testimony from the Starr Report, the affair involved “oral-anal” contact. In return Clinton gave her a quaint Walt Whitman book of poems, Leaves of Grass, that he’d also given to Hillary Clinton. Monica reportedly gave him 30 gifts (along with the sexual stuff); he gave her seven. It’s all water under the bridge. Except for the fact that Monica is now drowning in wisdom from strangers, journalists and publicists mostly, who think they know what’s best for her.
“It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress,” the now 40-year-old Lewinksy wrote in the personal essay for Vanity Fair that could fit all too easily into a script for ABC’s Scandal. The drama, in fact, did include setting up a decoy mistress so that Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope‘s actual affair with the TV Prez would stay secret.
You know what also needs to burn? All the ill-conceived opinions on what Monica should be doing. No one asked these parasites to become her Olivia Pope. Who among us is to say what she should be doing? It’s a little comical that she has to face the firing squad of unsolicited advice and consternation of a collective peanut gallery that can’t find its way out of a perpetual Twitter feed or Facebook update long enough to have an original thought.
This week we watched legal analysts, celebrity publicists, crisis publicists and pundits go to town on Monica’s life. Not because they care about this woman, but because it’s their job to tell us what they think she should be doing. Then maybe we, too, can figure out what we think. Whatever else I think about her, I deeply believe she should do whatever makes her content and not listen to a single journalist on any cable news panel.
Especially not TheBlaze‘ Amy Holmes, who angrily declared on CNN this week in a panel moderated by Don Lemon, that Monica should head to the Sudan to rebrand herself. That the only way she’d be taken seriously was to flee to a third-world existence and emerge a changed woman who had nobly reconstructed her life post Bill.
“I have sympathy — I had sympathy then, I have sympathy now for Monica Lewinsky being a 21-year-old girl who of course was dazzled, flattered to have the attentions of the president of the United States,” said Holmes, with the intensity of a blowtorch. “I mean, 40-year-old women, they fell under his spell as well. But at age 40, to come out in Vanity Fair on a red brocade couch, by the way, lounging on it in a glamour shot, and to have this first personal that is me, me, me, me, me, and that hasn’t been able to be gainfully employed in 10 years because the only jobs she is looking for [are] in P.R., this is ridiculous. Had this been a first person [essay] about [her] year in the South of Sudan where [she] learned the real meaning of suffering and survival, we might have a bit more respect for the 40-year-old Monica Lewinsky.”
Holmes, a popular conservative pundit, fought the others on the all-female panel, some of whom felt pity for Monica and applauded her for bravery.
But heading to the Sudan wasn’t the only advice she got.
There was Mitchell Sunderland from Vice who gave her the anointed title of “spiritual ancestor” to Anthony Weiner‘s sexting partner Sydney Elaine Leathers, now an actress in the porn film industry. In the aftermath of her scandal, Leathers tried to sell her labia and now spends her weekends going to porn conventions. Monica, meanwhile, went to the London School of Economics and created a failed line of semi-ugly purses. These two are not soul sisters. He speaks about her essay in Vanity Fair with disdain and even suggests that if she really wants to help ostracized outsiders that she team up with Leathers and other famous mistresses and capitalize on her fame by being a reality star. He says Monica could’ve been the next Paris Hilton. But the writer, a self-proclaimed “homo” who was bullied as a teen, says she’ll never be thought of as “classy” after being penetrated by Clinton’s cigar.
How about Monica does whatever she pleases without all the armchair crisis PR experts saying what she ought to do?
Other weird things that happened in the aftermath of her essay: HBO comedian Bill Maher said he felt guilty for the jokes he made. “I remember doing a million Monica Lewinsky blow job jokes, and I kinda feel bad,” he said on his program Friday night. And Donna Rice Hughes, former mistress to ex-Senator and White House hopeful Gary Hart, had what might be the sanest advice of anyone. She told The Daily Beast that her “heart goes out to Monica Lewinksy.” She even offered to help her get her life together. Hughes’s advice for Monica: Turn to God, protect her heart and get people around her who won’t benefit from her financial success.
In a society of people relentlessly announcing their opinions, not to mention the pundits who earn their keep spewing talking points, it seems unfathomable to leave her alone. In her essay, Monica portrayed herself, in part, as a victim of Clinton. But cheating politicians is an old story. Power and attention can be quite a cocktail. Sure, the subtle and not so subtle flirtations can mesmerizing and confusing. But ultimately it was Monica’s choice. She had to know she was playing with fire.
What is embarrassing, however, is the condemnation, the pity and the arrogance of a society that sees fit to tell her what to do, how best to be photographed on a sofa and — worst of all — how to rebrand herself. In a weird way she and Hillary Clinton have treaded similar ground — both were publicly humiliated at the hands of the same powerful man who couldn’t control himself. Both were instructed on what they should do to fix the images of their lives. Hillary was told to leave him. She chose to stay. Let’s hope Monica has confidants she trusts to figure out what’s next. In the Vanity Fair essay, she expressed a desire to help people who are universally shamed on the Internet for sex and such.
It’s a worthy goal, if we can possibly shut up and just let her do it.