Imagine you are Anne Sinclair, third wife of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. You’re sitting in a leather armchair in your Washington mansion, twiddling your thumbs. There’s nothing to do. Normally, in this situation, you’d write your blog Deux ou Trois choses vues d’Amerique. But, malheuresement, along with the rest of your activities, you wound that up too last May. Pity, you think. It had made the list of top 12 Political blogs in France. No mean feat, when you consider the myriad hopeful commentators polluting the blogosphere.
Sigh. You take out your ipad and find yourself googling Dominique. You read again his resignation statement -there’s sure to be a hard copy around somewhere – but let’s face it: such is the world we live in that it’s faster to find your husband’s press release online than in the hand-carved oak filing cabinet upstairs. You smile wryly when you get to the bit where he writes “I think at this time first of my wife—whom I love more than anything—of my children, of my family, of my friends.”
Men are like primitive women, you think. So impulsive, so fragile, so loveable. All the same, really. Well, the successful ones at least. You log into youtube and search for yourself this time. The top results: heartbreaking. You’ve gone from being a superstar journalist to a stoic wife. That’s what a few minutes of misdemeanour with a hotel maid can do to a thirteen-year career in television.
ABC News has compiled a clumsy profile of you– the facts swiped, you suspect, straight from your wikipedia page – and now two uninformed presenters are describing your marriage as that of a “Power couple”. Very original. Bloody Americans. The headline is pathetic too – you’re described as “the woman standing by her man”. They even get a French lady to say with pitiable enthusiasm “she was the number one journalist in France for a very long time”. Wonderful, insightful. That last part makes you just a little bit sad though, the ‘was’. Still, all good things come to an end.
And that bit about the French preferring you to Carla as first lady. That is true. The Telegraph report of the February poll opened “The former supermodel was heavily beaten by glamorous TV presenter Anne Sinclair”. So much for emancipation.
Such is mass media though- it condenses years to minutes in seconds. And don’t you, of all people know it. Still, it’s not like your career is everything. Didn’t you give it all up in 1997 anyway, when Dominique became finance minister and you quit TF1 to avoid conflict of interest?
Ha, conflict of interest. The stuff of affairs. Never have been too bothered by Dominique’s straying. He’s like a dog – always comes back, and there’s a comfortable power in knowing that he couldn’t live without you. Embarrassing though, always. Not personally embarrassing of course– your self-esteem is higher than that – but it’s a bother playing supportive wife all the time. You’re a lot more. You’re his best friend, and a best-selling author. And you won the Sept d’Or.
Besides, when it comes to scandals, you’ve seen it all before. The 500 odd people of note you’ve interviewed over the years have had their own remarkable scandals: Bill and Hillary Clinton – you spoke to them separately of course- the very image of successful marriage in spite of transgression. Madonna, Mitterand, Sarcozy, Gorbachev, Kohl, Schroeder… the list goes on. And of course – how could you forget – Prince Charles; the least likely of seducers but one of the more refreshing to interview, with his hoity Britishness and attempts at polished French.
Of course, over the years some of your intimate friends tentatively suggested leaving Dominique, especially after the affair with Piroska Nagy. But they don’t understand. You are no fool. You knew the man you married. You were his third wife; he your second husband. Sexual fidelity was not high on your list of priorities. He seduced you like he seduced the others. You’re not naïve enough to think otherwise but the respect he has for you is not corporal – he respects your mind, and he knows that your loyalty makes its own demands.
Still, you cannot bear to think of her, that maid. You’ve seen her desperate interview, how could you not have? The bit that makes you shiver is near the beginning. It’s when she says “he come to me and cup my breasts no you don’t have to be sorry”. You can see it, vividly. Your husband. And that maid.
Her broken English, “he won’t say nothing”, “I never see him before”, “they gonna kill me before someone knows what happened to me”. They ring in your ears, those words. First you feel rage, then contempt and finally immense, unbearable guilt, as you look around your expansive, ornate surroundings.
You can’t help being surprised though – in your capacity as a journalist – that more isn’t being made of the occurrence of the sexual encounter in the first place, which is undisputed. Sure, in France the media is liberated from petty feminist cries. But maybe now the rest of the world has woken up to it too: marital fidelity plays no part in public affairs.
Something has triggered a quotation in your mind though. An unpleasant neural connection has occurred. What rushes to mind just now is something your husband said in the “Inside Job” TV documentary about the financial crisis last year. Just the little, unarguable fact that “At the end of the day, the poorest – as always – pay the most”. Nothing more.
She doesn’t have a hope in hell- that immigrant who has been intimate with your husband. But she has inflicted upon you the gravest injury of all – the indignity of being pitied. You close down your ipad, and rise stiffly from your leather chair to make yourself, and Dominique a cup of tea. You’re getting too old for this.