Take it or leave it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

MY APOLOGY

Dear M--

I am writing to you because I recently sat down with a friend from high school and she harangued me for those interviews I gave. Never mind that the events she was referring to took place nearly 20 years ago. The wound was fresh. It was the principle, Shannon said. How could I sell you out like that? She said you were "extremely close," which was weird. I didn't think you two even knew each other. But this was a dream, so that explains that.

But it made me think that maybe you are still sore over my going public with our story. And since you recently made headlines yet again - great shot of you in Vanity Fair, by the way; much sexier than Caitlin Jenner (sic!); I'm wondering why they didn't put you on the cover instead of Jon Hasbeen I mean Hamm? Is that what they think about you too? - I'd like to take the opportunity to explain myself after all these years. To apologize. Anything to make you feel better. Because I really do care about you.



But allow me to make myself clear. I use the word apology not as a "regretful acknowledgement of offense or failure," which is the most common meaning of the word, but in the less-used sense of "a reasoned argument in justification of something." As in Plato's Apology (399 BC) in which the philosopher Socrates defends himself against the charges levied by his accusers, charges which included corrupting the youth. I didn't corrupt you. If anything it was the other way around. Remember that time at the park? And in the back seat of my car? This is me hot and bothered. But that's beside the point. An apology is meant to clear one's name. But again, if saying I'm sorry makes you feel better, then we can use that meaning too.

I'm writing this apology because I don't know how else to get the information to you. When the scandal (such a sensational term, how about story?) made news in early 1998, I sent you a letter via the postal service to the address you had given me a year or so before. Asking should I answer questions from reporters. You never got back. Two years later, after the dust had settled on the whole affair, I was living in Manhattan where I discovered you were also residing. I think you were selling handbags at the time. And so I went on your website and sent you a message saying I hoped to get together. I never heard back. Oh, and there was that other time, in the fall of '99, when I was parked outside Saks Fifth Avenue to pick up my mother. You were standing at the entrance waiting for the valet and I'm sure we made eye contact but neither one of us approached the other. Mexican standoff, I guess. Eventually you were handed your keys. Maybe you thought I'd take whatever you told me and sell it to the news. Which I'd never do, as I hope this apology makes you see.

How to begin? I have always lived by the accept what comes unsought philosophy. (A product of my Hindu upbringing, which you know. The teaching itself I reproduce verbatim from the Vedas, which you may not. I can show you the passage some time if you're interested.) And so when I landed at LAX on my way back from Brazil (6 weeks of relentless drug use and general debauchery spanning 3 states: it was one of the best experiences of my life) and saw on the cover of the LA Times that an as-yet-unidentified intern had purportedly had an affair with our Commander-in-chief (I'll admit I had a hunch it was you) and then came home to find the film crews waiting for me at my door, when they seated me in my back yard and cameras were rolling and the microphone was held to my lips I, well, accepted what came unsought.

When over the course of the next 21 days these and other TV crews paid me thousands of dollars to expound on your childhood whims and general proclivities I had no qualms about this either. One of the great ironies in my life is that the things I work hardest on (writing novels, screenplays, these posts nobody reads) earn me next to nothing, while overnight events (like getting hit by SUVs, and those interviews about you) prove unimaginatively lucrative, and with little effort involved. Hey, I don't make the rules. I just abide by them. Such is life. And as I said, you never responded to my letter asking you if you wanted me to share away or keep silent, and as they say regret what you don't do, not what you do, I went ahead and did.

When it was all said and done, I had given a half dozen interviews, maybe more. None of them had I asked for. All of them paid me cash money, I think is the phrase. I made enough to follow through with my initial plan of leaving the country by Carnaval (around my birthday, which you may remember is February 13). If not for the interviews that fell into my lap I'd never have made it back to Brazil. I had not a dime to my name at the time. Truth be told, I was actually in debt, about $30,000 or so, all of it in credit cards. The writing habit is neither cheap nor easy. Much like love.

It was on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro that I wrote my first novel, which, ironically, I could never have done without you. I'd dedicate Lost and Found in the Land of Seduction to you, only it was rejected by every major publisher, and I doubt you'd want your good name tarnished by my trials and errors. You've got that covered yourself. Speaking of your good name. Before the scandal, I had encountered the phrase, fala bem, fala mal, mas fala de mim, which is Portuguese for "speak good or ill of me, just talk about me," a variation of which I'd learn shortly thereafter is "I don't care what you say about me, just spell my name right."

In today's TwitterAge, this could pretty much be said about everyone. But back then, I thought these words could apply to you. You who seemed to enjoy the spotlight, almost to seek it out. Weren't you enrolled in drama as a teen? Why else would someone have an affair with the world's most powerful man and then go tell her best friend about it? And before I knew it, I had become your commentator, talking about how we used to date, and kiss, and more than kiss, and making a few dollars and cents in the process. Did I sell you out? If your read your autobiography, which I skimmed - nice shot you included of the two of us posing at Natalie's b-day shindig, by the way - then yes, this is clearly what you think. (Even your little bro seemed ticked, or just looking out for his sis.) Yes, I did get paid over your name. But did I do you any harm? I only told the truth, never embellished, and everything I said applied to me as well. I did nothing to tarnish your reputation. Honey, that had already happened, and in the oval office no less.

Was I capitalizing on your transgressions? I was giving the public what they wanted to hear. The news stations approached me, babe! They filmed me, put a camera in my face, and waited with baited breath for all I had to say, however insignificant it seemed. I was performing. Which was what you were doing when you were "more than kissing" the President of the U S of A, was it not? But back to the point: Was I capitalizing on your transgressions? Were they even transgressions? Two consenting adults having a little fun. Where's the harm? Make love not war am I right? After news broke, Clinton was a hero in many European countries. You were martyred, but in this day of Amy Schumer and Chelsea Handler not to mention Kim and Paris and other gals who bush the envelope - sorry, I meant push the envelope - you fit right in. Hell, you paved the way. You were way ahead of your time. Independent. Head-strong. Dare I say cocksure? Not afraid to go for it and come what may. You were a wolf, honey. So why play the sheep?

If I had to do it all over again, as an adventure-seeking, edge-of-his-seat living, come-what-may young stud of 25 (if I do say so myself), I'd do precisely the same thing. Some apology, right? But that's where I was in my life. Ask me if I got to third base with a girl I knew in high school, and I'd tell you, even if cameras were rolling. Especially then. Of course, if the story broke today, and E Weekly appeared at my door eagerly awaiting my take, I'd turn them away without a second thought. I'd keep a tight lip and let your personal drama unfold without getting involved. Because I'm in a different place in my life. I'm more private. Hell I'm practically middle-aged! And not, as I was then, in the midst of personal crises of my own, such as the recent death of a sibling, my parents' stormy separation, and just back in town from free wheeling overseas. But the truth is I wouldn't go there again knowing what I know now, and that my actions hurt you, because I never meant to do you harm.

I hope this message finds you well. I watched part of your Ted talk and felt you spoke eloquently. But I disagree when you say you were a victim. And isn't it time to let dead dogs lie? Isn't rehashing what happened some 15-plus years back only to expose the next generation to what you probably sometimes wish hadn't occurred and most definitely aren't entirely proud of? Let it go, babe. Or at least have a sense of humor about it. I'm not saying make light of the fact that your actions jeopardized a man's marriage, tarnished his name and yours and got him impeached. It takes two to tango. He was the older party, and should have been more circumspect and mature. After all, this was the dude who was supposed to be leading our country, for God's sake. Which speaks to your effect on men. Your charms sure worked on me.

See, it's all the spin you put on it. In the spirit of how I began this apology, which is to say in the spirit of Socrates, I'm saying be philosophical about life. You were the first reality TV star, your life on display for the whole world to see, down to the nittiest, grittiest, sperm-stained detail. An MTV Real World of One you were. You carried the show. And it is time for this country to be less puritanical. In Europe, breasts are all over the place, on trains, at nude beaches. Cocks are too. So what's wrong with a blow job? Oral gratification is an ante-diluvian art whose aim is pleasure, hopefully of both parties. Where's the harm? If your actions have contributed to the sexual awakening of America, then stand proud. You are a "woman for the new age"! Such a better ring to it than "patient zero of online shame." Don't you think?

And you look good, honey. Thin. (Always a point of contention between us. Victor, not victim. See?) There's the familiar twinkle in your eye. (And it's those eyes that entranced me as a lad of fourteen.) That million-dollar smile I've always loved. Nobody would peg you for forty-plus. If you had a child, they'd call you momshell!

It makes me wonder what could have been. You know, between us. Had matters of national interest not gotten in the way. But you were always meant for the spotlight. As I once said to reporters (about you): "Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it." I wished to get back to Brazil. I did, and returned with herpes. See what I mean?

O, and after Socrates gave his speech, he was put to death. Please be kinder to me.

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