Thursday, December 31, 2009

a moment of hope to end the year

You know what’s kind of cool? And kind of gives me hope? The fact that AT & T, Accenture and Gillette have either dropped entirely or “scaled back” their business relationships with Tiger Woods.

I love the statement from Accenture, indicating that Woods was “no longer the right representative” for their company’s values. That’s the closest I’ve heard anyone come to saying he’s a scumbag they no longer admire. Good for them! Still to come, an update from Electronic Arts and Nike regarding their relationship with Woods. Gatorade, as previously reported, had ‘already planned’ to drop their Tiger-labeled beverage before the uproar that resulted from the unzipped fly heard round the world.

As I said, this sort of news gives me hope for humanity. It turns out that with the exception of the behavior exhibited by some of Hollywood’s movers and shakers, we are not quite as willing as we seem to look the other way when someone does the wrong thing. Hollywood luminaries seem to get a pass from us. Some people still accept people like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. Based on box office receipts and industry awards, we long ago forgave the aberrant deeds of Robert Downey Jr. and the downright slimy behavior by Jude Law; we’ve embraced that champion of free (hate) speech in this country, Sean Penn; Britney Spears' tour ranked # 4 in Top Concert revenue for 2009 and we keep tuning in to watch the personal train wreck called Charlie Sheen every week, right?

We’ve accepted the endless parade of children born to Hollywood “partners” who are not married couples. And although it seems charming and adorable and hip when they do it, it’s not so amusing when that behavior is emulated by fans with about 1/1000of the income and resources their idols enjoy in Beverly Hills.

We’ve read tabloid coverage of the scandals and breakups of Hollywood couples for years. Not one of us stopped buying tickets to see Brad or Angelina after he left Jennifer in the dust. I guess we expect (to some degree) that stars will act like stars – and treat themselves to their every desire - and then enjoy the resulting headlines.

But with the news about Tiger Woods, our mostly dormant and silent morals (remember morals?) have exerted themselves and made themselves known. A USA Today / Gallup poll on Woods’ popularity tells us that his “favorable rating” has dropped even faster than his pants as a result of his out of town activities. He had enjoyed an 85% favorable rating in June 2005 and he’s down to 33%. Just as significant, his unfavorable rating has grown from a mere 8% to 57%. Not one of those points was lost or gained as a result of his action on a golf course. Every single point was earned or lost because he cheated on his wife. That’s it.

Then again, maybe Tiger had remarkably bad timing and appeared last in the long line of cheaters we’ve heard from this year. Maybe we’d collectively just about had enough. If you’re David Letterman or Mark Sanford or even Elliott Spitzer, you’re thinking, “Thank you, God” right about now.

In the meantime, kudos to the Board of Directors or the PR departments or the accountants at AT&T, Accenture and Gillette. Like anyone in business with Woods, I’m certain they were watching his poll numbers plummet and were less than pleased about the millions of dollars budgeted for his endorsement. I’m also sure they were wondering how well their companies or products would fare with those folks who answered those poll questions. But even given all that, some part of their decisions had to emerge from at least a few people sitting in emergency meetings in boardrooms around the country saying something like, “He’s history. He’s kind of disgusting. And we need to end this now.” Announcing a separation from Woods is one small moment of common sense in a society that seems to be sorely lacking it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What a year for a new year....

There are two Christmas songs I can’t quite get out of my mind this year. One is called “What a Year for a New Year” by Dan Wilson and the other is titled “Maybe This Christmas” by Ron Sexsmith. Neither one focuses strictly on family or seasonal good cheer or the birth of Christ. When it comes right to it, they are wistful, melancholy songs about what has been and what could be. Hopeful, but not sappy.

I’m not sure I could describe my own feelings that way this season. Yes, hopeful is good but I can’t promise I’m not just a little bit sappy. I’ve welcomed my three boys home from college and can’t begin to describe how much joy that brings me. They are no less than the miracles of my life; and sometimes I wonder how I’ve been so blessed with them.

I've spent the last few months passing by three empty rooms that were pristine but vacant. Walking down the hall this past week or so, and seeing their three closed bedroom doors in the morning, is an old, familiar and comfortable feeling. (What’s behind those doors, scattered about and not necessarily neatly tucked away is a small price to pay for their company. It’s also why I prefer the doors remain closed throughout the day.)

At the same time, I know that home seems to be the ‘place between places’ for them these days. They’re here, but it will never quite be the home of their childhoods. They’re leaving more of themselves elsewhere these days, and less of themselves within our walls. And that will continue, until only a few traces of each of them remain here, to be brought to life from season to season, from event to event, from time to time.

The hopeful part of me wants them to move forward into their lives, full of confidence and tenacity, but mostly I want them to move forward with love in their hearts. For themselves, for family and friends, for the years they’ve spent in our home and for the memorable moments we created there together.

I’m hopeful that Dan Wilson’s lyrics don’t necessarily carry much meaning for them, at least not yet. The difficult times we all endure, the times when there was almost no light to be found are poetically expressed in his song:

Soon we’ll be lying in our beds
And new dreams will fill our heads
And the old ones will be ended
Hope we’ll forget about this place
Let it go without a trace
Wipe the teardrops from our faces
Oh! What a year for a new year!

Are there moments all of us want to forget? Times that would be best erased from our memory? Yes. Maybe new dreams will fill our heads and we’ll forget about the old.

If only I could believe that. I’m not sure there are things I can let go without a trace. The raised voices? The tears? The frustration that came out on the wrong people at the wrong time? We've spent nearly twenty years together as a family and not every moment was a Hallmark card. Not every event was a Rockwell painting. But can my sons do that? Can they let it go? Maybe that ability comes with the resiliency of youth and it’s more easily accomplished at twenty than at fifty.

Sometimes that choice to forget feels possible, even to me, but the Christmas season somehow adds another level of complexity to the question, doesn’t it? Which brings me to the lovely, hopeful but not sappy words of Ron Sexsmith:

Maybe this Christmas will mean something more
Maybe this year
Love will appear
Deeper than ever before
And maybe forgiveness will ask us to call
Someone we've loved
Someone we've lost
For reasons we can't quite recall
Maybe this Christmas
Maybe they'll be an open door
Maybe the star that's shone before will shine once more

That’s really the heart of it, isn’t it? That even though we’ve lived through some difficult moments, a star will shine again for us?

All of which gets me exactly no where it would seem. I’m at some kind of unfamiliar and surprising crossroads, where the first act of my life as a mother is coming to a close and the second act will begin soon enough. A second act, I might add, where the role has been quite diminished to that of a supporting player, even to ensemble member. These songs force me to consider a couple of questions I’d rather not contemplate about my nearly grown children: would they prefer to forget this place? To let it go without a trace?

I don’t think so but then again, I don’t really know. We all have our secret moments and quiet thoughts we don’t easily share.

Are they hoping for an open door somewhere out there in the world, with a light that shines so brightly it will replace the ever-diminishing one at home?

Maybe so and maybe that’s all good. Maybe there is supposed to be a brighter light, to serve as a beacon that calls them to their adult lives; one that dims, but doesn’t extinguish, the light shining at home.

But I'll leave it on anyway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"...a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time"

If I ever won a lottery – unlikely since I never buy a ticket – my dream would be to do the following every single year:

I’d travel to New England, and find a perfect house to rent every year at Christmastime, one with plenty of bedrooms and a warm, open living space, complete with fireplace and snuggly furniture. A view out toward a winter landscape would complete the setting, and make it all Currier and Ives-ey.

But this isn’t just for me. In the days leading up to Christmas and then beyond into the brand new year, I’d want everyone I loved gathered there, in this perfectly suited place, preferably with snow on the ground around us. As I said, there would be room for everyone, and the house would be beautifully appointed with holiday touches.

If working people didn’t have the vacation time coming to them to enable them to join the group, I’d ask them to take the time unpaid and then give them the money. (I’m a lottery winner, remember?)

Gifts would not only be purchased, they’d be wrapped and ready to place under a picture-perfect tree long before December 24. I’d stock the house with delicious treats and great food. Some of the best moments of our holiday together will be the memorable meals we linger over around the table.

We’d have time to welcome the day with a quiet conversation over a hot mug of coffee in the morning; time to take winter walks through the gorgeous woods, time to play a game, listen to music, read a book, watch a movie together. Time to have all the conversations that get cut off throughout the year with phrases like this: “I have a meeting in one minute – have to jump off and dial a conference line.” Or this: “Call home when you get a chance, honey. Just want to hear from you; see how you’re doing.” Or this: “Can I call you back? This is a really, really bad time…” and then, somehow, you never do.

We’d have time to listen to each other, to ask the questions that need space and thought; that need contemplation and discussion. We’d give each other time to answer.

We’d sometimes do little more than sit around together and do almost nothing except enjoy the downtime together. We’d share great tea or delicious wine together as the dark surrounded us.

Conspicuously absent in my lottery dream are anxiety and sadness. Stress is strictly forbidden as are tension and anger. There is no room for these in my Christmas house and anyone who packs them along with their winter woolens will be discouraged from making the trip.

The thing is, I haven’t won the lottery and I don’t have a rustic but spectacular Christmas house to escape to for the perfect holiday. Instead, I have found myself weighed down by stress, and anxiety and some sadness from time to time. I have felt tension and anger as well, and at this time of year, it just feels harder to bear, doesn’t it?

Maybe it’s a universal truth that has no easy resolution. We get seduced by the pictures we conjure up of a post-lottery life but then we check our ticket and find we’re not a penny richer. And if that’s not enough, we look around on December 22 and find that the cards haven’t been addressed, the cookies haven’t been baked, the last few presents still need to be purchased, and the others need wrapping. But even with all that you know one thing for certain: not one bit of it matters. Not really.

Charles Dickens knew it. (I have a semi-obsession with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.) Tonight I keep thinking about these words, which Fred expresses to his Uncle Ebenezer: “…I have always thought of Christmas time…as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely…and therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Maybe I just need to open up a shut up heart; maybe that will do me good.

Friday, December 18, 2009

An indefinite break from common sense

By now, we’ve all read or heard his statement: “After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.”

I’m positive this has been said or written about already but I have to ask: when Tiger Woods says “professional golf,” does he really mean, “cheating on my wife?” Because that’s the only way this statement makes any sense to me. Read it again and you’ll see what I mean:

“After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from cheating on my wife. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.”

Sounds better, right?

Look, it wasn’t the 18 holes, the fairways, the greens, the bunkers, the drives, the putts, and the chips around the course that got him into trouble, at least not directly. Clearly, his performance dealing with any one of those things brought him into the international spotlight and earned him his millions. That fame and those millions also earned him entry and VIP status into exclusive and high profile places around the globe. But why take a break from professional golf? What did golf ever do to his marriage?

I’ll tell you. Nothing. But the road from Pebble Beach to the Blue Martini Club is not paved with good intentions. Only through golf, and the travel and independence it allowed, was he able to spend time off the course, pursuing his desires. Unfortunately, his desires didn’t seem to be to return home to be “a better husband, father and person.” What he did with that time off the course led to his current status as the $100 million dollar man none of his sponsors care to discuss.

Let’s get honest. If he really wanted to curtail his transgressions and make up for them, he’d issue this statement:

“After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from London, the MGM Grand Mansion and “Bank” at the Bellagio in Las Vegas; from cocktail waitresses, porn stars, Perkins restaurants, the Blue Martini club in Miami, “Butter” nightclub in NYC, and Trashy Girls lingerie models. I need to focus my attention on being a husband, father, and a respectable person overall.”

I have to believe Elin wouldn’t care one bit if he played in PGA tournaments when the Tour starts up again in 2010. After all, none of the news reports discovered that Tiger and his latest partner gave it a go in the Amen Corner at Augusta. No, all of his trysts seem far removed from the greens. In fact, the golf course may be the only place he hasn’t cheated on his wife. In fact, it’s the only place any of us can be sure of exactly what he’s doing, when and with whom he’s doing it.

So I say: have at it. Go right ahead, Tiger. Join the Tour in full force in late January. But Elin? Here’s one tip: confiscate his cell phone before he leaves.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The first rule of cookie exchange is:

At this joyful time of year, I can’t help but ask this question: How did something as simple as a cookie exchange become so labor-intensive?

Full disclosure: I’ve done this only once in my life, at my sister-in-law Amy’s house. It was a lovely gathering, as is every event Amy hosts. And I left with some very yummy cookies in my very own pretty shopping bag. But it was obvious that I was the Roseanne in the room, trying to fit in with a bunch of Marthas, and I mean that in the nicest way about every woman who was there. They all seemed to have a real, almost innate, grasp of this whole thing. I did my best but was basically clueless and unprepared.

For every man reading this, or every woman like me who is obviously missing some kind of girl gene, I’ll explain. Like many things in life, the concept of the cookie exchange is fabulous. But a cookie exchange party is one of those things that sounds way better than it actually is; kind of like Spanx, or mixing rum and Tab in college.

The idea here is that a bunch of girl friends, co-workers, congregation members, bowling teammates, workout buddies, walking companions, den mothers, sorority sisters, family members, or any other connected or unconnected group of women – in other words, pretty much any group of women who could almost randomly gather together – meet in someone’s home, sometime before Christmas Day.

The exchange masquerades as a real timesaver for women, something that will replace hours in the kitchen surrounded by cookie sheets, flour, colored sugar and something called cheesecloth, which I can’t really define. The exchange offers a way women can add real variety to their cookie trays without dragging out the faded, dog-eared recipes and buying dozens of ingredients they’ll use once and then shelve until next Christmas. The exchange presents a challenge for women like me.

It kinds of delivers on its promise. You bake once; one kind of cookie; and end up with dozens or assorted cookies for family and friends to enjoy. Here’s how it works. Each woman chooses – and reports to the group before they gather together – the kind of cookie she’ll bring to the exchange. Nothing ruins a cookie exchange faster than two or three women baking and sharing the same Snickerdoodles with the group. I chose to bake and contribute Scottish Shortbread.

If you know anything about baking Scottish Shortbread cookies, you know that they require a long (in terms of cookie-time) time to bake, you have to cut out the shapes with a cookie cutter or other forms, not simply drop them by the spoonful onto the cookie sheet, and you need to make a lot of dough to make a dozen or two cookies.

Tip number 1: choose a scoop and drop cookie. You’ll thank me when you aren’t using a rolling pin to create your exchange recipe.

In addition to offering cookies at the exchange, women literally exchange recipes. At Amy’s house I received recipes from every woman who attended. They were designed – not just printed or written out. They were decorated with holiday graphics. They were laminated. I’m not kidding.

You won’t be surprised to hear not only did I not have the recipe with me, with adorable, festive copies for everyone, I could barely remember it. “ummm... Sugar, flour, butter...maybe a little salt.”

Tip number 2: If you’re not going to hand out recipe cards, make sure you’ve at least memorized the recipe.

Tip number 3: Based on the Tyler Durdan school of discipline: First rule of cookie exchange? Know the rules of cookie exchange. This is one bit of wisdom that is apparently part of female DNA that I’m missing. When you attend a cookie exchange, you bring one dozen cookies each for every woman who attends, plus a “dozen for the table.” In my case, that meant I was to bake and bring 13 dozen.

Maybe it’s exactly like Fight Club. Maybe the first rule of cookie exchange is you don’t talk about cookie exchange. All I know is that I baked about three or four dozen. Which left me just 108 cookies short. I discovered my error about five hours before the party and – yes, I can’t help it – I baked like a mad woman and arrived at the party with 156 cookies. I was all set. Except for the missing pretty, laminated recipe cards. And the little bags that everyone had packaged her cookies in. Tied up with holiday bows.

Even still, I loved that. I loved the way they looked and the sharing that was taking place. But I truly felt like I had missed a week of ‘girl school’ somewhere along the line, when they taught us about stuff like cookie exchanges and laminating. The problem was me, not everyone else.

Funny thing, though. It’s not just me. The other day I spoke to a young woman I work with – she could be my daughter – and she was about to attend a cookie exchange. Without going into all the details, she was all set to repeat my CE transgression. She could deal with printing out some recipes – had that covered – but there was no way she could bake another 9 dozen cookies in time.

The best part ever: at the end of the day, she was relating all of this to her husband over the phone. He cheerfully offered to run to the store, buy the ingredients, and bake the missing cookies for her.

Husband of the year, right there. I may have to apologize to Gloria Steinem for all the horrible things I’ve thought and written about her over the years. Maybe all the equal partner stuff is real, at least for 25-year-olds.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

List your top ten. I came up with eight.

Disclosure: I’m guilty of regularly breaking the cardinal rule of blogging which is pretty simple actually: write about one thing. Write about something you know and something that readers (and hopefully dear god in heaven readers who comment) will feel comfortable coming back to again and again to read your latest thoughts on the topic.

One problem I have with that rule is that I don’t know about anything. I’m not trying to me shy or self-deprecating. I really don’t. Which makes me an expert on nothing and therefore qualified to help enlighten people about nothing.

That said, I can’t help how things align sometimes. The universe seems to place things in my path and for a while, I’ll write about the same topic from a slightly different reference point. Tonight is one of those times. I just wrote about the women’s movement or lack thereof and then boom! It happens again. Please read on for the latest affront to 21st century women and further proof that we are honestly, sincerely, and unrelentingly pathetic.

Half a century or so on the planet should count for something but it turns out, it doesn’t.

Which is exactly why I found myself incredulous at the promotion I watched tonight for a new television show on The Style Network. You ready? Here you go: What I Hate About Me. Check out the website if you want but the basic premise is this: women list the top ten things they hate about themselves. As they put it online, “real women admit their imperfections.” We admit them? As if they’re a secret to everyone? Are we not allowed to be imperfect? The host of the show listens compassionately (no doubt) and then proceeds, over the course of the next hour, to give the self-loathing woman the tools she needs to help her confront her demons and solve all her issues of self-hatred. Again, quoting the website: “experts share practical tips for fixing every foible.”

First of all, I am far from confident about many, many things but even I would probably have a hard time coming up with ten things I hate about myself. Ten? Do I have ten things I HATE? My thighs, for sure. But is that one or two things? My weight. My figure in general, I guess. Maybe I just go with “shape” and that covers a multitude of sins.

My habit of hanging on to thousands of scraps of paper with some bit of story or fact or headline that I tell myself “I’ll write about tonight.” I seem to collect these daily and then never look at them again. And in the rare instance that I do, I think: what was so interesting about this?

My tendency toward procrastination, even toward things I really WANT to do.

My semi-disorganized closet and my semi-disorganized attitude toward it.

I’m up to four. I need six more things I hate about myself. My short temper toward people who aggravate me.

My tendency to get aggravated by too many people.

That’s six. Four more. My impatience with my kids from time to time.

My failing skills when it comes to my memory.

Eight. I give up. Like I said, I’m very far from perfect but I don’t know that I could really list ten things I hate about myself. It feels like a lot of hate to me. And now there's an entire season of shows filled with women who hate ten things about themselves. That has to be something like a hundred things women hate about themselves. Imperfections they need “fixed.”

Back to my premise: proof that women have gained not one inch in terms of respect, position and confidence. Our quest for equality is a proven failure because there is no way on earth that this show would ever exist for men. Quite the opposite. Many men seem to overlook the bad, or at least made tacit peace with it, not brood about it. They don’t list it and categorize it and ruminate about it. They move on, they don’t linger over misery the way women do.

Dissecting things you hate about yourself feels enlightened and empowering, which is why women love doing it. We’re wrong. It’s actually depressing and debilitating.

No, a program with this premise would never appear on Spike TV. Not ever. And good for them.

But that’s showbiz, right? I guess no one would watch a show called Ten Things I Love About Myself. We need the moth into the butterfly; we’ve been trained to wait for the “reveal” on shows like this. We need the magic. Which is exactly what little girls like about fairy tales. We may have outgrown Cinderella but we haven’t truly given up on her story.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Elin's tough week

Here is all the proof anyone needs that the “women’s movement,” or at least the idea that women have more to offer than their looks and should be acknowledged in a non-sexual way in many facets of society, is neither alive nor well in the western world. In fact, it’s all but invisible. Otherwise, there’s no explanation for the following.

First, there is simply no reason that anything as revolting as the Victoria’s Secret Holiday Fashion Show should get network airtime every December. Isn’t this exactly why Al Gore invented the internet? For events like this? Yes, I’ll admit that I’ve never watched this horror show but I can guess what it contains. Stunning women, wearing lingerie and heels, staring into the camera, looking seductive and needy.

When I looked it up online, I was hoping to find a charity connection. Maybe that could touch off some kind of kind feeling of warmth and forgiveness toward this celebration of female sexuality and oppression. Nope. (Please: I know some of these models make a fair amount of money. They’d better make it while they can; perky boobs and smooth skin won’t last forever.) The only good news I found was that something must have happened in 2004 which precluded this event from taking place. Otherwise, according to the episode history, Victoria and her spokeswomen have been sharing the holidays with us since 2001.

But truthfully, it wasn’t the “fashion” show that aggravated me the most in terms of women and our “liberation.” No, that honor goes to the MSN homepage. I hate the fact that one of the top stories there was titled “Tiger’s tough week.” Tiger’s tough week? Tiger’s? Every single thing that happened during this “tough week” to keep him in the news was the result of his own choices and activities. The latest news is that four women have emerged to tell their stories about his sordid recreational life. That’s practically one woman for each year of his marriage.

I can think of someone who may have had just a slightly tougher week than Tiger. What about Elin’s tough week? What about the fact that Mrs. Tiger Woods has had her sham of a marriage exposed for the entire world to see and judge? Yes, the man she married was already in the sports spotlight, a legend in the making on her wedding day, and she would enjoy a lifetime of material comforts courtesy of the PGA and various companies who paid for a piece of the Tiger magic. But even given all that, I’m guessing Elin never counted on infidelity and multiple affairs following after love, marriage and the baby carriage.

Maybe Tiger did, though. I read the People magazine blurb about his marriage in 2004 and the writer observed the following: But it was Tiger’s trademark cool that really took the cake. "He didn’t act like he was going to get married," says a source. "He was very relaxed, like this was any other day for him.” I think the source got that exactly right. Appears this marriage didn’t changed a thing for old Tiger, did it?

If we’ve learned anything from people like Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Donald Trump, Elliott Spitzer, Mark Sanford, and David Letterman, men seem to emerge from these marriage-shaking media events more or less unharmed. Sure, we all laugh at their exploits and the comedians come up with a day or two of material, but then we move on.

And just as the men seem to come shining through, their scorned women seem to fade from our consciousness, the tell-all books some of them write notwithstanding. I have to believe that money goes a long way to keeping a lot of those women from ever sitting down with a literary agent to discuss a book deal. That little annoyance may even be covered in a pre-nuptial agreement or divorce settlement.

I suppose it’s too much to hope that the next time some famous man has his affairs come to light, the media will address it in terms of the people he’s hurt with his selfish, narcissistic behavior. That way, it may not be so easy for the rest of us to overlook the real, live un-famous wives and families who are the most harmed by his behavior. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be a little more reluctant to place those icons back on their pedestals.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The cavalcade of cads continues.

I don’t know about you but I can barely keep up with the public statements made by men who can’t seem to keep it in their pants. As a public service, I’ve gathered four statements from four men, all issued after their indiscretions were made known to the world and they were forced to acknowledge them. I guess I could have gathered a few more – God knows the list of indiscreet men is lengthy and tiresome - but reading the sentiments of these four slimy liars just about made me sick. I don’t think I could have taken even one more.

But after reading them, it became obvious that a number of common themes run through them. Perhaps they all hired the same PR firm, one that specializes in repairing the damage to high-profile individuals once their cheating is discovered. Sure, each statement has its own flavor and personality, but they are more alike than different. I’ve deconstructed the comments and noted several themes that appear in each “apology.”

Let’s go back more than a year and hear from Elliott Spitzer, former Governor of New York, once his sexual escapades were discovered:

Themes: Gratitude for the love of his wife, love of his family, regrets about letting so many people down, including every resident of his state, abusing their trust, atoning for this in private, appreciating the support, yadda, yadda, yadda:

“In the past few days I have begun to atone for my private failings with my wife, Silda, my children, and my entire family. The remorse I feel will always be with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me. From those to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much: the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state. I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.”

Themes: I’m not a total scumbag and my track record proves it; plus, the people I worked with here are pretty cool:

“I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been, but I also know that as a public servant I, and the remarkable people with whom I worked, have accomplished a great deal. There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work. Over the course of my public life, I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor. At Lt. Gov. Paterson’s request, the resignation will be effective Monday, March 17, a date that he believes will permit an orderly transition.”

Themes: I can do better; really I can, plus a reference to a hackneyed aphorism about falling down and getting up again. More healing, more hoping for better days, good luck and thanks for the memories.

“I go forward with the belief, as others have said, that as human beings, our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family. Then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children. I hope all of New York will join my prayers for my friend, David Paterson, as he embarks on his new mission, and I thank the public once again for the privilege of service.”

Thanks, Elliott. And what’s this I read about you mulling a new candidacy? I’m glad you’re trying to serve the common good outside of politics.

From one politician to the next, we hear from South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who told quite a whopper to try to distract us from the truth of his situation. The Appalachian Trail is a far walk from Argentina. But once he began confessing, he couldn’t seem to stop:

Themes: letting down wife and family, repairing this will take a while, and isn’t my wife wonderful for sticking by me and raising our family while I pursued my dream. Note: first time we’ve come across the word “profound” in an apology. We’ll see it again later.

“… let me first of all apologize to my wife Jenny and our four great boys, Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake, for letting them down. One of the primary roles, well before being a governor, is being a father to those four boys, who are absolute jewels and blessings, that I've let down in a profound way. And I apologize to them.”

“ And I don't like apologizing in this realm, but given the immediacy of y'all's wanting to visit and my proximity to them, this is the first step in what will be a very long process on that front.”

“I would secondly say to Jenny, anybody who has observed her over the last 20 years of my life knows how closely she has stood by my side in campaign after campaign after campaign, in literally being my campaign manager and in the raising of those four boys and in a whole host of other things throughout the lives that we've built together.”

Theme: My staff has been great; I’m really sorry about lying to them, too. And to everyone in South Carolina, too. I like his use of the phrase “creating a fiction.” I think that means “a lie.”

“I would also apologize to my staff, because as much as I did talk about going to the Appalachian Trail, that was one of the original scenarios that I'd thrown out to Mary Neil (sp), that isn't what -- where I ended up. And so I let them down by creating a fiction with regard to where I was going, which means that I had then, in turn, given as much as they relied on that information, let down people that I represent across this state.”

“And so I want to apologize to my staff and I want to apologize to anybody who lives in South Carolina for the way that I let them down on that front.”

Theme: another “profound” apology, this time to a good friend: Tom Davis. But not only to him, to all the Tom Davises of the world, whoever they are.

“I want to apologize to good friends. Tom Davis came over to the house. He drove up from Beaufort. And he has been an incredibly dear friend for a very long time. In my first race for governor, he moved up and he lived in the basement of our house for six months….”

“And he gave of his time and his talent and his effort for ideas that he believed in, to try and make a difference in those ideas. And so I, in a very profound way, have let down the Tom Davises of the world.”

Theme: more apologies, this time to the in-laws, who must hate his guts at this point, and how he “let them down.” And something inexplicable about a conversation he and his father-in-law had about where his heart was. (?)

“On the ride over here, I called the house, and in the background I could hear my parents-in-laws, who'd come up to be with Jenny, and I've let them down. I had the most, you know, surreal of conversations a number of weeks ago with my father-in-law, laying some of the cards on the table.”

“And he was incredibly gentlemanly, as you cannot imagine, in saying here were some things that I was struggling with -- in regard to where my heart was, where I was in life, those different kinds of things. And I let him down. I've let down a lot of people. That's the bottom line. And I let them down -- and in every instance, I would ask their forgiveness.”

Theme: Time. This will take some time. Other than that, I can’t quite make out what he’s trying to say here. How God’s laws will protect him from himself; that the biggest self of self is, indeed, self. What?

“Forgiveness is not an immediate process; it is, in fact, a process that takes time. And I'll be in that process for quite some weeks and months and, I suspect, years ahead.”

“But I'm here because if you were to look at God's laws, they're in every instance designed to protect people from themselves. I think that that is the bottom line of God's law, that it's not a moral, rigid list of do's and don'ts just for the heck of do's and don'ts. It is indeed to protect us from ourselves. And the biggest self of self is, indeed, self; that sin is, in fact, grounded in this notion of what is it that I want as opposed to somebody else?”

Theme: one more time, apologies to the people of South Carolina; well, actually just to people of faith in South Carolina.

“ And in this regard, let me throw one more apology out there, and that is to people of faith across South Carolina, or for that matter, across the nation, because I think that one of the big disappointments when -- believe it or not, I've been a person of faith all my life.”

Theme: but hey, you should know more about the woman who stole my heart and why. And how he hurt her, too. Ummmm, Mark? Shut up. No one cares if you hurt her. This theme is not found in any of the other apologies, thank God. This guy is nuts.

“And so the bottom line is this: I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a -- what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth, in advice on one's life there and advice here.”

“But here recently over this last year, it developed into something much more than that. And as a consequence, I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. I hurt friends like Tom Davis. I hurt a lot of different folks. And all I can say is that I apologize.”

Theme: Privacy. Finally we come to it: his request that the media please leave his family alone. We need our privacy to heal and work through this. We love the cameras until we don’t.

“I -- I -- I would ask for y'all's -- I guess I'm not deserving of indulgence, but indulgence not for me, but for Jenny and the boys. You know, there are a team of cameras and crews and all those sorts of things camped out down at Sullivan's Island.”

“And I would just ask for a zone of privacy, if not for me, for her and the boys. As we go through this process of working through this, there are going to be some hard decisions to be made, to be dealt with, and those are probably not best dealt with through the prism of television cameras and media headlines.”

In a much more succinct fashion, we move onto David Letterman. He took a bit of different approach, and addressed his “work family” before he mentioned how horribly he behaved toward his wife. Interesting choice.

Themes: I’m not a total scumbag, just a dummy numbskull who can’t think beyond the moment, and the people I work with here are pretty cool:

“I’m terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position. Inadvertently, I just wasn’t thinking ahead. And, moreover, the staff here has been wonderfully supportive to me, not just through this furor, but through all the years that we’ve been on television and especially all the years here at CBS, so, again, my thanks to the staff for, once again, putting up with something stupid I’ve gotten myself involved in.”

Themes: acknowledging that his wife has been hurt; atoning for it, yadda, yadda, yadda. Note there is no mention of love or support; nor expressions of compassion and trust. No, it feels like this whole episode is much more pragmatic for Dave: we’ll fix it or we won’t.

“Now the other thing is my wife, Regina. She has been horribly hurt by my behavior, and when something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it. And at that point, there’s only two things that can happen: either you’re going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you’re going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed, so let me tell you folks, I got my work cut out for me.”

Which brings us to Tiger Woods, clearly the biggest narcissist of the bunch. This guy is unbelievable. Lied to cover everything up, and now that he’s been found out, he kind of has an attitude about it.

Themes in this paragraph: Like Mark Sanford, Woods “let his family down,” kind of like he might if he couldn’t come up with enough tickets for the Masters, his enormous regret, a self-deprecating “I’m not perfect” line, followed by a big ‘get lost’ to the press that helped build his career.

“I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.”

Theme in this paragraph: More on how much he despises the press for what they are doing to him in his hour of shame. Plus a nod to his wife for her “grace.” Damn straight.

"Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect."

Theme: Hate the coverage. Hate it. I’m not going to share one more thing about this. And how what’s at stake is not fidelity and honor and taking marital vows seriously; what’s at stake is his privacy. Oh, and he “let them down” again.

"But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don't share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions."

Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it's difficult."

Theme: I can do better; sorry to everyone; and another “profound” apology.

"I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology."

Notice that not one of them mentioned learning a lesson in hubris and entitlement and over-playing power. No one promised to never do it again, not that their promises are worth much.

These men all have power, influence, and millions of dollars. Some of them have millions of fans, too. And what do they need to be happy? An adoring woman (or two) on the side who will remind him over and over again how amazing he is, how alluring, how sexy and intoxicating, all without the realities of everyday life intruding on their bliss.

I wish I had millions, too. I’d make it my job to show up wherever these guys were on a regular basis, and hold up signs that read ‘lying scumbag cheater’ right in front of them.

Okay, that’s not realistic. Maybe we should just make it a rule that for the year following a transgression, each one of them gets his name prefaced with “Lying, scumbag cheater” every time anyone writes it in an article or announces it on TV. I’d enjoy that.

“And now, approaching the 18th, sitting at three under par, lying, scumbag cheater Tiger Woods has this championship all but wrapped up.”

“Tonight, lying, scumbag cheater Dave’s guests include …”

“Joining us on the panel, lying, scumbag cheater Governor Mark Sanford…”

“According to lying, scumbag cheater former Governor Elliott Spitzer…”

Hey, it’s just for a year. If they’re all so darn sorry, seeing this in writing or hearing it on the air would be far less painful than anything their families have already endured. It’s the least they can do.