Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
August 6, 2008
If something sounds too good to be true, chances are it probably is.
I especially think that’s true of people, which is why I have always been wary of do-gooders. Instead, I’ve chosen to surround myself with people on the fringes, people who aren’t afraid to break a rule or indulge in an illegal activity once and awhile, like jay-walking or jay-smoking. I do realize it’s possible I may have the tendency take that to an extreme, seeing as I love flawed people.
I love them because they let it all hang out, so at least you know who they are, and they’re not hiding something that might shock you later.
My mom was a shrink for 30 years in suburban Connecticut, and she always told me, based on clinical experience, that no one is more potentially dangerous than cops and priests.
Like this one time in college, I had a stalker. Not because I was famous or beautiful or anything, but because he was a stalker, and that’s just what he did. I ended up helping the police bust the guy by allowing them to tap my phone and record our conversation. I guess they used my tape as evidence in court, and he ended up getting the book thrown at him in a big way because it turns out he did this to lots of women.
So one day my mom gets a call from the Witness Protection Program asking how to get in touch with me so they could protect me when my stalker got out of jail.
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“If you can’t find her, I’m sure as hell not going to tell you where she is,” my mom said and hung up the phone. She said I should be way more afraid of the butch cop (the one who interviewed me and said, “You know he’s jacking off the whole time he’s talking to ya,” as if the idea got her excited, too) than the actual criminal.
So this is how I was raised. Not so much cynical as wary. And it’s served me well over the years to suspect that the more someone tries to shine good, the darker their bad brews beneath the surface. It makes me wonder if the criminal mind is nothing more than one that can effuse evil as good, and vice versa. Or maybe it’s ridiculous to think there really is a separation between the two at all.
I’ve been thinking about this stuff since the Dalai Lama was here, about leaders and their followers and if it’s possible for a leader to remain a leader once she’s had a taste of the power that invariably follows.
I recently heard a story about this girl I know back East who had a fling with an up-and-coming politician. I call it a fling because he wasn’t married and it was short-lived, a first date that spanned a whole weekend even though they’d only just met. They had this rendezvous in a city he doesn’t live in, and he put her up in an apartment he doesn’t own. Though I understand his need to keep her out of the public eye, the whole thing sounded so shrouded in calculated secrecy, I can only assume he’s done this sort of thing before.
I mean, wouldn’t a man of integrity have taken her out for a latte or something?
Supposedly he is a man of integrity, one of these almost-went-to-divinity-school guys with a calling, a desire to instigate change and do good.
Then my mom sends me a link to a newspaper article where the writer compares said politician to an action hero, trying to decipher if his popularity, his performance, his momentum and his irresistible stoicism can translate to anything real. The reporter writes, “For all his bountiful gifts he often sounds as if he may not yet grasp the simple truth that rhetoric can’t put a patch on reality.”
And all I can do is imagine him with this girl I know in some random apartment doing god knows what, and I think, that’s the reality. But does that have anything to do with it? Do his flaws make him more real, or does it make his quest to lead more frightening?
Then I had this other friend from NYC who had a torrid affair with JFK Jr. in the early ’90s, when she was working for him as an intern at George magazine. She’d be all casual about it and say things like, “Do you like my hair? John says it looked like I cut it myself.”
And I’d be like, “Who’s John?”
Does any of it surprise you? Does it surprise you that Bill Clinton gets blow jobs and doesn’t inhale or that there are Catholic priests who molest little boys or that a Buddhist monk died of AIDS or that a governor spent a gazillion dollars on prostitutes?
A couple of weeks ago, I went and saw “The Dark Knight” for a sold-out show at the Isis. There weren’t many seats left, so we sat too close to the screen, and it made my neck hurt, and it was hard to follow the action scenes, and I walked out feeling like I didn’t really get it.
Then I heard an interview with the film’s director on NPR, and he was saying the movie is about the potential for good and evil, and the battle between the two that exists in everyone. Duh. I thought even more about Heath Ledger, who was so close to the darkness when he made that movie that it almost seemed like he wasn’t acting so much as acting out.
I thought about the Dalai Lama, who kept reiterating to the crowd, “I’m just a simple monk,” as if he were saying, please don’t worship me.
With all this talk of religion and politics, I can’t help but wonder: What would Barack Obama do?