I pride myself on professionalism as a writer. I meet deadlines. I (usually) listen to my editor. I show up to meetings and events on time and sober. And, as part of this code of professionalism, I make an effort not only to write my books but also to help sell them. Book tour? Bags packed. Signings? Pens at the ready. Social networking? If you’ve been following me online (here or here), you know I’ve lost all trepidation about pouring my guts out on the Internet.
But every once in a while, I’m reminded that I’ll never be a schiller. I just can’t do it. This weekend, I took off on my first flight for book tour. The guy next to me was reading Harlan Coben’s Long Lost. Any self-promoter worth her salt would have seen the opportunity to gain a new reader. What do I say? “He’s great, isn’t he?” Those promotional bookmarks I keep in my briefcase? Yep, they’re all still there.
I also have to admit that, as much as I keep my head down as a work-a-day writer, I have an inner diva who occasionally rears her precious head. I’ll refuse to change that word that irks my editor. I’ve been known to keep that leisurely scene, the one that doesn’t advance the plot but sure was fun to write (and hopefully read).
I know the pro in me should probably blog today about my new book or at least say something about the tour. This is, after all, a blog about writing, both the art and the industry. But you know what? I was lucky enough to speak last weekend to a room filled with enthusiastic undergrads at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and I’m going to follow a piece of advice I gave them: Write what you want to write.
And, I’m sorry, y’all, but in the middle of the big publicity push, I just can’t bring myself to write about either the craft or the biz today. What the inner diva wants to write about is Sandra Bullock.
As you may know from previous Rati posts (here and here), I have a fascination with both celebrity and sex, and I refuse to chalk either one up to prurience. Or, at least, not entirely.
You’re undoubtedly familiar with the tawdry facts that have put Jesse James, Sandra Bullock, and this gem of a gal on countless magazine covers.
The tattoos. The white supremacist connection. The Vanilla Gorilla nickname. The additional women who’ve stepped forward, placing James neck and neck with Tiger Woods in the most-women-sexted tourney. That’s the stuff for the voyeurs.
There’s also the human story behind the seediness, and you’ve probably heard most of that as well: the mistress who sold her man out to a tabloid for thirty grand, the intentional timing of the story to coincide with Sandra Bullock’s victory lap, the wince-worthy replays of the accolades Bullock heaped upon her husband as she enjoyed a spotlight that belonged only to her.
(At the Oscars, choking up when thanking her mother for allowing her to “have that,” her marriage with Jesse James)
(At the Golden Globes, thanking Jesse “who works so hard, all day, and you get dressed up in monkey suits with people you don’t know… I love you so much, and you’re really hot, and I want you so much.)
(With, gulp, Barbara Walters, gushing about the man who has her back.)
But there’s a reason my inner diva finally had to write about this story today, book tour be darned: I understand why Sandra Bullock might stay with Jesse James.
Didn’t expect that, did you? Hold on, now. Don’t throw anything at the computer yet. Hear me out.
Jesse James is a lowlife. He not only cheats on his wife, but apparently does so multiple times with multiple women and without protection. So far, so Tiger. Even worse, he allows her to entangle her professional identity with their marriage and to publicly share her every achievement with the man who “has her back,” even as he’s texting his next stripper hook-up. In short, he makes us feel sorry for her. Is there any worse betrayal?
As it turns out, the answer is yes. By all accounts, Sandra Bullock has been a devoted stepmother to James’s three children by two different baby mama. She has supported his battle against his ex-wife, porn star Janine Lindemulder, for custody of their five-year-old daughter. While Lindemulder lived in a halfway house after a conviction for tax evasion, Bullock has reportedly raised James’s daughter as her own.
Supposedly Jesse James says he wants nothing more than to keep his family intact. But guess what? He’s not the one who’s losing his family.
Of all the bad, bad, very bad things that man did to his wife, the very worst was to allow her to love his children. Being burnt by the man you love is hard enough. I’d like to think I’d leave him every time, but smart women like Hillary Clinton and Silda Spitzer are evidence that love can be messy. The addition of young children in the mix only makes it messier. Ask Elin Nordegren, who might (as widely speculated) be staying for money, but could also be unduly optimistic for her children’s sake.
But even mothers – most of them at least – can decide whether to stay or go without losing their family. But Sandra Bullock isn’t most mothers. She’s not a mother at all, at least not as far as the law is concerned.
Of all of Jesse’s crimes, the worst was forcing his wife to choose between her dignity and a five year old child she has come to love as her own. Ex-step-mothers have no legal rights. Sandra – who dedicated her Academy Award to “the moms who take care of the babies and the children, wherever they come from” — cannot leave him without leaving them. She cannot stay with them without staying with him. And what will America say, and what will happen to her career, if she stays?
At least for now, James’s ex-wife is saying Sandra can stay in her daughter’s life: “She has taken care of our daughter as if she was her own … she sacrificed much … and I will forever be indebted to her for that.”
But people change their minds. Ask Jesse James.
The most painful Bullock quotes to rewind were given to Barbara Walters:
“I always had this feeling that if you got married, it was the the end of who you were. I never met anyone who was bigger than me.”
“We’re not [different]. The end result in life that we both want is the same. The thing we want at the end of the day is the same. He’s not out in bars… He couldn’t be happier…. I never allowed myself to be cared for or protected that way in a relationship…. Not once asking me to be anything other than what I am…. It’s not a mistake that my work got better the minute I met him. I became committed to being scared and being braver. I really couldn’t fail anymore because I have home to go home to.”
“Ten years from now… I hope the same people in my house today are there ten years from now.”
She appreciated what she had, but her husband didn’t. She wanted nothing other than to keep it all — her work, her happiness, her man, and her children — but now she can’t.
And that’s why Sandra Bullock is the person I had to write about today. And why Jesse James’s next tattoo should be a warning label: Danger. Loving this man could break you.
P.S. To appease the Gods of marketing, I will say that I’d love to see the Rati on tour. View the schedule, pictures, book excerpts, and just about everything you can imagine here. If you enjoyed this post, please follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter.