When my best friend’s wife left him out of the blue it sent shockwaves through us all, because as he phrases it, “She was vetted.” In the six years since that paradigm-shifting day he and I have kept an ongoing dialogue about the mysterious underbelly of human nature in order that neither of us should find ourselves so badly blindsided again. A local news story this week in Oregon brings the lesson home writ large that any man can fall victim to a woman’s duplicity and sins of omission.
I was out of town on business all week and picked up the Willamette Week at my corner coffee shop this morning to see what was going on in Portland. I happened to read the cover story which suggests conflicts of interest that Oregon governor John Kitzhaber’s longtime girlfriend Cylvia Hayes might have in her dual roles as the state’s first lady and involvement with trade deals focused on sustainability.
The main impression I got from the article was that she’s an elite-minded phony whose core goals are typically what you find when you boil it all down: a) telling other people what to do, and b) insulation from a life of manual labor. She spouts the classic “I grew up poor” sob story to earn gravitas, and so self-righteous is her environmentalist mantra that she has even said, “I don’t work for the governor, I work for the earth.” Amazing to think that such smug platitudes can still hoodwink the masses, but so it goes.
Walking home after breakfast I kept chewing over this most revealing fact: she already had three divorces under her belt by the age of 35. Now 47 and engaged to Kitzhaber as of August after years as “life partners,” Hayes must have envisioned the next four years as her “rags to riches” coronation should he, a man twenty years her senior no less, win reelection next month, with nuptials sure to follow.
But in life high drama sometimes lies in wait near the finish line. Soon after getting home I stumbled upon this bombshell online that follows up on the previous piece. Apparently Ms. Hayes’s third marriage in 1997 was to an 18-year-old Ethiopian student who paid her $5,000 so he could get a green card. Hayes, 29 at the time and also a student, claims it was “an unstable period in my life” and that “I was associating with the wrong people.” Hmm, what people were these exactly?
Not only did she sweep this illegal marriage under the rug while building up her meticulous façade, she never once revealed it to Kitzhaber during all the years they’ve been together. He only learned about it this week after Willamette Week started digging into the court records—which always seem so dirty—and now all her big talk about the “work that I do on behalf of our environment and trying to make people’s lives better” will have to wait because “I need to take some personal time to reflect and address this difficult situation and to focus on my relationship with John.”
Yes, and what about old John, longtime politician with two divorces of his own to boast? Why, you’re now inducted into the Cuckold Club, a high ranking member of that rare class: Cuckold of the Decade. And even though your boo’s fling with Mr. Abraham B. Abraham was merely of the paperwork sham variety, it sure is instructive to all us Joe Nobodies that a man at the top with life experience and the winning smile can get the wool pulled over his eyes by a say-anything gold digger just like the rest of us.
I believe that somewhere deep in every woman’s subconscious there is a microchip that employs Outcome Based Logic to justify any type of bad behavior when it is exposed. In sweet Cylvia’s own words: “My decision to marry illegally felt very, very distant and far removed from the life I was building. I was ashamed and embarrassed. Therefore I did not share this information even with John once we met and started dating.” And there it is.
To paraphrase the logic: “I am an unaccomplished woman in my 30s with a sketchy past, so as I try to infiltrate respectable society I must keep my new identity squeaky clean, particularly in the eyes of this successful man whose coattails I intend to ride. Oops, now it’s ten years into our relationship and I never bothered to tell him so that he at least could politically strategize in advance to protect his reputation should my dark secrets come to light—not to mention his feelings! Oh well, I’m going to take some time off… don’t forget to vote Kitzhaber!”
Now let’s see her in action. First, in this patronizing little speech her delusions of grandeur about saving the environment intertwine perfectly with a public figure’s self-aggrandizing life story narrative—just remember that this impressively put-together professional woman yukking it up with the crowd is at the core really just another sexy little scammer taking advantage of people’s gullibility while keeping her own agenda moving forward. The whole thing is just so full of shit!
And now video of this week’s heartbreaking press conference where behind the crocodile tears we witness as the dreams of a poor child “who would bathe in Old Man Green’s pond up the road” are crushed by the Angel of Accountability, that cruel judge who inevitably finds us all to settle accounts. Even clever little girls who year after year walk away from their sins of expediency, who pause not after a flicker of their conscience but merely to touch up their makeup before rounding the corner to see what new doors their pretty face can open.
Century after century, men both great and poor fall for the mindless charming guile that nature has bestowed upon women. They smile at us and whisper promises, so we open our gates and dare to trust—and afterwards we somehow always find ourselves trampled on the ground, penniless, our reputations torn to shreds, our hearts crushed and confused.
There’s no clever out here—we’re looking at a stark and sometimes brutal part of life that just has to be meditated on personally by all men. We have to ask ourselves hard questions beforehand. How vulnerable am I willing to make myself? How thoroughly would I investigate a woman whose company I enjoy? Would I even have the strength to leave her if I didn’t like what I found out?
All kidding aside, a part of me sympathizes with John Kitzhaber right now. Not the politician, not the savvy public figure, but the man deep down inside who got played just like Samson, just like my friend, just like a billion other unknown men throughout history. It’s heavy stuff and all we can do is look at it right in the eyes.