A couple men who have reviewed Lies That Bind have noted that our love story is a bit of a fantasy. I agree in a way. My relationship with Celia is a fantasy-come-true. From another perspective, I have no idea what led to these comments. Celia thinks that perhaps the fact that we met via the internet sounds farfetched. Delinda assures us that many people meet on the internet and that during the course of her work as a social psychologist she’s met several foreign heads of state and their ministers of health via the internet.
So what is it about our story that sounds like a fantasy? Ordinary women meet heads of state all the time. Heads of state have affairs way more often than they should.
Let me explain some of the factors that lead to promiscuity among men of power. Well first, let me point out that my behavior wasn’t promiscuous and that Celia was of an age and social status appropriate for me to know. I do not approve of orgies. I consider victimizing children or subordinates an abuse of power. On the other hand, power is a powerful aphrodisiac. It is hard to pretend not to notice women who are making obvious sexual advances. I’m talking about more than a smile and pleasant comment here. I’m reminded of an opening scene in an Indiana Jones movie when he is teaching a class, and his female students look besotted. What many national leaders experience is more intense than the Indiana Jones experience.
In addition to the plethora of available sex partners, a leader has some strong sources of stress whispering in his ear, “It’s okay to take what they offer. It will soothe the knot in your gut and the tension at the back of your neck. For a few minutes you can forget the criticism of the opposition, and the needs of starving women and children. You deserve a reward for all you give up to serve your people.”
I confess that I soon became overwhelmed by the hideous stress associated with my job as president. In my first four months in office, I outwitted an attempted coup, lost a lawsuit against the government for not enforcing child labor laws, started procedures to nationalize the steel mill that had been employing children, and started an unpopular project to build dams in the mountains. Also one of The Compound guards made an attempt to molest my fifteen year-old daughter when she came home from school. These events are why I don’t call my country civilized or stable. This job produces a steady stream of outlandish problems for me to solve, usually with no time to do so.
I confess that my relationship to Celia was not what other men would call normal. In addition to the stress of my job, I had some personal failures that caused me to be more needy than I imagine other men to be. I’d not been successful with woman. My first love died. My second love left me for another man. I didn’t foresee this trouble so she was gone before I could do anything to stop it. Finally, I married my beautiful, elegant Leah. I lived with her for twenty-five years without knowing what went wrong in our relationship. Between the loss of Fiona and Leah’s incomprehensible behavior I think I developed a fear of being dumped for reasons I’d never know. I know I was harder on Celia than I should have been when she would get upset. A terror would clutch at my heart and I would not give up on the subject until she could tell me what was troubling her. I was so afraid something would build inside her until she ran away. On one hand I want to call my fears irrational, but Celia has confessed that the immorality of our relationship occasionally bothered her to the point that she would resolve to go home. I admit that I needed Celia more than most men my age need a woman. I don’t know why she put up with me.
I’m writing this as an explanation of my colleagues behavior as much as mine. Sex is healing. It is an effective method for reducing the destructive forces of stress on the body. Reality is often so grim, that living in a fantasy world is the only way a man with responsibility for the welfare of his people can remain sane. Then there is the nature of power. It is a force that grinds at a man’s soul. To wield power without being consumed we must have a release that ties us to the mortal world and keeps us in touch with our own vulnerability. It is easy enough to see who was quickly consumed by power and who has found a connection to reality that keeps him sane. Celia became my connection to sanity.