Two Weddings and an E-mail

As some may have heard, Chelsea Clinton is getting married on Saturday in a multimillion-dollar wedding. People have said the event is excessive, especially in these tough times.

Others, the U.K. Guardian’s, Paul Harris, observe, after the family scandals she endured, Chelsea deserves an extraordinary wedding, and still others react with a yawn. For a few, the yawn morphs into a sneer. In the comment section of the Guardian, Harris was upbraided for his sycophancy: “You write informed pieces about Detroit and then end up writing this dreadful crap about the Clinton daughter. Were you hoping to be invited?”

Another commenter compared Chelsea’s nuptials unfavorably to another president’s daughter:

“Chelsea, hedge fund alum, marries [Goldman Sachs] bankster. . . Jenna Bush, modest schoolteacher who occasionally went on a bender while at college, and author of some sincere books on problems in South America, seems to me to be the nicer of the two presidential daughters by several orders of magnitude. . . Oddly possessing a shred of human empathy even. Feel free to disabuse me of my notions, but make sure the points are concrete.”

Ya gotta love the Brits. They don’t pull punches. 

Me? As a woman who got a grand total of 50 bucks from her (highly paid) dad to buy a prom dress for my wedding “ceremony” in a public park three decades ago, I have to say I enjoyed reading the comments in the Guardian.

In fact, I’m jealous of Chelsea. There, I said it. Wasn’t so hard.

Which brings me to the subject of another wedding, that of the anonymous ex-girlfriend of Politics Daily writer Andrew Cohen. Last Saturday Mr. Cohen wrote a column that was, according to him, his wedding gift to his ex on the day she married someone else: On Her Wedding Day, Saying the Things Left Unsaid.

Some of my colleagues found the column to be a sweet, thoughtful gesture. Others found it slightly insincere. I confess I was in the second camp. Although infamous for my contrarian views, however, I hesitated to comment on the missive of Mr. Cohen. In similar situations, break-ups and exits, my own behavior has ranged from pathetic and awkward to downright cruel. Ah, to go back in time and alter history, when “Farewell, my love” would have been perfectly adequate to the task.

I suspect Mr. Cohen now also wishes he’d been brief. In my old age, I’ve come to believe that brevity will never let you down. “All the best” has served the human species for centuries. Some of Cohen’s and my mutual colleagues were moved to write skeptical interpretations of his ode to the girl who got away. My WomanUP colleague Lizzie Skurnick did a brilliant, biting demolition job: How Not to Congratulate Your Ex on Her Wedding Day.

(Perhaps Cohen wishes his personal email response to Lizzie had been something along the lines of: “Touché. Yours, Andrew.” Instead, Mr. Cohen was wounded and typed a vituperative e-mail to Skurnick, the content of which quickly went viral on Twitter, Jezebel, Salon and God knows where else.)

Personally, I don’t fault Cohen for his note of happy talk and gratitude to his vanished love. While I would have preferred to read a melancholy post that focused on his 40-something single life, with a nod to the aching milestone of his ex-girlfriend’s marriage, I understand why Cohen chose a more upbeat form for his pain. America demands it.

As an ovarian cancer survivor, I know this as well as anybody. Whether it’s cancer, or heartbreak, the reaction from outside is pretty much the same: Buck up and move on. Be transformed by the loss (or at least pretend to be) and keep your pain to yourself.

People don’t want to hear the truth about cancer. They want cancer to be the best thing that ever happened to you. (Mutilation, poison, burns and a high chance of death nonetheless. Hey, what’s not to love?)

I think I am a better person now than I was before cancer. No doubt cancer played a role in my personal growth, but I’ll never know by how much or in what way. I will never again be a woman unscarred by cancer, a woman who was nearly destroyed by it, if not physically, then mentally.

Luckily, I not only survived, I flourished. Most of my sister survivors are thrilled for me. Others still resent me for breaking cancer’s unwritten rule. For Andrew Cohen’s part, the confused emotions of a broken heart are worth writing about. If he had done so at a moment that didn’t steal from another’s special day, I, for one. would have said: Bravo!

Unfortunately, due to his timing — and lack of brevity — the Internet is buzzing about Andrew Cohen and Lizzie Skurnick. I’m waiting for these two crazy kids to slug it out on “Oprah.” Or better yet, sell the rights for a reality-TV courtship. Cohen and Skurnick are both single, after all. And they’re colleagues. Never say never. These are hard times for journalists.

[originally published by Politics Daily in 2010]

About Quixotic Chick

I write. I take pictures. I survived cancer.
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