Grocery shopping in our family generally falls to me. My wife is a superb cook, so running down the hill to Vons or Ralph’s once a week is the least I can do. Plus, Sharon raised two kids mostly as a single mom, buying a nice home in a safe Los Angeles neighborhood and then putting them through topnotch private colleges on a good, but not extravagant income. As a result, she’s so tight with a nickel that the proverbial buffalo does indeed fart. If she does make it to Trader Joe’s, we’ve got that night’s meal and maybe something for the morning. Me? I fill the cart to overflowing and we’re set for a week.
As I stand in the checkout line, I sometimes fall prey to a secret vice: I glance, rather intently, at the gossip rags. The National Enquirer, The Star, The Globe, US Weekly—I check them all out. Mind, I don’t actually pick them up and open them lest I seem just a little too interested. It’s enough to get the basic updates from front-cover photos and headlines:
- “The Secrets That Are Destroying Brad & Angelina’s Marriage”
- "Angelina Visits Sex Shop in Prague”
- “Why George Clooney Hates Brad Pitts’ Guts”
It’s a storyline you can follow, week in and week out, so I load the groceries into the back of the Xterra feeling a little wiser and ever so dirty from prying into other people’s private lives—but not dirty enough to avoid the gossip rag rack next time around.
Lately, of course, the focus has shifted to golfing great Tiger Woods. Pardon me, that’s “Tiger & His Pussycats:”
- “Tiger’s Naughty BAWDY SEXTING”
- “Tiger Paid $60 Grand for KINKY SEX WITH HOOKERS”
- “Elin Nordegren Will NOT Divorce Tiger Right Away”
- “Tiger Woods, Rachel Uchitel HAVING SEX?”
You get the idea. Even without the ALL CAPS pointers, you probably already had the idea, as this sad “oh, how the mighty have fallen,” “even his feet are made of clay,” “aren’t men all dogs?” spectacle has escaped the gossip rags to grace the most august publications with almost hourly updates.
The Huffington Post, for one, has made a fetish of Tiger’s woes with a half dozen individual “Skanks R Us” articles currently appearing on its main page. And who can blame them? Surely, their website analytics must show that tons of visitors are clicking on those stories like hamsters pressing the bar for more sugar water, looking at all the pictures, jumping from one tawdry episode to the next. Folks are fascinated, clearly.
A Mile in Tiger’s Shoes
Now, the LA Progressive doesn’t cover this kind of celebrity gossip nonsense. We’re all about social justice, hard-edged progressive politics, and the plight of the underprivileged. As editor, I have a hard enough time getting a mildly socially relevant poem or movie review past the publisher—the selfsame Sharon—so you can imagine what new chores I’ll have to assume beyond the grocery shopping to get a story about some golfer and his many girlfriends on the docket.
I’ll argue that Tiger’s recent travails tell us something beyond that simple publishing dictum that “Sex Sells.”
For one, it might pay for all of us to walk a mile in Tiger’s shoes before condemning him too harshly. How well would I behave if I were a young man, wealthy beyond all sense, more famous in every corner of the world than most government leaders, handsome, athletic, with nubile young women throwing themselves at my feet at every turn, and now hung with a documented reputation as an rapacious sex machine?
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As I am today at 62, fitting virtually none of those descriptions and with the loveliest, most steadfast wife sitting behind me writing her own article, I would probably do pretty well. I’m older. I’m wiser. And I’m not saddled with any of these temptations, not really.
But a closer look at the record might be in order.
There was a moment in my late twenties when I tried my darnedest to replicate Tiger’s off-the-golf-course feats. I had followed the current love of my life to the nation’s capital, only to learn that she had replaced me. As a going-away present—make that “go away”—she had got me a job tending bar at an Irish pub near the train station where she had waited tables while she finished law school. For the next year or so, if a woman batted her eyes at me as I stood behind the bar, or left a phone number in place of a tip, or waited until closing time, I didn’t hesitate. My technique no doubt fell well short of Tiger's, but I was plenty quick on the uptake.
Now, I wasn’t married at the time or dating anyone regularly, but neither was I callous enough to believe you—or, at least I—could sleep with someone simply out of sport, that there wasn’t some promise implied beyond mere continued fornication. Fortunately, I think, “friends with benefits” had no real meaning, at least for me, and I was glad that Peggy, my first wife, showed up at the bar one night and I could stop.
Who Cares What Tiger Does?
Different strokes for different folks, right? If Tiger and a dozen other celebrities can do what they’re doing and hurt no one, why should we care? Sure, Tiger seems a bit manic with so many overlapping affairs, but that’s business for him and his caddy. And sure, Tiger Woods is married, but a marriage that includes tens of millions of dollars for staying together a few years, more millions for additional years, is more of a business deal than a marriage, isn’t it?
The bigger question is why do so many millions of us care?
At this moment, with ten percent of America’s workforce unemployed—a percentage that rises dramatically in black and brown communities—with thousands more American soldiers marching off to yet another misbegotten war, with economic reform that works only for the investor class to this point, with health care reform coming out that principally benefits providers and not the many millions of us who are uninsured, with stalled immigration reform…well, you probably already had that idea, too.
I'm told there are 90,000 homeless living in Los Angeles County, a number that has stayed fairly stable at these preposterous levels for several decades. The only way such a public embarassment can happen is if most of us choose to look this way and not that, to pay attention to Tiger & His Pussycats, and what’s on television tonight, and how USC’s football season went—anything but what’s really happening of consequence in our world.
At least, in this season, after I’ve peeked at the National Enquirer in the checkout line, I resolve to spend as much time with the person at the table soliciting donations outside the grocery store—and then put my heart in it even more when I get home.