Let me be clear: I have never met Maria Shriver. Several years ago I saw her at UCLA when one of her children's books came out. And she looked pretty much like you'd expect: great hair, beautiful eyes, cheekbones to spare. Although we're both glamorous journalists in Los Angeles, our paths never did cross when she was still reporting. I suspect this was partly due to her being a star on NBC, and my one news-shattering appearance on CNN. But never mind.
I always admired Shriver. Her reporting chops, her work ethic, her focus on women's issues when she became First Lady of California. But her relationship with Arnold baffled me from the start. A Kennedy married to an action figure goon? What was up with that? Maybe it was the novelty. In the course of prodigiously researching this post, I read somewhere that Shriver didn't want to end up with one of those dull, pompous Waspy, Harvard, East Coast types she'd grown up with. Boy do I get that. But an Austrian bodybuilder on steroids?
We now know what a total sleazeball Schwarzenegger was. Who has a baby with an immigrant housekeeper and then "employs" her another 10 years in the same house as his wife and kids? And does all this while he's a two-term governor and making jaunty appearances at his wife's annual women's conference? Who describes in a public statement about his sex scandal having a love child as "an event"?
I'll tell you who: a douchebag.
Some disclosure: I got a mild hint of this in 2003, when my husband was editing the LA Times' coverage of the groping allegations against Arnold. There was nothing in it for them, but several women bravely told their stories. Of the Terminator shoving his tongue down their throats or his hands in their bras--fun pranks like that!---and far worse. I never had any doubt these women were telling the truth. But then---surprise!--they promptly got trashed. They were liars! They'd been paid to sabotage Arnold's gubernatorial quest! I also remember Shriver standing before a group of GOP women in Orange County and staunchly defending her predator husband.
"You can listen to people who have never met Arnold or who met him for five seconds 30 years ago," she said, "or you can listen to me."
Because women respected Shriver, they listened to her. So Arnold got elected in a landslide, and California got screwed. One thing Arnold is not is dumb. He knew Shriver's immense political value to him.
And now Shriver is huddling with kick-ass divorce lawyer Laura Wasser.
I don't pretend to know what goes on in anyone's marriage. I hardly know what's going on in mine. But why do strong, intelligent, accomplished women put up with the crap they do from men? It's not like they don't have options. Why did Hillary stay with Bill after he humiliated her on national television with his "I DID NOT HAVE SEX WITH THAT WOMAN!" rant? Why did Elizabeth Edwards not only stand by John after he cheated and lied, but then actively campaign for him for president? She finally dumped him after The National Enquirer caught him with his lover and their baby in a Beverly Hills hotel. But is that what it takes for women to say, "Enough! I'm outta here"?
For that matter, haven't these male geniuses heard of birth control?
As for Shriver, was she in denial all those years about Arnold's behavior? Did she think she couldn't leave him because of her Catholic faith, her parents? Why did she sacrifice her own remarkable career to service Arnold's self-serving political fling? We know she was unhappy with that bargain. We also know that he wasn't very nice to her at times. Called her fat. I want to strangle him just for that.
And now Jane Seymour claims there are two more Arnold babies.
I'm sorry for Shriver, though many women I've talked to believe she brought this heartbreaking karma on herself. At least she had the guts to walk out. Mostly I'm sorry for her children and the poor boy whose father betrayed him in such a sickening and now public way.
In any case Shriver will bounce back. She's smart. She's rich. She's got a private investigator checking into Arnold's philandering accounts and the new baby rumors. She's in a far better position than most women whose husbands bang the help and then run off to Brazil with James Cameron.
Even better, she's got Oprah! Oprah supposedly wants Shriver to do a show on OWN. I hope she'll do something meaty, as we say in journalism, something about women in transition and the awe-inspiring things they do. Maybe the show can be called "Architects of Change."
Maybe she could learn a thing or two.
copyright Mona Gable