Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mayor Newsom and the Man Code

I don't normally pay a lot of attention to San Francisco politics - Oakland politics is enough trouble for any normal citizen. It's been impossible, though, to miss the brouhaha going on over there about the mayor's, um, experiment in intra-office personal relations.

The short story is: during his divorce, Mayor Newsom had an apparently short-lived affair with his appointments secretary Ruby Rippey-Tourk, who was (and still is) married to Alex Tourk, who was (and no longer is) one of the mayor's primary aides.

I'd say that sleeping with his secretary was sooo Fifties, if I didn't know from personal experience that it was still going on in the Eighties (no, it wasn't me, but I knew the participants); and obviously, here we are in the 21st century and
it's still going on, in defiance of common sense, common courtesy, and every personnel code in existence. I wondered if the City and County of Ess Eff had a personnel code, but the answer (from one article) seems to be no:
"it does not appear Newsom violated any of the city's ethics laws by having a sexual relationship with a subordinate..."

The part of this which really boggled my mind, though, was C. W. Nevius' column yesterday about "The Man Code." Apparently Nevius' phone mail and inbox are full of horrified responses from his male readership, to the effect that by sleeping with his friend's wife, Newsom has committed the Ultimate Sin.
Many said they would never trust Newsom again as long as they lived.
Nevius' women responders, on the other hand, generally said, so what else is new? The men compared this to stealing from a friend, or framing a friend for a crime. It is Betrayal, they say - you don't betray your loyal ally, any more than the Mafia would. (They would, of course, if there was something in it for them, but let that pass.)

All these men are acting as if Ms. Rippey-Tourk had nothing to do with this. It takes two to tango, folks. Keep in mind, although the lady was working for the mayor at the time, nothing I've read indicated the incident was anything but consensual. Also, of the two participants, he was in the process of getting divorced; she wasn't. In fact, she's still married to the guy (although not still working for the mayor). But the whole tone of the male response seems to be, not that Tourk's wife betrayed him, but that Tourk's friend betrayed him. I can only assume that all these men are operating on the basic principle that Ms. Rippey-Tourk is her husband's property and has no independent existence and no will of her own.

And that attitude is a whole lot older than the Fifties...


  1. Yeah it takes two to tango but the fact remains that Ruby was the mayor's best friend's wife. Me thinks the women aren't so pissed off this time is because Gavin is a hunk as well as a hero for his gay marriage stance. My dear old daddy first told me an old saying..."a stiff dick has no conscience!" which sort of sums up the whole affair in my most humble and ancient opinion. Cheers!

  2. Your dear old daddy is absolutely right, Mike, but don't leap to conclusions about how women feel about Gavin. I personally haven't been attracted to guys who grease their hair since my cousin Wayne sat on a tube of BrylCreem in his back pocket and made an astounding mess of his pants, back in 1959 or so.

    Generalizing about women is as dangerous as generalizing about men; the astounding thing about this is how unanimous the male reaction was (although still self-selected - these are the guys who chose to respond). But I'd bet some women would forgive him because they think he's a hunk; some women assume he's catting around because he's a hunk (these are the "so what else is new?" group); and some women don't think the private life of a public figure is any of their business.

  3. Anonymous7:16 AM

    I don't think this will ever change. I don't share the perspective of these men, but most men I know do, and the women I know see this issue more like the women you describe.

    My question continues to be: To what extent do American women still want to be owned? This has certainly been quite resurgent among, but not exclusively definitive of, fundamentalist Southern women. In fact, it seems to be more true of the more financially comfortable Southern fundamentalist women, and not true of their blue collar counterparts. Upshot for Democrats: aim you appeal at blue collar Southerners.

    Anonymous David

    Addendum to a comment sometime back about Katherine Harris: she has essentially gone over the edge, but I think her story, at least starting in high school, would actually be quite interesting, and I still like her better than our grand nonentity Mel Martinez, who reminds me of junk food with zero nutritional value. At least Katherine is like a wild-assed, high alcohol content college party concoction. Oh, yeah, Mel ran as "President Bush's Cabinet Secretary Mel Martinez." He should take a job as a party balloon.

  4. Anonymous David, you make a good point about blue collar Southerners. After all, the Dems started out as the blue collar party.

    I've always been bemused by the women who want to be owned; but of course, that was the myth. The whole time I was growing up (in the Fifties), we were told, be a good girl, get married, be a good wife, stay home and keep the house nice.

    I suppose it's easier, to let him make all the decisions and be taken care of; but - what if something happens to him? And what if you then find that he was lying to you about how much money there was? It's happened, and it'll keep happening. I think that's why the blue collar Southern women don't buy it; they're more aware of how little money there is.

  5. Anonymous9:34 AM

    An interesting possibly related historical note: Wyoming was the first state to grant suffrage to women. When I first learned that fact, I thought of course, this was where a small enough population included enough pioneer women who had to take the reins in their own hands that women must have been, at least often enough, co-equal players, as well as not infrequently on their own. A contemporary example of this type of American seems to me to have been Ann Richards (and my own mother, who bridged both women's worlds).

    Glad you were able to get back to you website. I enjoy reading and joining in on the thinking on this blog. I'm hoping this and FA, along with the oft-recommended crosswording (it's a word now), will help stave off brain atrophy.
    Besides, the life of the healthy, engaged mind is one of existence's true blessings.

    Anonymous David

  6. Anonymous8:41 PM

    The entire sleep with someone else's spouse thing is a mystery. Where I work a 'boss type,' divorced largely because he was quite the jump in and out of bed with almost anyone female of legal age type, has been having an affaire with a secretary level individual for almost a year. She is married, kids, the whole nine yards.

    It isn't the attraction I don't get. It is the dishonesty. If you want to change partners, well, say so and do so. The hiding, which after a short while becomes an all too open secret, is stupid. Do people in these circumstances really want both bed partners? Maybe they do, but dipping your pen in company ink can sure write some unpleasant scenarios.

    Perhaps, all those shocked, upset males felt the guy should have had enough backbone to stay away from his friend's wife. Yet, I bet there are an awful lot of affaires with the spouse's best friend. Lack of backbone on both sides I'd say. The guy took his wife back without complaint? Hmmm, open marriage uncovered, or is he doing a Hillary Clinton?

  7. Boggart, I love the phrase, "dipping your pen in company ink." Did you make that up yourself? That's great!

    Many people don't want to admit that human beings are animals; but boy, the sexual behavior makes it hard to deny, as everybody jumps at one more chance to spread the genes around.

  8. Anonymous10:08 PM

    No, Hedra, I must admit the phrase "dipping your pen in company ink" isn't mine. I first heard it years ago concerning circumstance that fit this entire discussion.

    A teacher had a many bed roomed house. (Okay, now I have everyone's attention.) She and her male partner used one, and the rest she rented out to other single teachers at the school where they both worked. She had a master's and was helping her partner financially to get his Master’s part-time at the local college.

    This scenario went on happily for several years, with the teacher-student slowly but surely accumulating credits towards that better paying degree. During the summers, he went to school full time, while his partner, who owned the house, went off to workshops and seminars. The idea was he would study up a storm, and she wouldn't be around to distract him.

    One fall the school hired a new, youngish librarian. She rented a room in the afore mentioned house. She was a cheerful, slightly unorthodox individual who was generally well liked. All was well in the many bed roomed house for both the fall and the spring semester. Come summer the owner of the house went off, as usual, to a series of workshops. The teacher-student, as usual, took classes at the local college. The librarian stayed as librarians are needed for summer school as well as during the regular school year.

    When the house owner returned at the end of the summer, she discovered there had been some rearranging of bedroom occupants. The teacher-student had moved out of the bedroom he had shared for many years with the house owner and into the librarian’s bedroom. Neither he nor the librarian saw any reason, so the story went, to move out of the house. The house owner, being somewhat upset by this game of musical beds, disagreed. Interestingly enough, the other bedroom renters had stayed stoically silent all summer, so no one at the school had even a whiff of what had gone on. The house owner had no such compunction and enlisted the aid of the principal to oust her unwelcome tenants. It was the principal who used the phrase, “You don’t dip your pen into company ink.”

    Anyway, to satisfy prurient curiosity, which is of course the best kind, all did and didn’t end well. The new couple did move out, although not immediately as the housing situation was tight. The house owner came in for a great deal of sympathy despite being understandable somewhat grumpy and distracted for several months. The couple continued to work at the school for that year, it really being too late to find replacements. Plus, although what they did was dishonest and even unconscionable, changing bedrooms quietly among adults wasn’t enough to yank someone’s contract. It was, however, enough to ensure contracts for the next school year were not offered.

    The next year the couple had new jobs at a different school, in the same town, and had gotten happily married over the summer. I never heard if he offered to repay his erstwhile partner the tuition she lavished on him. The house renter continued renting out bedrooms and going to workshops and seminars in the summer. She also gained a reputation, among students, of being overly easy with the young ladies in her classes and overly strict with the young men. Last I heard, all conjugal relationships among the trio were unchanged.

    Why does anyone watch soap operas?

  9. Wow, boggart. Certainly no one with that going on nearby would need to waste energy turning on the TV... Wotta story.

    As a former librarian, I'm sorry to see one of a normally fairly staid profession in the role of home wrecker (although I note that the home owner and her gentleman friend never bothered to tie the knot themselves).