Monica Lewinsky breaks silence: Why does it matter?
OPINION — Blame Beyonce.
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time lately thinking about Monica Lewinsky. Okay, not inordinate — just every time I hear Partition, which is played an inordinate amount of times on the radio. But I digress.
I think of Lewinsky every time I hear that part in Partition where ‘Yonce sings of how her husband “Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown.” I laugh and wonder something like, “Geez, can you imagine what it must be like to have your name be synonymous with performing a blow job … forever?” That is, until yesterday.
Lewinsky, a woman still best known publicly for those occasions nearly two decades ago where she, ahem, serviced then-President Bill Clinton, is back.
In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, she breaks her 17-year silence, writing, “It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress,” allusions, respectively, to the hideous hat she wore in a widely circulated picture and the dress she saved after her lover, Clinton, um, sullied it.
The full article, “Shame and Survival” won’t be released until Thursday, but Vanity Fair’s excerpts promise a story that’s pretty by-the-book as far as ‘Where Are They Now?” stories go. Lewinsky’s admissions are predictable in that, surprise, surprise, she “deeply regrets” her presidential affair and considers “what happened” to be “consensual,” though she does feel “my boss took advantage of me.”
She also believes she was made a “scapegoat” in order to protect the President. Perhaps the most striking admission thus far is that Lewinsky contemplated suicide multiple times — but never attempted it — which isn’t so shocking given her worldwide ridicule but still alarming to read how her mother sat by her bed at night afraid that her daughter “would be literally humiliated to death.”
It was an unexpectedly sad read. Lewinsky made a profoundly bad decision at 23, and at 40, she still pays the price for it. She’s never held a real job, despite her master’s degree from the London School of Economics, she’s recognized daily, and after all this time, she’s still a pop culture punch line. (Lewinsky goes on record correcting Beyonce’ for that “Monica Lewinsky-ed” line in “Partition.” Apparently “Bill Clinton-d” would be more accurate.) She’s never been permitted the chance to move on from the scandal.
As I was reading, I kept wondering, “Why is she telling us this now?” especially after I got to the part about Lewinsky not being paid to be silent all this time. In the Vanity Fair excerpts, she explains her motives a few different ways.
First, there’s the empowering desire to “take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past.” Ok. Then she describes the noble catalyst of hearing the Tyler Clementi story, the one where the 18-year-old Rutgers freshman committed suicide in 2010 after being publicly humiliated by his roommate. She muses, “Perhaps by sharing my story, I reasoned, I might be able to help others in their darkest moments of humiliation.”
I, an occasional cynic, think there’s a more compelling reason for her to come forward at this time: opportunity.
Lewinsky also writes that quite frankly she’s finally over “tiptoeing around my past — and other people’s futures.” Oh, does she mean futures of either of the Clintons? Specifically Hillary Clinton, who many are waiting on to announce her bid for the 2016 presidency any day now?
It seems a mighty convenient time — four years after Lewinsky says she was moved by Clementi’s unfortunate death — and a potentially lucrative one as well, to tell her side of the story. Clinton’s speculated (and near-imminent) run for the Oval Office means all things associated with her, including the young woman who had an affair with her husband, will garner more interest than usual.
Timing is everything, and Lewinsky strategically waited to tell her story until it was right. She may be empowered and noble — and I hope she is — but she’s also returned to cash in on her heightened relevancy with a plush book deal and many paid interviews and public appearances. This Vanity Fair article is her launching pad.
Demetria L. Lucas is a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter.