The Franken photo

Peggy and me, 1981
For those who live in America and pay attention to the news, the top photo is a reminiscent of the recently released bottom photo of Minnesota senator Al Franken and a woman with whom he was on a USO tour (the USO entertains troops in war zones). My photo was taken by my brother-in-law who was "in on the gag." Peggy was, as might be expected, startled, but didn't complain, perhaps because she took the attitude that, "Boys will be boys," and that's partly why girls love them. 

Al's little joke is--to me anyway--harder to forgive because he was 55 (I was 32); he wasn't having a relationship with the woman in the photo (Peggy and I had been married for ten years); and because it occurred in 2006. That said, I don't know what preceded Al's photo. While no woman deserves to have her breasts touched without her permission, if the trip had been filled with ribald humor that went both ways, the photo might look worse than it appears. Although the woman insists that she was a victim all the way, I wouldn't bet money on it because: (a) Al set up the photo, implying that he didn't anticipate a negative reaction, and (b) it hasn't been established that he makes a habit of predatory behavior. None of us are as bad as our worse moment, and this might be Al's worse moment.

It's common in modern America to argue that people from decades ago should "have known better" about all manner of things. No doubt, many of us state this conviction over a steak dinner while wearing sweat shop clothes, and, when we're done, leaving our underpaid "waitperson" a 10% tip. Surely, none of us are as pure as we might be if we operated from our hearts rather than from the latest moralistic fad. I even think it likely that, for most of us, our hearts are so overlaid with decades of jumping on the bandwagon that we are dead to messages from our hearts.

I hadn't thought about the top photo in years, it only coming to mind after I saw the Franken photo. I feel uncomfortable with it, but Peggy doesn't (while neither of us is conservative, Peggy leans more heavily in that direction than I). 

I heard a radio program yesterday in which a woman interviewed several men who admitted to playfully slapping women on the ass (I wondered how many men she had to interview to fill a radio program with nothing but such men). In any event, the men said that it was all in good fun; was intended as a compliment (sort of like, "I wouldn't have raped you if I hadn't thought you were pretty"); and that if women don't enjoy it, they need to "lighten up."

I asked Peggy if there had ever been a time when she would have been okay with being slapped on the ass, no matter how well she knew the man who did it, and she said that, unless I did it, she would have always interpreted it as a low level sexual assault. Neither of us could remember me having ever slapped her on the ass, but I later recalled that (before we got old and pathetic) we used to roughhouse pretty much everyday, so I surely did, and it's also true that we have on occasion popped each other with rolled-up towels while working in the kitchen. I can but say that if Peggy held her body so inviolate it precluded innocent playfulness, I would have a problem with Peggy. Thankfully, I have never had such a problem with Peggy.

P.S. Whatever my faults, I'm better looking than Al Franken.