March 31, 2017

∴ VP Pence, Mrs. Pence, and the Easily Offended

Vice President Pence made a little news this past week when a profile of his wife ran in The Washington Post, quoting his so-called rule for marriage: unless his wife is with him, he won’t attend a function where alcohol is served or dine alone with another woman. The left-leaning world, for the most part, lost its collective shit. He was labeled sexist, a misogynist, and worse. (Note that not one of those three linked quotes shows an understanding that Pence was speaking about himself, not about his wife, or other women, or other men.)

After reading more of the criticism and thinking about their arguments, I can understand why so many of the critics are single.

They missed the point of his rule, too.

First let me quote Pence from a 2002 interview in The Hill (re-quoted in The Atlantic):

If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me.

He was referring to his wife. He wants her in the vicinity. The take-away was that the possibility or appearance of impropriety is off limits for him. Repeat: for him.

Why would Pence mention his wife, though, if the rule was about avoidance of impropriety? What does she have to do with his potential impropriety? Here’s a similar, illustrative story from my life to help make the point.

Kelly, my wife, is very engaged in our local business, in our community, and with the local merchant and government folks. She’s widely respected for her efforts.

Kelly had the privilege of being nominated for and elected president of the local Chamber of Commerce some years ago. It was a one-year gig. During her tenure she attended many functions and, despite my introversion and general discomfort with large gatherings, I went along. I’m not sure I was all that convincing as a local business owner engaging with other business owners, but I wanted to be involved to support Kelly and our business.

Alcohol, in the form of wine and beer, was served at all of those functions. At many, a bar serving liquor was also available. My rule, which I didn’t tell anyone about at the time, was: at none of these events would I imbibe anything stronger than a single glass of wine, or a single bottle of beer, as long as she held an office.

Asked on one occasion why I wasn’t enjoying my (then) usual Martini, I explained the rule. It got a hearty laugh and puzzlement. What could Kelly’s office with the Chamber have to do with what I drank at a Chamber event?

You already know where I’m going with this.

The article in The Atlantic says that conservatives and religious folks would think Pence’s so-called rule “normal.” I’m not either of those persuasions, but Pence’s rule sounds normal to me, too. It sounds a lot like my rule.

Here’s what my questioner, and those offended by Mike Pence’s rule, and others fail to understand. The rule was not about me. Pence’s is not about Pence. They’re about our wives. They’re about not giving anyone, anywhere any credible reason to whisper one word that would shame, discredit, or otherwise tarnish the one person in our lives who means more than all the others combined. Yes, what I do does reflect upon my wife. It reflects upon the rest of my family, too, and my friends.

One could argue that a public figure like Mike Pence is always concerned with his public appearance. Of course that’s true. I don’t believe for a second that that’s what drives his so-called rule. It predates his rise in politics.

One could also argue Pence’s rule depends on his being the boss, where he can pick and choose who he’s seen with, or not seen with. That’s true, too. We create the world in which we live. Pence gets to live in the mini-world he and his wife create.

Self-imposed rules like these are not misogyny. They’re not sexism. They’re self-discipline. They’re about being a good husband and putting our wives above our own comfort and enjoyment. It’s an old-fashioned idea, but it’s worked for me for twenty-one years, and somewhat longer for Pence.

The last paragraph of the article gets it right:

protecting a marriage should take precedence over all else, even if the way of doing it seems strange to some, and imposes costs on others.

If you get it, great. If not, remind yourself the next time you’re with someone you love or deeply care about, “it’s not about me.” Do you believe yourself? And does that tell you something useful about yourself?

#Mike #Pence #rule #for #marriage

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