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Tiger Woods should have talked to me first. But of course, he didn’t. I suppose there is probably not a billionaire in human history who has settled for just one and only one sexual relationship. Monogamy wasn’t invented for the rich and powerful, but for the little guy.
Still, there are some unwritten rules about sex, even for the rich and powerful. Tiger clearly didn’t quite get them. Rule one: Never deceive or embarrass your spouse, or make a fool of them in public. Rule two: Avoid being greedy, if possible. Tiger broke both rules.
The accounts of King David and King Solomon three thousand years ago illustrate the rules. Both kings were rich and powerful, and neither king was content with just one sexual relationship. That was understood, even by God. Both kings were greedy, but neither embarrassed their wives publicly.
David did relatively well until he killed Uriah in order to take possession of Uriah’s lovely wife, Bathsheba. It wasn’t the taking of an additional woman that was the offense. It was the rich king’s aggression against the relatively poor man and taking his wife away from him. Later, when David took Abishag as well, Bathsheba and the other wives had no complaint. They knew the rules of the game already. Abishag was an unattached young woman.
King Solomon was very wise, but he is also a tad greedy. He did not actually need seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. He could hardly have made good use of them. The down time for the girls must have been quite a long one. But every wise man has his blind spots. Even wise billionaires have them. From the beginning of recorded history the rich and powerful have always claimed more than their fair share of sexual favors, but Solomon overreached. He followed the injunction of Kinky Friedman. “Too much is not enough.”
Rule one could be called the King David rule, or better perhaps the John F. Kennedy rule. Most of the rich and powerful understand the King David/JFK rule, where discretion is the order of the day. When Jackie was cavorting on the Onassis yacht in the Mediterranean, Jack back home in the White House was not worried about being cuckolded. He took that for granted. But he did not want to be made a fool of in public by Drew Pearson?
Or take the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. It is by no means clear that he actually deceived his wife. Likely he did not. She grew up with money and probably knew the rules of the rich and powerful. But Sanford surely did make a fool of both himself and his wife by slobbering and weeping endlessly and publicly over the other woman. Sanford’s wife must divorce him for that. What was he thinking?
When Tiger married his beautiful young Swedish au pair, he failed to be candid with her. He should have alerted her that a billionaire is never going to be fully satisfied with just one woman for life. She likely would have respected that and made peace with it. Or she could have opted out. But she would have known that there were thousands and thousands of other beautiful young blondes who certainly would agree to such a marriage, especially for a cut of that billion dollar nest egg. We would not have been able to count the number of beautiful applicants willing to go to the altar with Tiger.
Had Tiger’s wife understood the rich man’s rules she would not have felt betrayed. She would have had no basis for chasing Tiger out of the house with a golf club. No fire hydrant episode. No public recitation of Tiger’s great crowd of sexual liaisons. No requests from Tiger to women to erase phone greetings so he could continue to deceive his wife. And Tiger could still be doing now what he does best, play golf.
The second rule for the rich and powerful is to avoid being too greedy. Too much of a good thing always brings trouble. Too many women, like too many Cadillacs, bring trouble to the soul. It’s very hard for a billionaire not to be greedy, but the burden must be borne. That’s the King Solomon rule. As the numbers of Cadillacs, women, and summer homes increases, so also increases the trouble.
Tiger’s now gone into hibernation, as it is reported, in order to reform himself personally. It will be interesting to see how Tiger comes out of this debacle. Here’s what to watch for: If he comes out jointly with his wife announcing that they have a new relationship based on mutual understanding, or some such, then the marriage may survive. The hidden message will be that she understands billionaires. Tiger will go on with his extra-marital adventures, but cautiously, and not so many. With lots of money one can buy lots of privacy. Tiger’s wife, like Jackie Kennedy, may also quietly have her own relationships. On the other hand, if Tiger comes out of his hole proclaiming a new commitment to traditional middle class monogamy and faithfulness, we can kiss this marriage good-bye. It will have a short half-life.
The rich and powerful don’t anymore know how to be monogamists than a tiger knows how to change its stripes.
RAYMOND J. LAWRENCE is an Episcopal cleric, recently retired Director of Pastoral Care, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and author of numerous opinion pieces in newspapers in the U.S., and author of the recently published, Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom (Praeger). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org