Published in The Times January 21st 2014 under the title “Dear Agony Aunt, I’m in the merde, what can I do?” – concerning the French President’s problematic love life
Oh what a tangled web we weave, we Presidents of France, with our droits de siegneur and delusions of infinite desirability. Repeat after me, I’ve been a very silly boy and all I can do now is try to make amends. There’s a saying in my country which you probably won’t understand: “So, Debbie McGee, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” The message is clear. You are more of a Paul Daniels than a gorgeous George Clooney. You do not possess the charisma or nous to elide from one mistress seamlessly to another. You need to fess up.
Were I to put my finger on the most contentious issue it is this: your attempts at political and romantic management seem identically incompetent. In real (as opposed to theoretical life) it is not possible to shirk confrontations and firm choices simply to avoid unfavourable publicity or a general strike. Or as appears to be the case for your category of men, to think that a spurned lover will eventually twig that she’s been dumped simply because you’ve taken up motor cycling as a hobby. For god’s sake man, it doesn’t matter whether people on Facebook don’t “like” you. There is something infantile about regarding the end of the affair as a game of pass the parcel with the object of not holding the bag of guilt when the music stops.
Love hurts – people get hurt – it’s inevitable – it’s even dangerous – the price you pay – some may die – life is full of unavoidable unhappiness. Why do you not know this?
I won’t pontificate that you’ve been misled by an elitist, sexist and anti-democratic cultural environment into believing you can shag anything that moves and no one will mind. In Britain, we also practise adultery but mostly file it away under hypocrisy and mendacity. Yet even if you chose to behave like the Sun King himself, you need to know that the psychological rules still apply. When you are caught out, you owe in return for the love you have received a duty of care to those you have caressed.
To my way of thinking, this means accepting in person that slap on the face you richly deserve. It is an apt form of apology for the crime of letting your rejected partner suffer from a small case of insanity: “He always said he loved me but stopped calling on the Presidential intercom”.
I’m sure Valerie can be formidable. But no one would have blamed you for calling it quits. Everyone, however, can blame you for humiliating the First Lady in her professional sphere of press and public relations.
To make the best of things now, I suggest you taste ‘austerity’. Choose between your women. Or monk it for a bit. Tell them face to face. Stop behaving as if the world owes you a loving and look like a man who is grateful to receive any attention at his age. By all means, consider whether France herself deserves to be treated to the same level of respect.
Phillip Hodson is the author of “How Perfect Is Your Partner?” (Carroll and Brown) www.philliphodson.co.uk