Saturday, February 02, 2008

for love of self-presentation

I should not care what other people think of me. Especially not people who, if I ever see them again, will likely not remember me. Yet, yesterday as I was in Borders, I had an internal debate with myself over whether to buy a particular book. This was not for the normal reasons (i.e., I am broke and should not waste money on a book, I am busy and should not waste time on a non-academic book, etc.). No, this was because I was afraid of the silent judgment that would inevitably come from the cashier if I were to walk up there and purchase this book.

The book itself is about the Clinton marriage. I have always been fascinated by the Clinton marriage. Both Bill and Hillary are powerful, independent people, but they both rely on each other a great deal. Obviously, there is some pain there as well, and Bill has (had?) a bit of a philandering problem. I think the personal and gendered dynamics within their relationship would be interesting to read about.

I am, however, under no illusions whatsoever that this book will really, truly illuminate those issues. It is tabloid journalism. The only people who really know what that relationship is like are people who are unlikely to tell professional writers. But I like the idea of exploring these issues*. And the 20 pages of the book I had read sitting in Borders were interesting. So, I wanted to get it.

But I reasoned that buying it would be the equivalent of going to a newsstand and deciding that The National Enquirer was right for you.**

What was a fascinated-yet-interested-in-self-presentation girl to do?

Well, the obvious answer for me was to buy not only the tabloid-y and conservative*** book, but to also buy a relatively smart and liberal book at the same time (thus preventing the perception that I was some anti-Clinton right winger). It would be even better if the book were by a Clinton associate. Turns out such a book was on sale for $3.99! So, I promptly went to the front and purchased For Love of Politics and An Inconvenient Truth. I still felt silent judgment coming from behind the cash register, but I am completely willing to admit that that may have been my imagination.

*It could be said that the reason there is such interest in the Clintons' marriage is that Hillary Clinton is a female running for president and thus there is much interest in things surrounding her relationships, her makeup, her cleavage, etc. And, this is no doubt true. It is also undoubtedly true that many of the attacks on her are gender based (I support Obama, but my non-support of Clinton is policy-based). But I think I have been pretty reflexive about this issue (why exactly the Clintons' marriage fascinates me), and am fairly certain it is not simply because she is a woman running for the highest office. I am also, incidentally, fascinated by the marriages of John and Elizabeth Edwards and Elizabeth and Dennis Kucinich and Janet and Mike Huckabee.

**The obvious answer was to just go buy it online. But I was impatient.

***I assume it will end up being relatively anti-Clinton. I don't know. But, more importantly, I assumed that the cashier would assume it to be a Clinton-bashing book.

No comments: