Hillary has a Gate again. This current one is about emails. Back in the nineties she had one regarding missing files. Chris had a Gate last year dealing with bridges. In looking up previous Gates, I discovered that even Justin and Janet had one when Janet’s breast accidentally was exposed on live television. So many people, it would appear, are allowed to have Gates. The only rule seems to be that you have to be famous. When the rest of us make a mistake no one ever actually calls it a scandal. Relatives will whisper about the time Aunt Eloise was fired for having sex with her boss, and neighbors will gossip about the time Mr. Evans on the corner was arrested for being naked on his roof with a water hose. These aren’t Gates, though. When mere mortals do something stupid, our own foibles never get a Watergate-style moniker. They’re just really dumb mistakes that receive comparatively very little attention. Maybe a mention on the 6:00pm news, but probably not.
This makes me jealous. I want a Gate of my own. Maybe I could hack into my former employer’s retirement database and begin transferring “bonuses” to every third annuitant (Annuity-Gate); or perhaps I could surreptitiously begin planting non-approved flora on the grounds of my condo community (Flora-Gate). Neither of those are very scandal-worthy, though. And that’s precisely my point — you just can’t have your own Gate if you’re not rich and famous. I’d have to run for public office to get one, and that seems like such a laborious, dull effort.
Prior to Watergate scandals had better names. There was Teapot Dome, the Profumo Affair, and the tragic Chappaquiddick incident. My favorite scandal involved Congressman Wilbur Mills, whose car companion, a stripper from Argentina known as Fanne Fox, drunkenly jumped from his car and into the Tidal Basin on the National Mall. That scandal didn’t even manage to get a proper name, but it was sure fun to say “Fanne Fox” and “Tidal Basin” for a few weeks.
I’ve only had two events in my own life that come close to being scandalous. When I was bar mitvahed at 13, there was the infamous missing savings bonds imbroglio that brought shame to me for weeks, months, and even years afterwards. Somehow in the confusion of the day’s excitement, savings bonds that I had received as gifts got mixed-in with the gift wrapping, boxes, etc., from other gifts and were tragically tossed in the garbage. How this actually happened, who actually threw out the bonds was never determined. But an immediate kangaroo court was created with one parent as judge and another as prosecutor, and a charge of irresponsible and reckless behavior was levied at me. I was found guilty and made to feel a shame that only a Jewish mother could inflict on a child. For many years thereafter, whenever I would make the slightest of infractions, my mother’s sentences would start out, “This is just like when you lost those bonds!”
My other scandalous adventure happened in college. One of the senior RA’s in my dorm was very popular. She quite successfully managed to be different things to different people: an authoritarian, an advisor and confidant, or little/big sister depending on the person with whom she was interacting. With me for some reason she took on the little sister persona, always complaining about some sadness with a lover who was ignoring her, parents who were too needy, or a professor who was cruel. I would lend her my sympathies, and she in turn would look the other way when my roommates and I snuck in the backdoor of the dorm with 12-packs of beer.
One day after classes were over, I went to the front desk of the dorm to get my mail. I received a long letter from an old friend, and I was soon eagerly engrossed in reading it. The RA was working the front desk at the time, and I stood there reading my letter while others were also nearby visiting and socializing with one another. My friend the RA was ostensibly telling me another sad story about a romance gone bad, and I half-listened while being more interested in my letter. At one point, and all these years later my memory of it is still deservedly hazy, she voiced great anguish and grief about the impending doom over her lost lover. Still absorbed in my letter but wanting to offer at least a modicum of sympathy, I reached out to her, my eyes staying glued to my letter, and patted her shoulder for comfort.
At some point I noticed that both she and those around me had stopped speaking. I finally looked up and noticed that I was most certainly not patting her shoulder but rather her bosom. My friend looked down, my hand continuing to move in a sidewise motion, and suddenly those around me began snicker. I quickly pulled away, offered several different versions of an apology in what I assume was either pig latin or tongue, and then walked briskly away to my room in utter, utter embarrassment. I completely skipped blushing red and immediately went to purple. Laughter followed me all the way to the door of my room. For several weeks on end I was greeted with smiles and wide eyes from nearly everyone in the dorm. Whenever I saw the good RA, she always called out my name in a sing-song manner and asked why I hadven’t been visiting her lately (to gales of laughter from her immediate compadres). My roommates all asked me for tips on the best way to get to second base. It was relentless.
Eventually the scandal, such as it was, ended. Other things eventually happened that fortunately eclipsed my little moment of embarrassment, and it was soon mostly forgotten except for those “remember when?…” conversational intervals at summer meet-ups.
Much later in life, being a forty-some year old man grown and established in my profession, I contacted the Department of the Treasury to inquire about my lost savings bonds. I was asked to fill out a form and to provide my name, date of birth, social security number, and the approximate date of the bonds’ issuance. Within a matter of weeks I received a statement listing each bond and a check paying the amount due at maturity plus interest. I copied everything and mailed it to my parents, now with the assurance of an adult who understood how the world operated.
When I spoke to my mother later, I asked her why in heaven’s name didn’t she or my dad make a similar inquiry back then? “Well, we didn’t know how these things worked!,” she responded somewhat defensively.
I immediately regretted my question. It didn’t matter, really. Somehow I had survived the teenage shame of the bonds becoming lost, whether I was responsible or not. It didn’t do any good to bring up an ancient act of parenting, whether good or bad. We grow up, we move on, and hopefully we all become wiser. Love eventually should conquer all that separates us.
We never called it Bond-Gate in my home. Nor, thankfully, did my fellow dorm residents and friends refer to my wandering hands as Boob-Gate. A “Gate” after all is only for the rich, famous, and powerful.