Gayle Haggard has written a book about why she stayed with her husband Ted after he confessed to having sex with a male prostitute, and now she's going on talk shows claiming her marriage is "the best it's ever been."
Yesterday, Gayle and Ted both went on Oprah to talk about how therapy has cured Ted of the "issues" that caused him to buy meth and sex from a man named Mike Jones. Haggard spoke as though he's been treated for OCD, saying that since therapy, "I have not had one compulsive thought or behavior." The conversation felt creepily glib, especially when Haggard asserted that "we have a lot of evidence" that he's completely heterosexual — presumably referring to his five children.
Gayle Haggard's appearance on this morning's Today show was more nuanced. She still talked about her husband's homosexual desire like it was a mental illness, speaking of "compulsions that were unwanted" and hinting that they stemmed from childhood abuse. But, she added, "that's not true for everybody, that's his story." Of course, the idea that homosexuality can be cured with therapy isn't true for anybody, and Haggard's claim that her husband's homosexual behavior was a result of some sort of disorder will surely be music to the ears of homophobes. Still, she doesn't do any overt gay-bashing in her Today interview, and she's far from the biggest enemy of gay rights today — what's upsetting is not so much her politics but her performance as a certain kind of wronged woman.
As Jenny Sanford and now Elizabeth Edwards have shown, not every wife of a prominent philanderer has to stand by her man. But it does appear to be de rigeur to write a book about the experience, and I do have to wonder what's in it for them. Perhaps once her marriage's dirty laundry had been aired in front of the entire country, Haggard felt she might as well cash in. Or perhaps she honestly wanted to tell the story of a time that must have been extremely painful for her. But part of the impetus for the wronged woman memoir may be public appetite — for some reason, we seem to expect that these women will tell their stories, and we snap these stories up when they appear.