Now that Elizabeth Edwards has stopped treatment for cancer, maybe she'll be freed, at least, from other people's interpretations of her life. Or maybe we're just in for more Rorschach tests, where she stands in for other people's suffering.
Of course, Edwards chose a public life; she encouraged her husband to run for office even after she was sick, and she wrote a memoir. And her husband's narcissism and bad decisions dragged her into the tabloids. Maybe we need these public figures to project our pain and rationalizations upon, but there was something creepy about the way that Elizabeth, like Hillary Clinton before her, was transmogrified into whatever anyone else wanted her to be. She was always gracious about it anyway.
There was Judith Warner's proclamation that Elizabeth being "fat" and "old" (in the words of other women) made her a heroine: "Her story made them believe something good about themselves. It was a kind of Everywoman's fable: behind the imperfect physical shell, a gem of inner beauty resides. And is loved and recognized." (If we're going there, Sadie said it best in an earlier post: "If anything, Elizabeth Edwards served to humanize her husband, not because she was an ugly sad-sack but because he seemed so patently false, so instantly creepy, that finding someone relatively normal and down-to-earth at his side provided a measure of relief to a public who wanted to believe...It was not his making her look good, but the other way around.")