Rielle’s manifest destiny
Rielle Hunter’s nearly 10,000-word GQ interview plus cringe-
inducing photo spread (think bare legs, surrounded by stuffed animals) hit the media fan this week, but as far as I’m concerned, the definitive work on John Edwards’ mistress-turned-baby-mama appeared on this page nearly two years ago.
In an August 2008, Op-Ed writer Sarah Miller explained how she made Hunter’s acquaintance when Hunter moved into a rented room in Benedict Canyon that Miller had occupied. Miller, a friend ofthe house’s owner, occasionally ran into Hunter, most memorably at a party in 2003. It was there that Hunter, after dramatically claiming that she could feel Miller’s “really strong energy” in the rented room, let it be known that she planned to become rich and famous by meeting “a rich, powerful man.”
When Miller asked how that would work, Hunter said she would “manifest” it by using Miller’s “amazing energy.”
Now, to be fair, Rielle Hunter -- who, Miller recalls, had a fondness for yoga pants, braised roots and Uggs -- didn’t come across as someone who would go on to could potentially affect a presidential race. If every sheepskin-shod manifesting yogi who longed for enough money to afford her own place were capable of ending political careers, the nation would have gone up in a haze of meditation candles and burning sage long ago. (And instead of a Bible in the drawer of every chain hotel, there would be a copy of “The Secret.”)
So maybe Hunter did possess mystical powers. Maybe, as she told GQ writer Lisa DePaulo, her daughter’s birth represented “divine timing.” Maybe the Edwards-Hunter attraction wasn’t mere lust but “a magnetic force field,” and maybe Edwards’ subsequent unraveling wasn’t a fall from grace but “a fall to grace,” in Hunter’s words.
“He is living a life of truth,” she tells DePaulo. “He has grown in awareness and humility. He had all these things within him, but they weren’t the guiding, leading principles of his life. Now they are.”
Do Edwards’ guiding principles involve living happily ever after with Hunter? Strangely, she doesn’t quite say. She will love him “till death do us part and probably beyond,” but she stops short of labeling their current status as anything other than co-parents. They’ve never spoken of marriage plans, she says, and, contrary to tabloid reports, she says Edwards did not buy her a beach house in North Carolina. Instead, she rents in Charlotte, and Edwards “has been helping a little bit.”
Why have I burdened you with all these gory, snorey details? First, to spare you the 20 minutes of your life you’ll never get back if you skim the entire interview. But, more important, to say what goes unsaid about the whole “visualize and you will manifest” approach to life: It works, but only if your amazing energy includes amazing powers of denial.
Of course, denial is to adultery as breath is to life itself. One simply cannot exist without the other, which is why it’s not terribly surprising that Hunter’s interpretation of her relationship with Edwards has many of the same “he loves me but he’s afraid to love me” undertones common to teenage girls talking about boys who don’t know they exist -- when it doesn’t sound like the denial and self-justification of every other political sex scandal.
But there’s something about Hunter’s story that’s even more repellent than the average tale of powerful men and the women they sleep with. And to my mind, that doesn’t only have to do with this dalliance’s potential threat to the democratic presidential ticket, or Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer, or the fact that a baby -- not to mention three other kids -- were caught up in the mix.
It has to do with the way Hunter masks her recklessness and narcissism as truth-seeking, the way she hides behind a dialect of New Age self-empowerment and, instead of apologizing for her actions, actually evangelizes their preordination. It has to do with the way she’s taken the concept of “awareness” and twisted it until its effect is precisely its opposite.
It has to do, ultimately, with the fact that even if John Edwards is romantically, domestically involved with her, she’ll never be able to separate the man from the manifestation. And neither will we.
Meanwhile, I hear there’s a room for rent in Benedict Canyon.