This post is pre-empting another post I had planned to write about Facebook, but this shocking news is too H U G E in my book to ignore. You probably heard on the news Tuesday that the Gores released a message to the public that they have mutually agreed to end their marriage (just shy of 40 years...I think the anniversary is later this summer). The news release said that its an amicable split (no adultery involved) and the result of their different interests.
When I read this news announcement, I was stunned beyond belief. Not the Gores!!! They're soulmates! They had the most amazing love story in our political world. As fairy tale as you can get! Gore had met Tipper on the night of his prom. Both had different dates but felt a mutual attraction. When he went off to Harvard University, Tipper followed a year later to attend Boston University (or College?). They married in their early 20s. Their romance supposedly served as one of the models for the famous novel and film adapation of the 1970s: Love Story (which featured the famous line: "love means never having to say you're sorry").
Gore's reputation as a serious (and stiff) politician (and unfairly considered "boring" by many people) also included a remarkable fidelity to his wife. You simply didn't hear any rumours of any adultery going on with Gore. Al and Tipper seemed to be a perfect match, as she is extroverted and probably brought out his playful side. They had three daughters (all of them in golden curls, just like their mother!) and then a son. Gore supposedly became an enthusiastic endorser of a method guaranteed to increase your chances of conceiving a boy. It involves coffee, a biorhythm chart, and doggie style.
Anyhow, their marriage seemed rock solid. A refreshing contrast to the dysfunctional Clinton marriage. Its amazing that the Clinton marriage shows no sign of dissolving (though, as many speculate, it might be more of a political marriage than a romantic one) while the Gores decide to call it quits. This news came on the heels of the news that the Gores bought a huge mega-mansion in Montecito, California. They already own a large colonial style mansion in Nashville's posh Belle Meade neighbourhood, the farm estate in Carthage TN (Gore's family homestead), and a penthouse condo in a swanky glass-and-steel skyscraper in San Francisco. The Montecito estate cost more than $8.8 million and has six fireplaces, five bedrooms, and nine bathrooms. Why does Mr. Environment and Best Friend of Mother Earth NEED or WANT so much house and so much property? When I heard this news, I was disappointed because nothing undercuts one's message quicker than the charge of hypocrisy. Its just like what John Edwards did after the 2004 election, when he traded in his large mansion for a MEGA-mansion while going around preaching about his passion for fighting poverty.
Gore is the politician I most admire since 1992 and the one I most identified with. Now, it appears that he has "gone Hollywood." Where is Montecito? Its near Santa Barbara, which is overrun by celebrities in mega-villas. Perhaps all the post-documentary success, Oscar, Emmy, and Nobel prizes have gone to Gore's head. He's taking the millions he's earned from being an early investor in Google and deciding to live out the rest of his days in luxury while going around preaching to the world about how we need to change our lifestyle for planet earth's benefit. It'll be interesting to see which one of them will live in the Montecito villa and which one will stay at the Belle Meade mansion.
From the news reports I've read online and the comments that normally follow such online articles, there seems to be a lot of speculation about the reasons for their breaking up. Of course, they are entitled to their privacy and owe no explanation to anyone. However, it seems to disturb a lot of people that a couple could last for forty years and then decide that they don't want to be together anymore. More than a few online commenters have stated that they would hate to face old age alone! Exactly.
However, despite hearing no speculation on marital infidelity during the entire time the Gores have been in public life, I can understand how they might decide to go their separate ways now. Gore is as busy as ever, committed he is to raising awareness for climate change. Tipper was never a public person to begin with. Her passions are photography and mental illness. I've read some articles that suggested that she was actually personally relieved that Gore did not become president in 2000. She probably would not have enjoyed being the First Lady as much as she did being the Second Lady.
During the 1992 campaign, I remember being shocked that some of my liberal friends from high school hated Clinton's choice of Gore as a running mate...all because they hated Tipper's campaign for record labels. Liberals cried "censorship", which I thought was absurd. All she wanted was to know what she was buying, because she had mistakenly bought Prince's Purple Rain soundtrack for her tweenage daughters only to learn that Prince had too many suggestive lyrics that caused some embarrassing questions to be asked. Had there been record labels back then, she probably wouldn't have bought the album for her daughters. In the years since record labels existed (some twenty years or more now), has it caused artists to feel as though they are censored? If anything, lyrics are more obscene now than a quarter-century ago. All labels do is educate, just like nutritional labels on food or the film rating system. Its not censorship, just a tool so that people can make informed decisions about what they are buying.
I think its a sign of a mature kind of love to be able to let each other go if both parties feel that they are holding the other back from their true passions. If I had to wager a guess, I think Tipper wanted to spend more time with Al after his several decades long career in government (1977-2001). She is probably the person to credit for helping Gore to get over his depression over the 2000 election results. I've heard her say in interviews that its not easy to watch someone you love in so much pain, where a lifelong dream failed to come true because of events beyond their control. With her background in mental health issues, she was the perfect person to help Gore find a new purpose for his life. But she probably didn't count on it becoming an almost all-consuming career even more demanding that the Vice Presidency. He's on the road and around the world A LOT. What's a relationship-oriented lady supposed to do home alone? Read books, dote on the grandchildren, and wait for hubby to return home?
In the late 1990s, I read an interview in which the reporter actually asked Tipper how she keeps the spice in their marriage. Even more remarkable, the reporter mentioned witnessing Tipper "chewing" on Gore's ear. Damn...that's pretty kinky for the Second Lady to be doing to the Vice President in sight of a Secret Service agent. During the 2000 campaign, Oprah tried to discretely raise the question regarding rumours that Gore slept in the nude by asking him what his favourite thing to sleep in was. His response? "A bed." Only more fuel for the gossip mill. Of course, who could forget their passionate lip-lock in front of thousands at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the 2000 Democratic National Convention? That scene was repeated in a hilarious opening skit on Saturday Night Live in 2003 (even my mom laughed at that one, and its a huge deal when she finds something funny!).
So, it is a bit heartbreaking to see that this fairy tale, soulmate marriage is coming to an end. However, there's a quote that I like which goes like this: "Don't be sad that its over. Be happy that it happened." So, Al and Tipper...if you happen to be reading this...congratulations on forty years of marriage. I wish for both of you to follow your heart's deepest passion. Its inspiring that you love each other enough to let each other go in a different direction than you're willing to go. This is part of what true love means: the ability to let the other go. Its just sad to see such a dynamic and inspiring couple move in separate directions.
Or maybe, Tipper just can't stand looking at the above mess anymore! Yikes, that's a chaotic (and bad feng shui) office!