What does a girl do if she needs ethical cleansing? She looks to an epitome of rectitude like that fan of traditionalistic faith and critic of media sleaze, Democratic VP nominee Joseph Lieberman. Tidy as Connecticut, warm as Mississippi, Joe has the winky charm of an Irish leprechaun spliced with genes for Teutonic strictness and Arab hondling. In fact, he is intimate with such a diverse segment of America, from the pharmaceutical giants to the insurance lobby, that in him, my promiscuous heart feels it has found a twin. Yet with one fatherly scolding, Joe single-handedly wiped Clinton’s stain from the Gap dress of Gore’s candidacy. If anyone can help me control my adulterous urges, I figure, it’s a man whose name begins with the Yiddish word for love.
“Like you,” I explain, loosening his tie, “I revere the sanctity of the marriage bond and the role of the family in maintaining social stability, so I would hate to corrupt my husband’s child-like innocence with the truth about my smutty, sensationalistic mind. How can I deceive him on this point without guilt?” At this moment, my fuschia negligee (from Betsey Johnson’s spring collection, complete with Playboy bunny tail) falls open to reveal my supple torso and rosy nipples.
Joe rubs his chin thoughtfully. “Welllll . . .,” he calculates, “Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts September 29 maybe a new beginning . . . ?”
“Yom Teru’ah, the Day of Blowing,” I recall, “when we blow a ram’s horn to thank God for letting Abraham sacrifice a ram instead of his son, Isaac. The horn is called a shofar, and by the rigidity of yours, I can tell that my knowledge of Jewish ritual excites you.” As I squiggle onto his snuggy lap, I explain that my born-again dad’s mother was raised Orthodox, which makes me, according to the Nazis (and most of Kennebunkport), as Jewish as anyone.
Once Joey learns that I’m a chosen person, his hands spread across my midriff and with a buoyant, life-affirming grace, he lifts my breasts to his lips like a double shot of Manischewitz. I touch his skin gently; it’s so vulnerable, so pink. Above me, his famous smile; I part my lips and kiss it. Beneath me, his shofar prepares to be sounded.
The morally correct thing, Joe explains gently, the way to honor the sanctity of marriage to which we are both so committed, is for each of us to fantasize about his or her own spouse while we celebrate the Day of Blowing together. That way I will be able to honestly tell Max that he is the only man I can imagine having sex with, and whatever pleasures Joseph and I enjoy together will augment our affection for our mates.
“Brilliant!” I cry. No wonder he works so well with both parties in the Senate although I admit I expected no less from a candidate with the chutzpah to sing “My Way” on Conan O’Brian.
But no sooner do I lead his willing ram to my altar when we both stray like lambs. Superimposed over images of Joe’s current wife Hadassah, he sees his ex, Elizabeth Haas, when she was thirty-two like me and still his mate for life. In his book he confesses that divorcing her made him feel like a failure, and the shanda of it still knits his brow. Yet, as my honeyed thighs bound over his like twin does leaping over Moses in the bullrushes, he feels himself rising from disgrace, mounting Jacob’s ladder to a White House on high, molting into the exalted role of “First Orthodox Jew,” Messiah even . . . So that, lo, ambition fills him, and his two wives, like all three hundred of Solomon’s, are blissfully forgotten.
In flight from the ritualistic sameness of our marriage beds, Joe and I feel so traife-like I imagine myself in a Nintendo ad marketing the hardcore, aorta-slashing, harlot-banging ultra-violence of the Bible to teens, and I wonder if Joe will give it one of his “Silver Sewer” awards, when a kind of crazy, sacred offering begins inside me because I’m being impaled on this religious guy’s horn over and over and it’s a “miraculous journey” like his wife’s immigration, and I’m freed by it in some spiritual way, released from particulars, a woman no longer, not ram, son, helpmeet or tribesperson, just God’s mountaintop mindfuck, one roaring scream in the adulating chorus.
And after, our thoughts wild and wrong, we cover our nakedness because we know we have sinned. But at the same time, we’re hopeful. The days of penitence are approaching, and soon comes Yom Kippur, when, saved by the magic of religious tradition, we will cast our sins like crumbs from our hem into the awesome deeps and ever-new beginnings of the sea.