Watching Leslie Stahl interview Arnold Schwarzenegger on 60 Minutes to promote his new book Total Recall, I felt, as I'm sure many other people did who watched, disturbed by how unemotional he came off when he talked about his infidelities during his relationship with Maria Shriver. But what was really shocking was how he remained unemotional, almost stoic, when Stahl asked him specific questions about the affair -- with Mildred Baena, his housekeeper -- that ultimately cost him his marriage.
This affair was unlike any other -- it produced a son, Joseph, who happens to have a striking resemblance to Schwarzenegger, which is how he says he came to realize he was the father. "He started looking like me, so that's when I sort of got it," said the star. Once it was established that he was Arnold's son, and kept as a secret between him and Baena, she and the boy continued to live in their home with he and Maria's four children. It wasn't until several years later when Maria asked him if Joseph was his son in a therapy session, that Arnold admitted to her that he was.
This was one of the many "shake your head in disbelief" pieces of the Arnold puzzle that just didn't make sense, and were it not for Leslie Stahl's "I can't believe what I'm hearing" expressions, and her remarks like, "You did something that speaks to character," and "She gave up her television career for you. I mean, wow, was this the most unbelievable act of betrayal to Maria?" that I opted not to turn the channel with disgust. I remained hopeful that the interview would disarm him somehow and help restore his reputation as a husband and a father. This could have been possible had he shown some kind of genuine emotion or remorse for ruining his marriage, and causing Maria and their children tremendous pain and heartache, all in the public eye.
"I think it was the stupidest thing I've done in the relationship," he told Stahl. "It was terrible. I inflicted tremendous pain on Maria and unbelievable pain on the kids. I had to tell them each what has happened and how I screwed up, and asked them for forgiveness. They cried. It tears your heart out when you have to tell them that." Yes, he acknowledged that what he did was terrible and wrong, but there wasn't any real emotion reflected in his eyes to match his words, unfortunately, nor did he make any mention of any tears he may have shed, and that's what I think people were waiting to see.
Stahl mentions that Arnold "likes to defy odds, which he does with steely discipline and drive, and that he worked hard to become an actor -- finding out in his acting lessons that the self-control he'd mastered as a body builder was getting in the way." Arnold replied, "The thing that can really make you lose that is if you get emotionally unbalanced. I put everything that's happening emotionally on deep freeze so I became an expert in living in denial."
If putting everything that happens emotionally "on deep freeze" is what helped Arnold as a bodybuilder, it's definitely what destroyed the very thing that meant the most to him: his family. I guess the closest he came to any sort of honest show of feelings on 60 Minutes was when he remarked, "If you would have asked me 10 years ago, five years ago, two years ago what's the most important thing in my life I would tell you over and over it's my marriage, it's my family. So the thing that really meant the most to me kind of fell apart because of my doing. That is something I will always look back and say how could I have done that?"
It's been rumored that Arnold wants to get back with Maria, and heal the pain he's caused her and their children. Here's what I suggest for him:
Thaw out your "deep freeze" emotions and make your life not about telling your story in Total Recall, but about Total Maria and Family. Do everything you can to regain their trust and faith in you again because your betrayal of them was unbelievably severe and unconscionable.
Asking your family for their forgiveness for such a blatant scandal might have to take a lot more than just saying you're sorry or that you screwed up or whatever else you admit to. Your famous line in The Terminator, "I'll be back," assured people in the audience that you would return, and yes, you came back with a vengeance to get what you wanted.
Well, now it's time to come back to your family to fight for what you believe in. But keep in mind, this isn't a movie. It's your life, and there are no special effects to help you out. You can't rely on anything but yourself, and that means you've got to dig deep in your heart and find your true emotions, and it doesn't make you a "girly-man," a phrase you liked to use on more than a few occasions, but one time in particular stands out: July 17, 2004, where you stated about the Democratic candidates, "They cannot have the guts to come out there in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you. I want to represent those special interests: the unions, the trial lawyers'... I call them girlie men."
And that's what it's going to take, Arnold: guts, to fight for your family in a way you never have before. This isn't about political rhetoric as governor, or reading a line in a script that makes you sound indestructible, or using your brute strength as a bodybuilder. This is about revealing your heart and soul, and if that causes you to feel "emotionally unbalanced" too bad. Like the ad says, just do it! That is what takes real guts.
You told Leslie Stahl that when they told you in Hollywood that you weren't going to make it as an actor, you heard in your mind, "Yes instead of no." Well, you need to take that same determination, only this time instead of being fueled by your ego, you have to use humility as your engine, and the only way to feel true humility is to be truly humbled, which in your case can only happen if you're willing to lessen your need to be in control, which doesn't seem like something you like to do. You've got to be brought to your knees on this one, and with your ability to have "steely determination and drive," to have made it as an actor, you need to use that same determination and drive to fight for something that means more than anything in the world to you, your family.
But first you have to "thaw" those emotions, and once they're ready to be shown, you can offer them up on a silver platter to your beautiful wife, Maria, who didn't deserve what you've done to her, along with a stunning bouquet of flowers, a candle lit dinner, followed by a candle lit bath and a love poem you've written yourself on par with Keats, Byron or Shelly. You may choose to follow this by getting down on all fours and barking like a dog, unless you want to make the sound of another animal you've been called that goes "oink oink." Okay, never mind that part -- just work damn hard on defrosting your emotions, once and for all, or we're really not going to believe you have any.
Now is the perfect opportunity for you to not only be sincerely sorry for what you've done, but to be the hero you've played in movies, only for real this time. There's no camera rolling, it's just you, your conscience and your family watching. Do you really want to "be back," Arnold, or are you going to let the emotionless terminator destroy all that you say is dear to you?
Follow Ora Nadrich on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Oralifecoach