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Should Maria Take Arnold Back?

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If you don't know that Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator and former California governor, fathered a child with the live-in maid who had been cleaning the mansion he shared with Maria Shriver and their four young children, prompting Maria to hire a kick-ass divorce attorney, you have been living under a rock.

But if you haven't been reading HuffPost Divorce, or various gossip news sources, you may not be aware that the couple reportedly is attending couples therapy, begging two questions:

Are they going to get back together?

And:

Should Maria take Arnold back?

Before I explore these questions, I must digress.

When I was 9, my parents took professional sabbaticals and we lived for six months in a tiny town in Mexico. The centerpiece of the Zocalo -- the town square -- was the Catholic Church, an enormous structure covered in sparkling gold.

Most of the natives were desperately poor, many of them working for wealthy foreigners who had bought up cheap land on which to build hotels and restaurants. One of them, a businessman from New York, had acquired acres of hilltop at the town's peak.

The land featured several small villas, an Olympic-sized pool, a tennis court, and horse stables. The property had been turned into a summer camp attended mostly by rich American kids.

But it was vacant during the other seasons, so we rented the largest villa at the far end of the property. The property came with a maid, gardener and groundskeeper. The groundskeeper, Miguel, his wife, Lupe, and their seven children lived in the smallest villa by the property's entrance. Our maid, Ana, 20ish, lived with her family outside the property, in a shack on a dusty unpaved road.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with Maria and Arnold. Bear with me. I'm getting there.

After my parents' sabbatical was over, we returned to the States. But we vacationed every winter holiday in the tiny Mexican town, eventually staying at a new hotel that had been built near the camp property, overlooking the winding mountain roads that stretched out below. Miguel was now managing the hotel. Ana worked there, cleaning rooms.

One Christmas vacation, we arrived for our usual 10-day stint -- and a scandal. Ana was several months pregnant. The father of her unborn child was Miguel, who, as you may recall, was married to Lupe, with whom he had a passel of children. It was a small town, and everyone knew everyone's business. So this was big talk.

Mom, who had been raised by Christian missionaries, and was so entrenched in rule-bound religion that she forbade me to take the name of the Lord in vain, struggled to reconcile her conviction that premarital sex was a sin with her love for Ana, Miguel, and Miguel's entire family.

I was then a teenager, and while I definitely didn't share my mother's puritanical views, I wondered why Lupe hadn't kicked Miguel to the curb. When we visited Lupe, I studied her brown, lined face for hints of shame or despair. I scrutinized the kids, all seven of them, watching to see if they snubbed their philandering father.

But they all seemed fine. I remember watching Lupe water the potted plants outside her home. Despite the fact that her husband had impregnated another woman, she radiated the same air of acceptance I had come to associate with her: acceptance of her station in life, that of a poor Latina with limited options.

Perhaps the fact that she had moved up in the world and was no longer living with her entire family in a dingy one-bedroom hovel, but was now the wife of a hotel manager who got to reside in a clean, airy adobe overrode any sense of outrage she must have had.

Miguel did seem a bit embarrassed when faced by my mother, who couldn't hide her profound disappointment at his behavior. I know my parents had furtive talks with Miguel and Lupe, then Ana, separately. I know my mother prayed about it. My father, who had a brief stint as a Presbyterian minister, had a more pragmatic take on the situation, a take that I believe my mother ultimately accepted.

Ana had her baby, a girl. Miguel took responsibility, providing for the child he had fathered with another woman. He and Lupe stayed married. Their seven children accepted their half-sister as part of the family.

Which brings me, finally, to the question: Should Maria take Arnold back?

Despite the fact that they come from two radically different socioeconomic stratospheres, Maria and Lupe have some things in common.

They're both devout Catholics. They both have been raised in cultures -- Mexico and Planet Kennedy -- in which women tacitly acknowledge male sexual privilege. And they both have spent years married to the same man, with whom they have raised several children.

Even if Maria goes through with her divorce plans, she will never be rid of Arnold. He will always be the father of her children. They will attend college graduations, weddings, and grandchildren's baptisms together. Both mega-rich people, they undoubtedly have intricately drawn-up estate plans designating zillions to their children, plans that they will just have to detangle should they go through with their divorce.

Given their circumstances, and given my own experience watching a very different, but similar couple stay together after the husband fathered a child with the maid, I have found myself thinking that Maria should stay with Arnold.

Maybe "should" is too strong a word. But should she decide to stay with him, I would not think she's making a mistake. I would not think she lacks self-esteem or that her children will lose respect for her.

Would she be teaching her daughters that they should look the other way when their man takes other women? Would she be teaching her sons to spread their seed with whatever household help tickles their libido?

Her children are Kennedys, for Chrissake. It is practically in their DNA, the notion that men cheat, and women put up with it. If the Schwarzenegger kids' mother take their father back, will it impact them any more than the philandering-male Kennedy legacy has already impacted them?

So with all that said, I say to Maria: Whatever you decide, girlfriend, I support you.

What do you think? Should Maria take Arnold back, or let her pit bull of a divorce attorney loose on him?