A psychologist I know remarked today, "When I look at Weiner, I see a guy who was probably mocked when he was a kid, maybe even beat up."
And something clicked for me. I'd been listening to one puzzled, bemused TV commentator after another asking, "Why would he do such a thing, again?" How could he risk his mayoral race and maybe his entire political career by making the same mistakes he made a few years ago?
The answer is shame.
I've been surprised at how many people on-line have said the man is ugly or disgusting-looking. He's certainly not handsome in the blond, blue-eyed American way, or pretty much any other way, though personally I've found him kind of fascinating, like many mouthy, driven, nerdy Jewish guys I grew up with.
We lived in a heavily Jewish city, New York, but we also lived with profoundly wounding stereotypes about Jewish men that haunt our culture. Those stereotypes told us us that Jewish men are weak, ugly, feminine, un-athletic, and not well endowed. Woody Allens all, with no chance of being Robert Redford.
Weiner may be a sex addict and a thrill-seeker, repeating dangerous behaviors because they're forbidden. But I suspect he's also shame-ridden. All that posing nude or half-nude, showing off his worked-out body and especially the crotch shots seem like an obvious response to intense body shame. Not a healthy one, no, but sadly understandable.
Inwardly, he's like the gambler who's driven to risk and lose and must bathe in shame until his humiliation is compete. Outwardly he masks his shame by bravado and even arrogance.
He's been profoundly humiliated in public now twice. Will he learn anything from it? Who knows? But I hope other men can learn from his example and behave differently by seeking to understand their problems rather than act them out.