As the latest sex scandalette on the political scene, Cynthia Hampton could use some advice from someone who has been there herself.
I don't worry so much about Senator John Ensign, because he willingly chose public life. Not that Cynthia Hampton was innocent in this situation, either. But I'm sure she never imagined she would find herself under as much stress and scrutiny as she is feeling right now.
Start a Playboy rumor. And a book-deal rumor, while you’re at it. You can always say, “Whatever, people may think I’m a whore, but at least I’m a published whore.”
No one is ever prepared to get caught in a sex scandal. I'm not talking about the publicity-stunt variety, which is more of a Hollywood or New York device. In politics, a sex scandal is almost never considered a smart career move. They can be the political equivalent of box-office poison—unless you spin it in your favor. Here's how.
Just admit it. If you confess your wrongdoings, no one can hold them against you. Otherwise, you are a target for exposure and/or blackmail, which seems to be the case in this most recent scandal. Both Ensign and Hampton have already issued statements to the press admitting to the affair. So far, so good. But what about the people blackmailing them? Everyone wants to know more about Cynthia and, more specifically, if she's hot. The casual observer isn't thinking about what scumbags the extortionists are. They're too busy calling Ensign a hypocrite and wondering how big Cynthia's boobs are (or is that just me?). Which brings me to the next phase:
Now, get head shots taken. Or take them yourself and post them somewhere as soon as possible. (Maybe you could start a blog?) Just don't neglect to wear makeup or brush your hair when you go out in public, because you will need as many glamour shots of you as possible to counteract every unflattering photo that will inevitably surface now that you're "famous."
After you've got some hot pics in circulation, start a Playboy rumor. And a book-deal rumor, while you're at it. Now that your career in politics is over, these may be the only viable ways to earn a living for the next few years. Also, making some money may help you feel better about what is happening right now. You can always say, "Whatever, people may think I'm a whore, but at least I'm a published whore," to comfort yourself whenever you're feeling down.
If the National Enquirer offers you money for an interview, you may as well accept and tell them some "exclusive" (but essentially innocuous) BS. Otherwise, they will make up quotes and publish them anyway, and you'll feel even stupider than you probably do already. While we're on the subject, you shouldn't be giving any interviews or posing for photographs for free. (Not until you have to do promo for the book.) And never sign a photo waiver or release form. (Unless it's for Playboy.)
Also: Disconnect your chatty grandparent's telephone immediately. You don't want reporters calling their house (they will) and taking advantage of an elderly person who doesn't know any better. You need to circle the wagons. Tell your family to be prepared for the possibility of camera crews on their front lawns. The only thing any friend or family member should be saying about you is "No comment."
Don't forget to see a doctor. This is not a time for cracking up or letting yourself go. Get a check up and keep yourself healthy. And seeing a psychiatrist can't hurt, either. They will help you put the situation into perspective—and give you meds that will help you not give a damn.
If all else fails, you can always change your name, move to Florida, and start over. But why should you? In a few years, no one will remember any of this. Another sex scandal will come along, wiping out all public memory of you. Take me, for example: Jessica Cutler never became a household name. And Cynthia Hampton doesn't have to become one, either.
But in your household, you have a husband and family to consider. I did not—I had only myself to worry about at the time. I am now married and starting a family of my own, so that is no longer the case. It just goes to show that life does go on after something like this, for better or for worse. Remember that, and hopefully, your husband will, too.
Jessica Cutler is author of The Washingtonienne: A Novel, by Hyperion Books. She has also written for the Guardian, the Washington Post, Playgirl, Capitol File, and Wonkette.