The Big Lewinsky

I have a confession to make. I had an inappropriate relationship with a 22-year-old intern.

This happened years ago, long before sexual harassment lawsuits and regulations became commonplace. But that doesn't excuse what I did. It was wrong. I take full responsibility.

I was a young editor for a major news service, full of vim and vinegar. And, yes, regrettably, full of lust as well. She was a college student, a self-possessed young woman who knew what she wanted. She had her whole life ahead of her.

It was a mentoring relationship at first. I recognized her potential. I wanted to help her. I wanted to make sure she landed the right kind of job when her internship ended. But there was a spark between us, and it soon became apparent that a deeper sort of involvement was imminent.

I could've put a stop to it. I could've kept the appropriate distance, kept it all professional and chilly. But I was 25 years old (old enough to be her brother!) and we were consenting adults, after all, and I let the inevitable occur.

We tried to keep our relationship a secret from our co-workers, but we were cursed by the feeble awkwardness that often plagues such romances. On our first date, we went to a fancy restaurant. It was all fine food and candlelight and longing looks, the way a date should be. Then, as we were leaving, we ran smack into my boss. After raised eyebrows and red faces and fumbled explanations, we slunk out of the cafe, figuring the jig, as they say, was up.

But the boss recognized where it was headed, and he looked the other way. The romance was allowed to bloom. We thought our other co-workers were kept in the dark. They played the game admirably. Only later did we learn they were onto us the whole time. When romance is in the air, you can't prevent those nearby from getting a whiff of it.

It turned out fine. Careers were undamaged. No lawyers were involved. Nobody posed for "Vanity Fair." The secret relationship eventually became public, but by then it was too late to harm either of us. Because, by then, we were married.

That was 15 years ago, and we're still together. Things have changed a lot over the years -- not the least of which has been the addition of two sons -- but I can honestly say the spark still burns brightly. While it would be legally accurate to say it all began in secrecy and inappropriateness, it's clear now the relationship was the best move we could've made.
A lot of journalists marry other journalists. It's a quirk of the business. They spend most of their time with other journalists. They work strange hours, they speak their own lingo, they suffer the same slings and arrows of outrageous bosses and impossible deadlines. It's only natural that they end up conducting secret romances and public weddings.

It's tough to keep two careers going in the same field in the same market. My wife and I managed as best we could, chasing my career from New Mexico to California and back again. She found jobs along the way, but it was only when we landed in Albuquerque for good that her career began to eclipse mine. She moved up the ladder into management jobs. I was trying my hand at fiction, and wanted no part of being somebody's boss.

Finally, the scales tilted far enough that I could quit daily journalism and spend all my time writing fiction and running the household. I'm trying my hand at a few other things, such as writing this column and teaching.

It's all possible because of a one-time intern who works hard every day and pays the bills and provides the medical insurance. I do my part, working around the house and looking after the kids, but it's definitely a one-sided arrangement. All of us who work at home should be so lucky.
I feel better after confessing all this. And now it's time to get on with the business of writing new novels for the 21st century. Let the healing begin.

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