I remember the Monica Lewinsky “scandal” very well. I say “scandal” because with 20 years in between then and now I’ve revised a lot of my thoughts about her, and Bill Clinton, and that time, and how I feel about it all. I was about 14 when it all kicked off and Monica seemed like a glamorous, go-getting woman in her 20s to me, someone who had her life together and was going places and knew what she wanted and how to get it.
Obviously the age gap hasn’t changed but now I feel much closer in age to her, which is the usual feeling you get as you grow older. I’ve been the new college graduate, unsure of myself and trying to figure out the working world and my place in it after the security of years spent in full-time education. I’ve navigated the world of older men in my workplace, and walked the tightrope of years spent being polite and never quite being sure if something is what you think it is or if its something you probably shouldn’t have to put up with.
I’ve been thinking about being 22 and being around people in power, and being around one of the most powerful people in the world. I’ve been thinking about sex, and what I regarded as sex, and what other people, mostly men at least twice my age, think about sex and consent and right and wrong. It’s uncomfortable to look back at 22 year old me, and think about 22 year old Monica, and the choices we made and the things which happened which weren’t really choices at all.
I’ve listened to season 2 of Slow Burn and what other people said about Monica and how she navigated all that pressure and how, shamefully, she became the punchline of so many jokes about sex and power and men and what they do and who they do it to. I thought about my clothes when I was 22, and how I probably would have considered a navy dress from Gap as the ideal choice for working in an office.
I think about the working world now and my place in it and if things have changed and if a 22 year old in my workplace would be treated like Monica, regardless of how many people proclaim #metoo and talk about consent and condemn the actions of men in power who take what they want. I think about the current man in the White House, and the 22 year olds who work in that building, wearing the Gap dresses and figuring out their place in the world and I hope their world is better than mine was when I was 22 and when Monica was 22.
But I don’t know if it is, or if it can be, knowing what we know about everything that’s happened since Monica was 22.