This is just a random anecdote that I was reminded of as I was writing this post. I was reading through some of the Althouse comments comparing Jessica Valenti to Monica Lewinsky because they are both young, have brown hair, and have been in the same room with President Clinton. It's kind of sticking in my craw so I might as well tell the story.
Back in 1999, when I was a 27 year old prosecutor, I attended a week-long trial advocacy seminar for prosecutors from around the United States. My group had about 10 young prosecutors and 3 instructors who were experienced trial lawyers. We spent the week doing mock trial exercises and being videotaped and critiqued. I learned a great deal and it was great to meet other professionals in my line of work. At the end of the week, I got to take home the videotape of all my mock trial performances. I remember liking everyone involved in the project and feeling that we all got along well in a fun but professional setting. There was no sexual banter during the course of the week.
At the end, the three instructors gave out gag gifts for all the students, which we opened while being videotaped. Most of the gifts were fairly innocuous as I recall. One guy got a can of hair gel because his hair was always slicked back. As he opened it, I remember worrying that he might be hurt or offended that people were laughing at his hair. My gift was last because it was, I was told, one of the funniest. When it was my turn, I opened the gift in a kind of nervous but pleasurable flutter because I couldn't imagine what the instructors had noticed about me that they would link to a gag gift.
I ripped open the wrapping to find . . . a beret and a cigar.
As the class laughed uproariously, I found myself uncharacteristically taken aback. My mind rewound through the week to try to remember if there had been any Lewinsky discussions I had been a part of. But I drew a total blank. I was at a loss to make any connection between myself and Lewinsky. I think I smiled weakly and somehow indicated that I thought I was missing something. People laughed even more. It was truly surreal. Someone finally said: "Don't you know you're exactly like her?!?"
Huh. I suppose I am the same height, around the same age, and I have shoulder length brown hair. That's about all we have in common in terms of our appearance or otherwise. I guess it's that "wholesome, ethnic" look. While I have a fairly filthy sense of humor, it was really unnerving to be compared in a professional setting, even in jest, to a woman whose primary claim to fame was giving blowjobs. It made me question myself and whether I had acted in some way that was flaky or sexual or inappropriate.
The incident left me with a sour taste in my mouth.**** It wasn't the end of the world but I was never was quite able to look back on that week pleasurably. And I never watched the videotape of my trial exercises. I taped over it because I absolutely did not want ever to see the look on my own face during that final incident.
I don't claim to know whether there is a larger meaning to the incident beyond just piss-poor judgment by the people involved. But it comes back to me now that another young brunette woman is being randomly compared to Lewinsky. Maybe they really think we all look alike.
***** Frighteningly, the potential double meaning here was utterly unintended. Didn't notice until I reread the post.