Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday This and That

Oh my, this week's conversation has been all about adultery, and it's not pretty. I've been party to several conversations among friends - all married and all speaking with ambivalence - but all wondering why a woman would let her looks go south when she's married to a good-looking, powerful man. Powerful people are always magnets for the opposite sex.

Dr. Tammy Nelson (well-known relationship expert) wrote in the Huffington Post, "President Clinton, former Senator John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and now the retired four-star general are all examples of men in power who publicly cheated on their spouses. And they stand in 'formation' along with the rest of us; more than 55% percent of Americans will cheat on their spouses at some point in their marriages."

Forget for a moment all the basics, like marriage vows, morality, the Bible, and basic decency. Just look at why the General might have strayed. That's been the gist of the conversations - along with sympathy for the whole family, especially the kids.

Holly Petraeus is shown in the top two photos above. Click on the photos to enlarge them if you can't see that she looks older than her 59 years. The comments? Her salt and pepper hair does not work for her, and her hair style is unstyled. The bronze-toned, old-fashioned glasses do not flatter her. She's overweight and has bad skin. The clothing? Matronly.

Now, here's a photo of the Petraeus family in the past. Doesn't she look darling? Her brown hair is flattering. A smile speaks a thousand words about this beautiful family.

Now, imagine the temptation. This gorgeous woman, Paula Broadwell, aged 40, the General's biographer, enjoyed tremendous access to him during the year they spent together in Afghanistan. With one blemish in this official photo above (which someone should have had Photoshopped), she's beautiful. She is dressed conservatively, and despite the similarity to the outfit worn above by Mrs. Petraeus, she looks great. Makeup, simple jewelry, and a gorgeous face. We're told she's brilliant. Brilliant men are often attracted to brilliant women. Oh, and some are attracted to bimbos. She's married too and the mother of two young children.

Here she is looking a bit more provocative. As his biographer, she spent a lot of time with the General. However and whenever it happened, they apparently fell in love (or lust). Why is anyone surprised? That's what my girlfriends are asking.

Their point has been that as we age, we need to remember that looking good is important. We have to work harder to take care of ourselves - whether married or not. There's plenty of research that shows that looks matter. I wonder if the General would have strayed if Mrs. Petraeus had tried to remain attractive - for him as well as herself.

I'm asking for comment because this story is all about beauty. Sordid? Yes. Controversial? Yes. If you try for a moment to forget your values, which is really hard to do, do you think what happened is related to beauty? I think it is. Dr. Nelson's analysis is a lot more primal.

As for the "socialite" below, she's where the story gets bizarre. The General should have been more careful about the company he kept.

Update 11/24: All comments about this feature are now being deleted. All of them. They do not belong in features about hair products or makeup. Whether the comments calling me names are from the same person (all anonymous, of course) or many, whether they are pro or con, they are getting old. For those of you still unrealistically clinging to your belief that the issue wasn't news, just Google Holly Petraeus Beauty.

 Photos courtesy of foxnews, abc,, and


Anonymous said...

Think, seriously. Then be deeply embarrassed at this ridiculous post.
You sound like a nasty, shallow inhabitant of the capitol in "The Hunger Games."
Please be better than this. For your own sake.

Anonymous said...

We usually appreciate polite discourse here. It was an idea thrown out for discussion. Next time, think about signing you name instead of hiding behind the anonymous route.

You were asked for an opinion about opinions not to communicate nastiness. I work hard to look good for my man.


Anonymous said...

Hi, great post! I don't feel like his wife's beauty is the only or main issue for cheating, but I do feel like it does have its part, which could be a large part. Men are very visual, and I do believe his eyes would stray even more if his wife is not taking care of herself. Is this an excuse or a justification for his bad choice?? Absolutely not! But....I do think it was made alot easier for him to stray. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

People are forgetting that the General had an affair with woman 20 years younger. Can his wife compete with a younger woman? No, she shouldn't have to. He married her, she bore his children, was a supportive wife to a career military man, and she deserves his repect and devotion. We often blame the wife for being less "visually" appealing as the reason men stray. Yet, we don't criticize older men for letting themselves go as they age. Why is the onus on women to be perfect after 50?

Anonymous said...

I think we should respect Holly's privacy during this difficult time. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...I think power can be seductive, and I blame Paula for crossing the line, for getting too close for the sake of a good scoop. Don't blame Holly for any of it, if I were her I would walk away and not look back, shes strong and efficient and could survive on her own without the general.

Angela C said...

Wow, this post surprised and disappointed me. You wrote: "Just look at why the General might have strayed" in reference to a photo of Mrs. Petraeus. My mother is your age and she and most of her friends are prettier than you. Would that fact absolve your husband or significant other from cheating on you?

This is an incredibly superficial and shallow blog post.

lafemmetopaz said...

Charlestongirl, I commend you on this post. I think you bring up issues that women do not want to accept or see and you open whole can worms in the process.

Personally, I do think people cheat for many reasons as you stated and sometimes not being attracted to one's spouse can be one them. For some people, many people can not avoid temptation for long. I do think being attracted physically to one's spouse is extremely important. It helps extends the intimacy in a relationship and w/o intimacy.......

I think women are just as visual as men are; I don't think fawn of George Clooney or Denzel Washington because of their humanitarian works. It's just some of us are attracted to more than looks. I do wonder who Holly P felt throughout her marriage. Did she think her marriage was solid or did she just settle for a marriage that did not make her happy? Did she let herself go because she just didn't give a crap about her marriage anymore?

Anonymous said...

I am writing in support of this topic and this point. I am not saying there's a cause and effect between Holly's letting her looks go and Dave's actions (feel like I know these people by now!) But you know what gets me? If I had Holly's money and connections, and probably unlimited sick leave, NOTHING would keep me from plastic surgery, a personal trainer, spa weeks, a regular gym, a yogini, a nutritionist and maybe even salon visits. Personally I think he is homely and badly needs orthodontia, so to me they are evenly matched in the looks department. But that is ME -- given Holly's resources, I would look WAY sharper. (I have commented here before but I am signing anonymous here b/c I have a high clearance and a government job and these days, you never know . . . )

Clarisse said...

When I saw the photos last week, I just thougt the same thing: this lady looks fifteen years older than her husband!...Why did she let herself go? maybe she thought it wasn't worth trying any longer (in which case she was wrong) or maybe she felt disappointed, low and not very happy and just let everything down..It's difficult to tell but it's true the other woman being 20 years younger and looking very trim, ready to catch a general had it easy...
You find her gorgeous, Charlestongirl, I do not, I think there is something hard in her eyes which I don't like..As for the other socialite, she seems useless!
Yes, in a way, in this case it seems all related to beauty... but what about John Edwards or Arnold Schwarzenegger? They cheated one lovely wives, didn't they....Relations between men and women are SO complicated...anyway it sets the conversations rolling:-)

joy said...

Kinda harsh don't you think, CG? Shame on her for being over weight and having bad skin while being with an attractive man! And those glasses - hideous! Um, duh, of course he would cheat.

Anonymous said...

I hope that you do not get discouraged by the ugly comments posted about this post and write more like this. While I don't believe that a spouse's looks should be (& is not) a valid reason for cheating, caring a about how you look, dress, etc. for your spouse should be important. I have been married for almost 21 years (Dec. anniversary) to a wonderful, caring man who could care less if I wear makeup, I do so because I enjoy it but I do think caring about taking care of yourself & dressing nice shows that you care about the other person because you want them to be attracted to you. I have seen so many people once they get married the chase is over & there is no reason to still woo & flirt with their spouse which I think is important to keep a marriage alive. My husband and I both try to compliment each other and do small things (leaving love notes, chores to help the other out, etc.) to let the other know that he or she is important to you. To the ugly posters - just because someone has a different opinion or thought than you doesn't mean that they are nasty, shallow or mean. You should learn to express your opposing opinion without the hatefulness if you want someone to hear your opinion and not your hatefulness so that you won't embarrass yourself. KatherynR, McRae, GA

Nemo said...

I could not agree with you more on looks, and taking care of them, Cg. I excelled in college and law school, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. I am in what continues to be a male-dominated profession. But I am also a woman, and I know its power. While a liberal, I know that the more feminine I am--and feel--the more manly my husband--and other males around me--will feel. That polarity is priceless. It makes for an awesome sex life--yup!--and thus a functional, loving, marriage. I am pretty and I love being pretty. I take exceedingly good care of myself. I think sex is the peanut butter that holds the 2 slices of bread together (the husband and wife) in marriage. As silly as that sounds, I am here to tell you it is true. Pretty opens doors. It is as empowering a commodity as a law degree and the brain behind it. Some wives do not like sex, and so they wrap themselves in the children to the exclusion of their husbands; or they let themselves go. Who knows about Mrs. Prateus. Cheating is never good. It is a sin. But that is no excuse for neglecting your looks--and your body. I work out daily, including 45 minutes on a stairmaster, something most men cannot do. And when I finish in a sea of sweat, the men go nuts--including my husband. I applaud you for your bravery exhibited in your post.

bisbee said...

Sorry - I feel bad, but I said exactly the same thing when I saw pictures of Holly. She looks like his mother. Does that excuse his behavior? Never! But, it does add somewhat of an explanation. As women, we don't need to shove our men into another woman's arms...they will find plenty of excuses to go there if they want, we don't need to encourage them! And no...I don't feel ashamed for saying that, one needs to be realistic!

lovethescents said...

What a post and what a thread! You certainly got things heated up on a cold Sunday morning, Charlestongirl.

Well, I hadn't heard about this particular situation but it isn't an unusual one.

I will echo what many others posted, that there are many reasons someone might be disloyal/dishonest. However, it's important to always work at a relationship, whether you're a man or a woman. It's important to make efforts, even if you're tired, you're busy, the floor is sticky, there's a crayon in the dryer, etc, etc. It takes 5 seconds to swipe on a little lipstick. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule: if there's a pathology going on, it's different, but for the most part, people get too comfortable when in long-term relationships and allow themselves to look less than their best. It has an effect on not only the partner, but self esteem as well.

It's also cultural, isn't it? In certain cultures, women are expected to always look sexy, then if their husbands die, they get fat and wear black.

I've said too much already. I need some beauty sleep before the husband sees me later! <3

Deb said...

I am just stunned at this discussion. Can you imagine how this woman must feel, having her looks discussed on a blog? How would any of you feel? As to the men mentioned in the post: powerful? Yes. Handsome? Widely open to debate. But the absolute bottom line is it is none of anyone's business what went on in this marriage and how it got to this point.
Also, to "Anonymous" with the government job and the high clearance: I too am a long time federal employee and I have a very high security clearance. You can use your name; no one in government is worried about you posting on a beauty blog. They have much bigger fish to fry.

Brandy B said...

This was a horrible post about Holly! I do agree that people , men and women need to keep themselves up to an extent but this is just rude.

Are you married? Can we now presume by your argument that you don't have a man because you have not kept yourself up?

Stick to the beauty product posts.

Anonymous said...

Ummmm I'm sorry, but to me Gen. P. is an ugly mug. I would NOT hit that ever! I don't care how powerful or rich you are... and I'm no spring chicken... I'm 48 and no thank you!

Nemo said...

To Angela C., what makes you presume that I am not a good person? To make it with Christ, you need to be beautiful inside, and practice the Golden Rule, which I do. I have won awards from my local and state bars for my pro bono services, including my compassion and efforts on behalf of criminal defendants. I have a wall of thank you notes from those I have helped both professionally and personally. I have no problems with who I am and my contributions to society. Meanwhile, what General Patreaus does in his private life is of great concern to the public because he is a public leader; he makes life-changing decisions affecting people in the military. As such, he must be a good example for others. My guess is that he has cheated on his wife historically throughout their marriage. Hence, the sad look on her face. That does not come overnight. Moreover, I submit he is an opportunist of the worst kind: His wife is the daughter of the man who was the head of West Point at the time she met and married the good general. That says it all.

Anonymous said...

"Nation horrified to learn of Afghanistan war while reading up on Petraeus sex scandal."
Headline from The Onion

Charlestongirl said...


I think this conversation is out of control. Please do not attack the women who comment here. Every reader is entitled to her opinion, and I'm sure on a Sunday, very few feel like writing a dissertation on adultery and its causes. So don't make assumptions about what they didn't say.

Knowing this would be a controversial post, I published anyhow. If people are talking about this subject - and believe me, they are - it's fair game on a blog about beauty.

You can attack me if you want - and some of you have. I think attacking the reporter is cowardly, particularly when done anonymously. If you actually read this post, you would have understood that I was relaying conversations that are occurring over the kitchen tables among married women.

I could say more, but I won't...except for this: please do not attack other readers. If you do, you will have wasted your time because I will start to delete rude, personal, snide comments directed at other commenters.

The purpose of this post was to elicit opinion about the situation and the potential role of beauty. Please think twice about what you write and ask yourself, "Would I want someone to say that to me?"

Charlestongirl said...

OK, 12:57 Anonymous, you made me laugh. Thanks. I love the Onion.

Anonymous said...

First of all let me say I don't write well in English and this is such a complicated subject. It's so easy to be misunderstood even in our native language!

I just wanted to tell you I admire your courage to write your thoughts about this, just at a time people are talking so much about extreme valorization of beauty.

But I believe you are right to think about that. Even if it's not the reason why men cheat everytime, sometimes it is. And this is something they, men, say themselves!

I read your post and understand that your intention is not to criticize that particular woman, but to say to all women who pay so little attention to their appearence that they should think about this more.

I agree with you. I believe too many attention to beauty is bad, but too little can be bad also.

I hope I made myself understood, I just wanted to write to you because I believe you will get some "stones thrown" at you, and it hurts even when we can handle those harsh opinions. You give people something to think about. Some will. Those who don't even think before reacting are prejudiced and may be victims of their own stupidity. Not your problem, right?

Great post, great blog.

bisbee said...

Wow - I have to respond to some of these comments. Do any of you think this is the only place where this subject is being discussed? Believe me, there are VERY ugly comments being circulated ALL OVER the Internet. CG is totally free to post anything she wants - this is her blog! She was very thoughtful in her comments - and quite gentle and respectful, in my opinion. Do I think the General is attractive? Not really, but he is a powerful man - that's quite the turn-on for a lot of women. And remember - she is married and has young children - she is just as much to blame in this matter as he is.

Barbara said...

Brava, Charlestongirl - This is an extremely intelligent, brave and fair post. You are only stating online what a lot of other people are discussing in private. Certainly, no one's value as a person should rely on their physicality, but this involves the issue of sexual attraction, something based, initially at least, almost entirely on looks - and even more sofor men than for women. We are a species with a strong aesthetic sense, reflected in our homes, our clothing, the art we like, the places we go on vacation, even the cars we drive and the pets we choose. Is this "shallow?" Sure, but it's also human nature, and there's no point in fighting about it. You're not saying Mrs. P is less LOVEABLE because she chooses not to glam herself up a bit - or that marital fidelity is dependent on looks. But it certainly can be a factor in sexual fidelity. My own husband has deep intellectual and spiritual values, but he also loves me to look pretty - not just pretty, actually, sexy too, and not in a vulgar way - a silk shirtdress, a pencil skirt and cashmere turtleneck, dark stockings and a slingback pump...not to mention knowing there's something lacy underneath. Is it an effort? No, it's a choice - And no more time consuming than putting on something 'frumpy.' I like to look nice for myself, but my husband takes care of himself, and remains an (albeit graying!) version of the very cute guy I married, and I feel I owe him the same... respect. Should looks matter? Maybe not, but DO they? I would say the mega-billion dollar beauty business worldwide represents a resounding Yes. Should you discuss it? Well, this is a BEAUTY BLOG.

grlnxdor said...

Just expressing my opinion since you asked Charlestongirl. I think it's easy to think that a man will stray if his wife starts to look frumpy....but that is too easy of an excuse. Had Holly kept up to a certain standard of beauty befitting a man of the General's position, I think he would have still strayed. I can think of several attractive powerful men, that I work with, with equally attractive wives who have and continue to "stray". With greatness often comes "great ego" and lack of a moral compass. I'm tired of hearing how "great" the General is. Truly he is not in my eyes. Part of me truly feels for Holly since she looks like she could be a co-worker of mine. Here in the Midwest many women look like Holly, but they still deserve to be treated with respect.

Anonymous said...

Some of the comments here surprise me. Do people really think that he wouldn't have strayed if she had kept up her looks? There have been plenty of powerful men who had beautiful wives and still strayed!

I really hope that the women here who are priding themselves on keeping up their looks have husbands who are better than this guy. There will always be some girl who is better looking than you. You aren't getting any younger.

Anonymous said...

Ladies - I think you are missing a BIG factor here - the attraction, the pull, of being paid attention to, admired, adored, lauded, by an attractive woman 20 years younger. A woman who, no doubt, was pre-vetted and approved by the General to do his biography - one that he felt in which he had common military values and even physical fitness values. No matter what the wife at home looks like, it is EXTREMELY flattering and yes seductive to have some one look up to you and think you are just dandy, as no doubt Paula did. It must have felt all 'brand new and exciting' to the General. It must have been a giant ego stroke for BOTH of them! I feel that the wife at home could have been a babe, but the immediate, here and now, real time attraction and 'sympatico' ego strokes they both got from each other would override anything - and it obviously did! I'm sure they felt they were in their own world - so far from their spouses and family concerns. Being in a far away cocoon together added to it, I'm sure. And, mix in a bit of war time drama, and there we have it.

I am an ex-Gov't contractor who used to have a secret clearance and personally I can NOT believe the sheer stupidity of ALL involved. Even at my lowly level -this is security no-no 101.

Charlestongirl said...

You are absolutely correct, Angela. Your comments are now being deleted. You continue to attack me and others - for what purpose? Do you want to have the last word? Is this subject that important to you? As Bisbee said, it's my blog, and I can delete comments at will. I warned earlier. Now I am making good on that threat. No more personal attacks!

You said your statements have been based on something you call fact. Seriously, you think you were factual when you went after Nemo? I don't.

There are many well-considered opinions expressed here - at every end of the spectrum. That's what I expected from an intelligent, mature group of readers - many of whom don't usually comment. I appreciate the opinions. That's why I posted this. I didn't invent this line of discussion. It's out there, should anyone care to look.

Some opinions I think we can all appreciate; I do...
The General was a jerk.
He was also amazingly stupid. Given that he was head of the CIA, did he not think his e-mails would be discovered? Security 101, baby!
Younger women have an extreme advantage when a man has a cheating eye.
Adultery is complicated, and usually there is no single reason.
Holly (and the kids) didn't deserve the public humiliation. Dad caused it, along with that ding bat in Tampa - and
Broadwell, who was just as complicit as the General.
Possibly he would have strayed no matter what.
He's no prize looks-wise, but he was darn powerful.
Yep, ladies, I am not all that pretty. Thanks for reminding me that I also am getting old.

Most of the comments here have been thoughtful and polite. For that, I am grateful. Most commenters proved that one can express an opinion politely without berating others.

Nina said...

Wow CG - you are brave to go where few would dare and I commend you for it - after all, this is a beauty blog and why shouldn't we talk about the beauty factor in this sensational news item?!? Regardless of whether women "take care" of themselves, men will cheat. Look at Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke years ago, or Arnold and Maria more recently. That being said, I don't understand why you would't want to look your best - healthy and radiant, at all times. Although she was facing terminal cancer, Elizabeth Edwards colored her hair and wore makeup. I'm sure it helped her young children keep their spirits up. It's not about looking young but looking healthy and vibrant, and Just ask those French women...

Clarisse said...

Sorry about the foul/stupid comments you get, you deserve better as your readers know well, just delete them!
One should understand you don't blame anything on Mrs P (her husband is incredibly vain and stupid though he is a general!)but she could have tried harder: my grandmother used to say: do your hair well, put good shoes on, always a bit of lipstick on, you never know who you are going to meet to-day and it's better to be prepared: a good way to say never let yourself go! it's a kind of politeness towards others too!

I would like to ask: what is the Onion? a satiral newspaper? the headline made me laugh out loud:-)

Anonymous said...

why didn't he just divorce her instead of cheating on her??? and, do you really think this was his first affair?! i think he was officially caught this time! i know the homeliest woman, who by the way are older, and are adored by men!! sometimes, looks have nothing to do with this. in my opinion, he's just like tiger woods. you get divorced and then you can play with whoever! all this time and focus on this mundane, common person. meanwhile, there's a war going on with innocent people getting killed every second. i'm moving to port isaac.....

Rosemary said...

Lots of strong feelings here. I wish some folks didn’t feel the need to insult our hostess. Maybe some ladies here need to buy two holiday collections, drink fluids, get plenty of rest, and get back to us in the morning. :) ;)

About General Jerk, I don’t think this is his first time at the adultery party, and I wonder if his wife turns a blind eye to his behavior. Some women do, you know. And I don’t think his behavior is related to whether or not his wife dyes her hair, is a size 4, and wields a mean contour brush. Fidelity is about love and respect and choices. Infidelity is usually about the cheater’s own ego and/or emotional issues and choices.

If Mrs. Petraeus was blindsided by her husband’s behavior, I am truly sorry for her. I’ve been there myself (despite a strong Chanel addiction, a national award for work in my field, and a trim figure at the time), and it’s shocking and incredibly painful. I wish her and her children well.

Anonymous said...

There is always "what if..", but preventing cheating, in my opinion, takes much more than efforts of one side to stay physically attractive to another - if that another gives himself[or herself] permission to stray.. Actually, if someone gives himself\herself such permission, nothing else matters.

Gwen said...

CG I think this is a great post and it is very brave of you to attempt discussion of such a sensitive subject. Despite the unsavoury nature of some of the comments that have been made here, I think the fact that you've managed to elicit such a passionate response from many of your readers shows how good a writer you are.

I personally feel that it is very important to always look your best. Its a sign of the respect that you have not just for yourself but also for others around you (eg. your spouse and your family).

Her letting herself go might have played some part in the affair but I agree with another reader that it was more likely driven by the General's ego.

PS. Nemo: I appreciate your honesty and completely agree with the gist of your comment. What you wrote is probably what a lot of confident women feel but dare not say out loud for fear of incurring the wrath of those with tall poppy syndrome or the faux feminist ;)

And to those writing such awful comments about CG/other readers, all I can say is Pot.Kettle.Black.

Anonymous said...

Here is my two cents. Holly does not look good, but looking good does not ensure that your spouse will not stray. While David is fit, he's not good looking, although he is powerful. The uniform helps. As for Paula, she's a lot younger, but she's absolutely no bombshell and needs to consider bangs. I think he cheated because it was something new and different. I don't feel looks were a factor.

Marta said...

There are probably many explanations as to why Gen. Petraeus strayed, but none of them rise to an excuse.

I hesitate to ascribe any fault to Holly Petraeus for this. Had she looked her best at her age, it is still likely that she would not have been able to compete with the youth, access, novelty and admiration that the Gen. was getting from Broadwell and other women.

As women, we need to respect ourselves. For some of us it means making sure we always look our best. But we won't meet that standard at all times: life, illness, stress, age, pregnancy, depression, loss, having our husbands see us in the morning as we look when we are the most vulnerable: without makeup, puffy eyed, our true, unvarnished selves.

I think most women like to think that if they just look their very best, they can, through sheer will and makeup, stop a man from straying. But attractive, young, fit women are cheated on, and not always with a woman more attractive, smarter, or more accomplished than they are. Indeed, didn't this whole thing unravel because "young, beautiful" Broadwell was worried that Petraeus was "cheating" on her with yet another woman? (victim of the old adage "if he cheats with you he will cheat on you.")

We know that men have options other than cheating when they don't feel as sexually attracted to their wives anymore. Just as we respect ourselves by putting our best face forward, we should respect ourselves by requiring the respect of others. We deserve that regardless of how we look.

Put differently, Gen. Petreaus should have respected his wife and their marriage enough to give Mrs. Petraeus the option to work on the issues he perceived in their marriage, or to allow her to leave with her dignity. Instead, he risked his career. He risked national security. He risked possible illness. He betrayed his wife and family. He exposed his wife to discussions about her looks, and what she did or didn't do to bring any of this on herself. If the possibility of any of these things did not cross his mind or did not stop him from cheating, I don't know how much looking better could have done.

Marta said...

Put differently, Gen. Petreaus should have respected his wife and their marriage enough to give Mrs. Petraeus the option to work on the issues he perceived in their marriage, or to allow her to leave with her dignity. Instead, he risked his career. He imperiled national security. He risked possible illness. He betrayed his wife and family. He exposed his wife to a media circus, to discussions about her looks and what she did or didn't do to bring any of this on herself. If the possibility of any of these things did not cross his mind or did not stop him from cheating, I don't know how looking better could have prevented it either.

Anonymous said...

This is a beauty blog, so I don't see why some commenters/readers consider this out of place or mention to CG to "stick with the beauty products." Whether people (women?) like it or not, there will always be double standards i.e. we don't care that men age or that they don't do anything to keep up with their looks but women on the other hand are highlighted with this issue.

I don' t even agree with all of CG's opinions but come on people.

And one more thing, why do so many people think of beauty or anything that has to do with physical maintenance "shallow" or "superficial" like referring to this post? It gives me a nice calm to be well-dressed (not necessarily expensive) and look good. Not advocating to be looks obssessed here ok?

LK - New Jersey

Anonymous said...

If her marriage vows didnt help her, then I don't think a mountain pile of beauty products or a slew of makeovers could have helped Holly compete against a shiny, young new thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi CG,

Hugs to you for having to bear with some of the nasty comments over here. And you are one gutsy woman to talk about this so openly.

You know that I live in India, it is by comparison a very conservative society. I see a lot of advise going to young girls that they should not be bothered about looks as long as they do well academically. On the other end of the spectrum , a huge market for beauty and grooming is blooming in my country.

I am a young girl myself, 23, and I agree with a lot of women here, that we MUST take care of how we look, and also stand up for what we believe in. Cheating is never right. Making the affected person feel very undesirable and unattractive. But why get to such a point ?

As a reader Nemo said, do what you have to to stay confident, feel sexy and live life the way you want to. And in any relationship, marriage even, looks are important at some level. A man definitely has an ego boost when his partner is coveted by other males but is unattainable. That is part of Power play.

And CG, you are one of the prettiest and most genuine person I have met over the years. :) You take care.

Swathi N

Charlestongirl said...

As I close comments on this post, publishing no more, I have a few comments of my own.

1. I am surprised that so many readers didn't actually read. You know, read all the words and attempt to understand them. I relayed what I was hearing, but a large percentage attributed all of the observations to me. I made it clear that I was relaying conversations and asked for comment. Instead of commenting logically, some women came at me and other readers with claws out. I had expected controversy, but not personal attacks.

2. In the next points, I'm going to tell you how I feel about this situation: interested, but not all that passionate.

2a. Adultery happens every day, and I believe Dr. Nelson's statistic may be conservative. The definition of cheating may have something to do with that. Was it cheating when General Allen sent that so-called joking shirtless photo of himself to the socialite? If I were his wife, I would be very not happy.

2b. Mrs. Petraeus, like all embarrassed husbands and wives, did not deserve the public humiliation of the General's betrayal. Surely he thought about what might happen, given his public position, if his adultery were laid bare for the world. If not, he isn't real smart. That's one reason I put this question out in Sunday This and That. The title makes it much less likely that it will be picked up and featured in Google searches about her.

2c. I agree with the readers who said that we should always try to look our best. I had a friend - long ago - who needed nothing to look great, but she would never leave the house without lipstick. I thought it was a hoot, but she knew that lipstick made people stop and look at the rest of her face. Even though I don't follow her example, I will always remember it. I never leave home without my lip balm. :)

2d. I lost readers from publishing this. While I used to love everyone who stopped by, I can honestly say I don't care. I shouldn't be astonished that the anonymity of the Web brings out the nasties. One of my friends - a straight and married man who posts fragrance features on YouTube - was called a "faggot" by a commenter this weekend. Fortunately, we all know otherwise, and he laughed it off. Who did I lose? Mostly, people who never comment, or when they do it's only to try to win free makeup. I had to add comment moderation, which most of my blogging friends have used from the get-go, to stop the relentless attacks. I have no intention of giving a voice to people whose attacks were about all they had to say. I've been thinking of discontinuing Best Things in Beauty for months. If there were ever a great personal reason to do so, I think I found it yesterday. God forbid we would have have a conversation that's polite about something other than the latest Chanel sensation.

2e. For all of you who believe Holly Petraeus will go weeping to her bed if she were to read this blog post, you don't know what her friends call her: The Pit Bull. She's a strong, intelligent woman, and a blog won't hurt her, particularly when she received so much support (as she should have) in the comments. Her husband hurt her, and she would be crazy (in my opinion) to stay with him.

3. Many thanks to you wonderful women who were able to discuss the part beauty may have played in this public story. You are the reason I blog. You are the reason I continue to spend megabucks to show you the latest beauties in the industry. You are the ones who have kept me from pulling the plug.

Charlestongirl said...

Well, I am opening up comments again because I am getting e-mails from women who have something to say, and they are great.

You won't see the ones telling me how ugly I am. I don't recall writing about my great beauty. I feel terribly insecure as I age, but I do spend a hell of a lot of time and money trying to look my best. I'm even considering fillers in my nasolabial folds. Never thought I'd say that out loud.

You won't see the ones telling me adieu. They added nothing of value to the conversation. I can only imagine what it might be like to have a conversation with someone who is so incensed about a public issue that she shoots the messenger. No wonder so few reporters answer e-mails.

As my parents used to say, there's a difference between a woman and a lady. To the haters, don't bother. I won't publish your comments. To the ladies in the audience, keep 'em coming. I respect your varied opinions.

Charlestongirl said...

I am posting this e-mail from Christine, with her permission.

I see you disabled the comments which is probably a good thing. I feel like I have something to contribute, and you asked a sincere question.

I worked in an organization for almost 40 years which was 90% men when I started at age 18. So I got to see the affair thing up close and personal many times.

The male's perspective is just sexual. Its a momentary energy jump and the ego charge of having sex with a much younger woman. Statistically they rarely leave their wives for the mistress. It's a diversion. Simple. Like men. Simple.

For the woman - whole different motivation. She had significant monetary, professional, and ego points to gain. Its all about gaining a sort of power. Ms Broadwell had no experience as a writer (not even as a blogger) and turned a chance meeting into a book, i.e. money. Her real motivation? I think it was professional advancement and money. Will she write a book about the affair? Here is where the real money can be made. She is getting multimillion dollar offers as we speak. She has to convince herself that losing her family is worth the money - she will lose her marriage and probably custody of the kids if she writes a book about it.

Affairs for younger attractive women with older men are all about advancement, power and money, not sex. If Ms. Broadwell was really looking for hot sex would she pick a 60 year old general or a 25 year old sergeant? Most of us would pick the sergeant, hands done.

Nailing the General was like a rock groupie giving Steven Tyler a blow job. Something to crow about, a notch on her belt, something to write about and exploit.

Comment text limit. Go to next comment.

Charlestongirl said...

Christine, continued.

Physical attractiveness, which was your original question ensnared the general. It was a tool Ms. Broadwell used to 'close the sale'. But my point is the fawning behavior was the hook she used to catch the general.

Ms. Broadwell is attractive to a minority of men. Men don't like women with the whole muscly arm thing. Do you think her husband likes it? He's a doctor. He probably doesn't have NFL arms, like his wife. Probably not. I don't give their marriage much of a chance. Statistically she'll cheat again when some powerful man comes into her orbit. He has two small sons to consider. Feel so sorry for them.

Madonna's ex went poetic to the media during there divorce about sleeping with her was like sleeping with a slab of gristle due to her over developed body. The contingent who like a muscly woman are women and a small minority of men.

Most men like their woman with some skin and padding. Michelle Obama has nice arms, but she doesn't look like a body builder.

What made the General do the nasty was her fawning…Looking at him like a knight in shining armor. Men fall for that over and over. I know of what I speak. Experienced this with my own hubby. A 35 year old made the move on him, using the Knight in shining armor…Trust me old guys fall for this like trees in an ice storm. Her attractiveness, and his wife's lack thereof, was not the main reason he cheated. I have seen women who look exactly like Holly P. nail very attractive married men by FAWNING.

Seriously, the male ego has an in exhaustive hunger for adulation. I am talking about the Average Joe. A General? Dude has a serious deficit of female adulation.

Yes I agree Holly should color her hair, get some nicer clothes and lose the glasses. But remember her hubby has been GONE for 80% of the time for the last five years. He has been ignoring her at the least and who knows in private how he compensates for his absences. She dresses, and appears like a woman who is invisible to her husband, which, I think, she has been. She has been standing in his shadow for her whole married life. How does she look? Like a shadow, made to blend in.

I am like you - I love makeup. I read your column everyday and mY AmEx has you to thank for some really nice purchases. I recently had a full facelift and am really happy with the results. I like to look the best for my age. Do I think my husband has a right to mess around because of my looks? No. He doesn't. He told me this am to touch up my roots before family arrives for Thanksgiving. That's a loving thing to do because he can see the top of my head and I can't.

Marriage is contract. An emotional, spiritual and physical contract between two people who vow to be #1 to each other. Nothing that Holly looks like is in that contract that gives the General a pass to sleep with a ambitious groupie.

Society puts a ton of expectations and behavior expectations on women without any reward. Being a woman 'costs' at least 50% more than being a guy, just because you are expected to have the latest makeup, clothes, etc. Wages for women lag behind men. Society gives woman, what in political circles, is called an unfunded mandate.

I can see why some women turn their back and wear no makeup, don't color and dress just for comfort. Its a visual rejections of the societal expectations.

You asked a really good question. It is one women all across the world are thinking about since this whole thing happened. But I just wanted to chime in and let you know the Petraus thing was an issue of power not really attractiveness of an older woman vs. a younger one.

Keep up the blog. Love it.

Mimi said...

Some excellent posts here. One thing that occurred to me was maybe Mrs. Petraeus simply doesn't know what to do to improve her appearance and doesn't want to spend a lot of time/money either out of lack of interest, valuing things about herself other than her looks, not wanted to appear vain/insecure etc. She has probably been on her own raising her children and that's a tough job. Concern about one's looks can slip away when people need to be fed, bathed and clothed etc. General Petraeus is 100% responsible for his behavior because he owns it. He could have made another choice but he didn't and that's not his wife's fault. If she's interested in getting a fresh look, someone who has true talent and taste and will adhere to her style, not what the artist thinks she should look like should step up and offer their services. Perhaps Charleston Lady can recommend someone since she meets so many people in the industry. A makeup artist may know a hairstylist, good dermatologist etc. We've all had bad experiences with a number of products and maybe Mrs. Petraeus just gave up trying instead of continuing to waste money on things that weren't working for her. Anyway, those are my thoughts.

Gabby T said...

Oh wow. Just got through these. I do think that caring for your appearance is something that BOTH partners in a marriage should do for each other. I also think that some men will always find a younger woman's admiration too much to say no to - regardless of what they already have at home. What's that famous expression? Something about "show me a supermodel and I'll show you a man that's sick of having sex with her" or something like that. Sure Holly could have tried harder to keep her looks up - but for all we know, her husband gave her no reason to. And finally CG, I think you are stunning. I am 32 years old and wish I had the glow you do - your skin is phenomenal and something to aspire to. So (pardon my French) fuck the haters hiding behind an anonymous account who don't dare show their own faces. Something tells me they know more about "ugly" than any of us.

Walls said...

I had held off commenting yesterday when I had read this post originally. I have strong opinions that are founded in feminism and a strong sense of equality. I won't write a thesis here, but I will share a few of my thoughts.

Firstly, it isn't remotely fair for you, Charleston Girl, to be personally attacked for penning a blog piece whose very content has been and will remain controversial. Personal attacks about one's physicality, ethnicity, sexual preferences, religion, et al. are simply low blows. I admire the intelligence and insight and care you put into this blog, CG, and I think you're a graceful and attractive woman - period. I think we all become quite self-conscious as we age. Even though I am young, I have some trepidation about the ageing process. I don't think having this concern makes me a bad person. I aspire to be a more evolved and self-contented person over time.

That said, I feel that each woman has a right to invest as much or as little time and money into her looks as she desires. This should be an individual right, and I would never condemn Mrs. Petraeus for not focusing on her appearance. If she is comfortable in her own skin, then I applaud her. As for the affair, as many have noted, people cheat for a variety of reasons that are far too complex to analyse from afar. I feel a deep sense of sympathy for Holly and her children. No one deserves to have to endure the humiliation of adultery, let alone publicly.

I do hope you continue this blog, CG. It's one of the best out there.

AnneD said...

Oh, CG, I didn't comment on this subject but I found it fascinating. Mainly because I, like so many others have been in Hollys' shoes. Looks had nothing to do with cheating, but how I looked and felt about myself had everything to do with how I dealt with the situation. I kept coming back to the comments routinely to see what the next person had to say. THanks for being so brave and interesting! I love your blog and look forward to reading it daily. Please keep up the good work!

mkdallas said...

I read this blog every single day and while I very rarely comment, I truly appreciate everything about it. I adore makeup and skincare products and hold this blog personally responsible for some rather large credit card bills, thanks to the lovely swatch photos and commentary that Charleston Girl provides her readers with. As a woman of 54, I also appreciate her sense of style and quiet elegance. I know when I come on here, I'll find things that appeal to a broader audience and demographic than I find on other blogs. That being said, I think the reason for some of the more unpleasant posts is the following comment; "Her salt and pepper hair does not work for her, and her hair style is unstyled. The bronze-toned, old-fashioned glasses do not flatter her. She's overweight and has bad skin. The clothing? Matronly." The way this is written, it does appear to be stating CG's personal opinion and as such, it seems a bit harsh. However, this is her blog and as such, CG is entitled to write anything she wants. I do hope I haven't caused offense by my response and would be deeply saddened if Best Things In Beauty were to be discontinued.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mkdallas,

Thank you for being polite. It's been somewhat rare here. I've been very reluctant to comment since I am one of many women in the conversations Charlestongirl described. No, not her friends, but others just like them.

Yes, we exist and yes we pulled out our smartphones and dissected Mrs. Petraeus' fashion and beauty sense - noticing all the things that you read quoted. Call us superficial if you want. That is why I am posting anonymously. I am not as brave as she is.

We've done the same for many women in the news. I guess it's natural to want to see the poor wife or the current state of Lindsay Lohan.

Some of us have been divorced because our husbands cheated and some of us have cheated on our husbands. We confess, we cry, we laugh and we criticize. I think we're pretty normal friends. The View in real life.

We aren't dumb enough to believe that this current situation was only about beauty. Men aren't very good at monogamy. Sad truth that some of us have learned first hand.

Megan B. said...

This entire scandal just makes me sad BUT I just had to comment that I think you are very attractive! Just lovely with a great little figure! You hold your head up high, sister!

Anonymous said...

I commented earlier and I'm amazed yet disgusted that anyone would personally insult CG. For what it's worth, I think this is the best blog out there and I admire CG as she comes across as classy, intelligent and independent. I will continue to read this blog each day as long as it exists. I will say "thank you" for taking the time to share all these amazing items with your readers. You have no idea how much I love finding about about the latest and greatest products, like a new holiday kaleidoscope! Thank you again!!

Anonymous said...

Regular reader, first-time commentator; I'm such a beginning at cosmetics in general that I'd hardly ever have anything useful or even interesting to add to the conversations here. *s* Disclaimer aside:

I wanted to thank you for making this conversation happen.. outside of the breakfast table. It's been an interesting read - beginning with your post, and carrying through all the comments. Even though I flinch from the idea that her appearance might have led to the man straying; I'll start believing that when people start credibly insisting that men never cheat on their supermodel wives. *s*

In my experience, what a woman does with her physical appearance is simply symptomatic of who she is and how she chooses to be; it's seldom ever its own root cause. Does she simply prefer being the adorable wife and mother rather than the bombshell attached to the General's arm? Is her appearance just the extension of a belief that appearances shouldn't matter? Did her appearance simply not occur to her as being noteworthy simply because she was busy with so many other, more important things?

We don't know. Just like we don't know whether she ignored her appearance because the man was a serial cheater and she just didn't care anymore. Or whether he was a competent General under the spotlight and an unbearable jerk behind the closed doors of his home, and she was too miserable to think outside of her own hurt. We'll never know, and we don't have the right to even ask. And shame on him for, amongst so many other things, putting her in a position which invites people to speculate.

As for how physical beauty matters to me personally: I like looking good, because it's fun for me - and I like looking good for my husband, because that's fun for us both. *s* Ten years from now, I won't be considering botox or surgery or implants - that's when it stops being fun and starts being a job - but I'll continue to find ways to flatter my appearance with colours, and to keep the grey out of my hair. Perfection - physically - simply isn't my pursuit. Lucky me: my husband prefers me without makeup, but he loves the dyed hair, and for me that's so indicative: he enjoys that I look my age - that I'm not pretending at being a twenty-something, and that I don't look like I'm well past middle-age either.

By the way: I cannot quite believe that anyone criticised your appearance. If I look half as good when I reach your age I'll consider myself exceptionally blessed. And I'd kill, incidentally, for an hour with your hairstylist. *s*

Makeup Remastered said...

Hey CG!
When all is said and done-please don't stop your blog-one of my favourites out there:)

A Lovely Inconsequence said...

As men grow older, they looked to be looked at by newer eyes. Cheating is not always about looks. I'm not sure it's about looks in this case either despite the shocking difference between Holly and Broadwell. As for Holly, I don't think she's inherently beautiful but there was much she could have done to improve her personal style. Obviously it is not her thing to try to look as attractive as possible and she didn't deserve her husband to cheat so humiliatingly. She is afterall, the mother of his children and thus, kept the homefires burning while he was away building his career. But faced with the closeness of Broadwell, he was weak and most likely, Broadwell was formidable. They had a heady affair no doubt. I don't know how Holly will save face but I doubt very much she will improve her looks going forward as she doesn't seem to care about it. Admittedly, I am uncomfortable with her appearance but I don't think that is the reason why her husband cheated on her. In fact, he may have encouraged her plainess and reassured her that it didn't matter to him. Then a beautiful, determined woman got too close to him and bascially, he was being looked at and admired by new eyes. He liked his reflection there. It was about him and not Holly's appearance.

Charlestongirl said...

To my lovely reader who doubted the pit bull reference:

Read the article. She's a strong woman with a life of her own.

And to those who believe I have transgressed into unspeakable territory, this was written two days after my feature was published:

Anonymous said...

Hi CG,I'm a little late to the party (and apologies in advance for the lengthy ramble), but I wanted to weigh in. I'm on the younger side (30 this year), but been told multiple times that I have an "old soul" so I don’t want to appear as if I’m approaching this from your average, younger person viewpoint. I'm happily married and pretty progressive in my views about most things including sexual attraction.
Physiologically speaking, most men are absolutely visual creatures. Physical attraction for men can have more importance initially than a woman’s personality, values or success in life. If you Google photos of Holly Petraeus when she was younger, her presentation was certainly visually appealing which can account for her husband's initial attraction. Her personality, dedication and affection for her husband and their family are aspects that probably retained his attraction.
Women are driven by different desires both initially and long term. While physical appearance is certainly a factor to assessing a potential mate, initial attraction may be assessed on attributes such as confidence, success, sense of humor or other more nebulous personality attributes. There are some women who won’t further an encounter if a guy doesn’t “smell right” (some evidence suggests ability to asses genetic compatibility).
While sexual attraction in men can be triggered solely on physical appearance, women can often require a little more than just physical appearance to pique their sexual interest (as w/ my husband, his intelligence was a huge turn on). However, as any relationship progresses, there is of course going to be changes to the dynamic of the relationship can occur in addition to changes in appearance as inevitably happens w/ age. As we move along in life and you’ve settled w/ a mate, priorities shift and importance of maintaining an attractive physical appearance can sometimes come as an afterthought when life happens: raising children, stress/demands at work, etc. Holly Petraeus’s priorities of course also shifted having to essentially raise the family on her own and b/c she was in a relationship as long-lived as theirs is/has been, I’m sure she felt comfortable allowing her physical appearance to lapse a bit in favor of tackling priorities a bit higher up on her list.
Meanwhile, her husband had been a powerful military figure who retired and had to adjust to civilian life once he retired and changed jobs to CIA director. That stress coupled with what I can imagine is some amount of loneliness in not having someone close that they could confide in and share work troubles with was probably also a contributor to the affair once you also factor in a clearly intelligent, young, attractive woman w/ whom you ARE able to share that with.
SO, putting aside my views on the morality and social acceptance of an extramarital affair, I DO believe that his wife’s physical appearance was a bit of a factor. I have no doubt that he loves his wife, but when a young, intelligent and attractive woman shows interest in you with whom you can also share some intimacy with respect to a shared military background, I have to imagine it’s quite flattering a hard temptation to resist especially if you no longer find your mate physically attractive. Sometimes the human sex drive can be too strong to overrule common sense.

beth said...

Its very surprising the anger that this post has generated. What's upsetting is the idea that the wife should somehow accept some of the responsibility for the actions of the cheating husband if she is perceived to have let herself go. While I agree that Mrs Petraeous looks much older than her husband, and could definitely improve her image, I do wonder how could she compete with an attractive, athletic woman, 20 years younger, who's job it is to listen to her husbands life's story, in such a remote location. In the end I want to blame Paula. I think she wanted this man because of his power and position and made a calculated decision to go after him. It is sad that such a distinguished career has ended in such a sordid manner.

Vanessa said...

Charleston Girl, I found your post provocative; what is the allure in a person's physicality? I really believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For some, the physical body is everything and for others, the spirit and mind are more important. I truly believe that for most people, all three blend together. All "the players" are opportunists and I feel for their children and the cuckolded spouses.