A political love story
Call it a schoolboy’s fantasy, or a middle-aged woman’s dream, but the love affair and marriage of Emmanuel Macron, who is leading the 11-person roster of candidates gunning for the presidency of France, and Brigitte Auziere, who was his drama coach while he was in high school, has all the elements of a television drama, a melodramatic movie, or a social farce.
Emmanuel (“Manu”) happened to be just 15, the son of prominent doctors in Amiens, when he met Brigitte (“Bibi”), who was then married to a banker with whom she had three children. In fact, one of them, Laurence, was Emmanuel’s classmate, and at first his family and friends thought she was the object of the young man’s affections. But it wasn’t the teenaged Laurence that Emmanuel was interested in. Rather, he was, as the current terminology goes, “into” her 39-year-old mother, who taught literature in a prestigious local academy and found herself thrown frequently into the company of the young man when they collaborated in rewriting a play to accommodate more of his classmates in the cast.
If the usual trajectory of such a story is to be followed, such a “May-December” romance, even if a reversal of the “normal” arrangement, would not end happily. But while the relationship between Manu and Bibi had its fair share of troubles, including a 15-year separation at the behest of the young man’s parents, it seems to have ended happily.
Wire reports say that when the results of the initial voting came in last week, Macron ascended a stage to greet his supporters and turned to thank his wife, acknowledging her presence and saying: “Always there, and what’s more, without whom I wouldn’t be me.”
I don’t know about you, but if a 39-year-old man, even if he has been her husband for 24 years, says those words in public to a woman who is turning 64, she will fall in love with him all over again.
As we Pinays so charmingly put it: “Makalaglag panty talaga!”
Some have observed that the more-or-less benign reaction of voters to Macron’s marital history is “so French.” France, after all, has a history of tolerating the foibles of its presidents—all of whom have been male—who’ve been caught up in extramarital affairs and children born in wedlock.
Other observers note that Emmanuel and Brigitte’s love story would not even bear comment or even a footnote if their roles and circumstances had been reversed. If Brigitte had been the bright, promising student falling headlong into a romance with a male professor who is 20 years older, would we still care?
As it happens, the partnership of Manu and Bibi finds its equivalent in American politics, since the age gap between The Donald and his third wife Melania is almost the same as that between the Macrons. I can’t wait for Macron to win the second round of voting for the presidency mainly because of the possibility of a meeting between them and the Trumps. What words of advice would Brigitte, acknowledged as a valuable partner and adviser of her husband, have to share with Melania? And what would the American president have to say in a tweet about this most unusual arrangement?
For me, one of the valuable lessons we can take away from this political love story is that experience, wisdom and maturity trump nubile charms anytime. We really don’t know the internal dynamics of the Macron marriage, but from appearances, it’s clear that Emmanuel values Brigitte for much more than just her fashion sense or vital statistics. It’s not the size of her bust that matters, but the quality of her mind.
Given that her husband has to duke it out with a woman candidate of the far Right who blames all of France’s woes on immigrants, we can only hope that Macron, who is described as either a social liberal or a social democrat, will successfully counter France’s (and Europe’s) dismaying turn toward jingoism and fascism. His and Brigitte’s enduring romance and marriage is proof enough that this candidate backs his brave words with decisive action.
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