Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons

Dear Gov. Cuomo: Even if you're the boss — perhaps especially if you're the boss — when you're a 63-year-old man smitten by a lovely 20-something at the office, there are several considerations to keep in mind:

First: It's crucial to wait for her to make the first move. Anything else, and you're just asking for trouble.

Second: Don't hold your breath.

See, normal old duffers are restrained by the primal male fear of being laughed at by beautiful women. After all, how keen were you to romance women in their 60s when you were 22? You're edging into grandpa territory. Of course, if you were a normal old fool, you probably wouldn't be governor of anywhere, much less New York.

Third, then: Keep your bait in the water. A man who's rich and powerful enough won't have to wait forever, although he'll probably end up wishing he'd never met the adventurous young thing who takes it.

(A corollary: If you were a handsome young prince instead of an aging politician, they'd be coming after you like murder hornets, 24/7. But that's perhaps a topic for another time, the whole subject of hereditary monarchs being more suitable for Disney World than the opinion page.)

Anyway, wasn't Gov. Cuomo reading newspapers during the Clinton administration? Apparently, he was not. Even at that, Bill Clinton was a comparatively youthful 49 when a 22-year-old former intern dreaming of "presidential kneepads" showed him her thong. And look what happened to him.

But then nobody ever learns, do they? And a good thing too, because what else would we do for entertainment?

If my tone strikes you as too jocular, that's because I think the entire Cuomo sexual harassment incident is vastly overblown. If he quits, he quits, although I suspect he's going to ride it out. Meanwhile, they're having a full-scale judicial investigation of a politician who stands charged with sending flowers to all the women in the office, hugging them too long, even asking a woman he met at a wedding if he could kiss her.

I'm with columnist Froma Harrop, who reacted with mock horror: "Imagine an Italian kissing people at a wedding party." The offended wedding guest pronounced herself "confused and shocked and embarrassed," a reaction The New York Times and Washington Post treated with "utmost solemnity," Harrop noted.

Geez, I thought you were supposed to ask them. Me, I ended up getting married that way. But I digress.

"Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss, not an instrument of male domination in a patriarchal society," Harrop adds. "Or, in language sociologists might understand, it's 'a cultural construct.' Manhattan is home to a zillion cultures, each with its views and customs on kissing."

When my Uncle Tommy Connors married an Italian girl in Newark a million years ago, there was definitely a lot of kissing. Also wine and dancing. Not to mention amazing Italian food, a revelation to me at age 10. Aunt Mary turned out to be the warmest and kindest of my many aunts — a big hugger and kisser.

OK, so one woman says Cuomo put his hand under her blouse and fondled her, which, if that could be proved, would be the end of him. The governor says it never happened, and has issued a classic non-apology: "I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended," he said.

Oh, come off it, governor. You asked a young kid in the office if she'd consider having sex with a man in his 60s, and you're saying she misunderstood? No she didn't. "I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared," said accuser Charlotte Bennett in an interview with CBS's Norah O'Donnell.

Subjectively speaking, Bennett may need to get used to men acting like idiots in her company. But there are limits, even for egotistical politicians.

Cuomo insists he never touched anybody impurely, as they used to say in the confessional booth. Unless somebody can prove that he did, he'll likely get away with acting like an old rake. People are a little tired of feminist Puritanism; many Democrats remain unhappy with the purge of Sen. Al Franken. A lot of this is happening because the governor has long been seen as a bully and a jerk. Many New Yorkers are only too glad to see him taken down a few notches.

But he's not my governor; I can live with it either way. 

Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.

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