The most amazing detail about the Petraeus affair, which continues to serve up bizarre amazing details by the hour. According to Washingtonian magazine, Paula Broadwell and her husband Scott did in fact enjoy their romantic Friday night dinner at the Inn at Little Washington, following a romantic weekend out of an ad for the Virginia tourist association: hikes, bike rides, and a room at the romantic Middleton Inn. Have I used the “romantic” enough times? Having gotten engaged there myself, I can assure you that the Inn at Little Washington is a factory of “romantic,” with its intimate booths and lovely herb garden and paths outside and very personal treatment. (In fact, if I recall correctly, my husband and I had menus which listed our places of employment up top, which is maybe only a Washingtonian’s idea of what might turn a couple on.)
Just to get the timeline straight, Slate broke the name of Petraues’ mistress on Friday evening, just around the time when the couple would have been sitting down to dinner. It’s possible that they made a rule to keep their phones back in the room of another inn where they were staying, and had no idea her name had become public. If not, how could they possibly have made it through dinner without someone emailing Broadwell and telling her what was up? Its possible she did see a text or email and yet somehow made it through dinner. (Fellow diners who’d seen her at breakfast that Friday morning described her as texting throughout.)
It’s possible, and maybe probable, given these details that her husband found out along with the rest of the world. The Washingtonian also reports that when they checked into the inn, her husband had a bottle of Champagne and a bouquet of pink roses and white lilies waiting to mark her 40th birthday. And then they checked out “earlier than expected” on Saturday morning and Scott Broadwell was described as “not talkative.”
But it’s also possible that when it comes to matters of the heart we understand exactly nothing. Vernon Loeb, the Washington Post reporter who co-wrote the biography with her, wrote about Broadwell: “She spoke with great affection about her husband, a surgical radiologist whom she’d met in the military, and her two young sons, whom she clearly adores.”
We like to say how things are, perhaps because we hope that’s how they might actually be. We attempt to name, identify, and define the most mysterious of matters: sex, love, marriage, monogamy, infidelity, death, loss, grief. We want these things to have an order, an internal logic, and we also want them to be connected to one another. We want it to be true that if we cheat on our spouse, it means we no longer want to be married to him or her. We want it to be true that if someone we love dies, we simply have to pass through a series of phases, like an emotional obstacle course from which we will emerge happy and content, unharmed and unchanged.