Why would a Congressman sext?
I don't know Anthony Weiner, but as a writer, I think my job is to watch the world with empathetic eyes and try to imagine his motivation (Note: empathy ? sympathy; imagine ? defend; motivation ? excuse).
I imagine the power of the titillation of one's own naughty pictures exchanged with strangers — the secretiveness, the fragility of that secretiveness, the sense of (false) trust and therefore intimacy formed from that fragility, the hope that a stranger might approve and reciprocate.
In other words, he probably sent those photos for the same reasons that motivate all the other (usually younger) people engaging in the exact same behavior. In 2009, the Pew Center reported that about 15 percent of teenagers had received nude photographs of someone they knew, while about four percent of teenagers had sent such material. Using a broader definition of "sexting," other surveys have reported much higher percentages.
When I set out to write Long Gone, I thought the book was about Alice Humphrey, a woman who suddenly realized at the age of 37 that she had nothing to show for her life. The book would explore how her desperate need to believe she'd landed a dream job leads to her ultimate nightmare. But funny things happen when you set out to tell a story. Sometimes other characters show up, insisting on their proper place.
And as I was writing about Alice, I kept hearing from an insecure suburban teenager named Becca Stevenson. Becca is getting text messages from star jock Dan Hunter, the kind of guy who doesn't usually pay attention to the Beccas of the world. C'mon. Just a little peek. I won't tell anyone... You know you want to.
When I hear from characters, I listen. I don't know whether their stories will make it the page now or later, but I always know it's worth listening. To my surprise, I came to believe that Becca's story belonged with Alice's. And knowing her story forced me to imagine what it would be like to be a teenager today.
I remembered the thrill of working alone in the darkroom with that guy from my Vis Comm class. I realized how different the experience would have been if we'd both had cell phone cameras to try to make those relatively (but not entirely) innocent stolen moments last forever. I could imagine why Becca would be drawn in by Dan's not-so-subtle invitations. C'mon. Just a little peek. I won't tell anyone.... You know you want to.
All these journalists keep asking the same question about Anthony Weiner, "What was he thinking?" He wasn't. He was chasing the same thing as Becca, but as a 46-year-old Congressman.