Here's a quality-of-life suggestion: Let us never hear about Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston again.
Can we do that? Are we strong enough to finally deep-six the trashy soap opera of this tawdry, dysfunctional, on-again, off-again teen parent duo whose only legitimate claim to attention is that Bristol Palin is the daughter of Republican juggernaut Sarah Palin?
Last week brought the news, if you can call it that, of their latest "secret" re-engagement - as told "exclusively" to Us magazine - closely followed by yet another break up this week - as told "exclusively" to People magazine, whose reporter then told it to the Today Show ( "They were hanging out and Levi said, 'By the way there's a chance I fathered another baby.' She said she sat on the couch crying and Levi did nothing to comfort her, just left.") I think we can safely conclude that even they will be healthier if we mercifully drop the curtain.
The image of Bristol Palin that will stay with me is a picture of her... shopping at Walmart. She looked like any other too-young mother - tired, distracted and wondering how to get through her day.
There has been so much exploitation of the Bristol/Levi saga that no one has clean hands. Not the media. Not the families. Even his sister writes a blog. In fact, the coverage represents the worst of what our gossip-driven media culture has become. In a never-ending loop, tacky media revelations about the couple fuel public prurience which in turn sparks a whole new round of trailer park disclosures.
Without that ever-ready spotlight, both kids might have behaved differently - maybe not entirely better, but differently.
This saga began, you recall, two years ago, when Ms. Palin, then Governor of Alaska, was chosen by the John McCain campaign to be his nominee for vice-president. Who can forget that stage perfect moment when Ms. Palin and her designer dressed family were introduced to the world at the Republican convention?
We all wanted to see exactly how this alpha female, a working mother of five children, including a baby born with Down syndrome, would convince America that she had what it takes to sit a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Despite her electoral defeat and then abrupt resignation as Governor (which conveniently allowed her to cash in on her popularity and make millions), Sarah Palin has since commandeered an astonishing swath of media air space. She has colonized the hard-working brains of pundits everywhere who still faithfully parse her political aspirations, her right-wing views, her Olympian ignorance and her folksy charm.
But that summer was also when we first heard, with an uh-oh thud, that her eldest daughter Bristol, 17, a high-school student, was pregnant by fellow student Levi Johnston (a hunk!), and they were "engaged" and planning to rear their child together. It was a Family Values moment for some, and an outrage for others who felt that Bristol was being sacrificed on the altar of her mother's fervent pro-life views.
"Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned," said the statement from the Palins after rumours of the pregnancy surfaced.
That summer seems like anage of innocence, although it was hardly that. Bristol Palin has indeed grown up fast - as a master media manipulator who has been amply rewarded for her moments of unprotected sex. She became America's most famous teen mother, grabbing the spotlight as a spokesperson for abstinence (which she had previously decried as "not realistic"), an actor (appearing on the teen-mom drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager) and a public speaker (whose price tag starts at $15,000). Hey, if this is teen pregnancy, forget the condoms!
Of course, baby daddy Johnston has been busy as well, posing for Playgirl, trashing his would-be mother-in-law, (telling Vanity Fair Ms. Palin can't even cook a family meal, let alone shoot a gun), and fighting for custody of his and Bristol's now 19-month-old son Tripp. As one New York Times columnist suggested, Levi became the greatest argument ever for teen abstinence.
Bristol recently summed up her current disillusionment with Levi: "He's just obsessed with the limelight and I got played." She is apparently back living with her parents because there are too many gawkers outside her Wasilla townhouse.
The image of Bristol Palin that will stay with me is a picture of her and her adorable toddler going shopping at Walmart. She looked like any other too-young mother - tired, distracted and wondering how to get through her day. That's what teen pregnancy looks like in the long haul, where the only "speaking engagement" involves hoping a friend will call so you can unload on her.
Bristol hasn't given up hope of finding a good man, she says, with whom she can raise her son.
Let's help her by sending her - and the badly-behaved hunk - back to the anonymity these resolutely unremarkable kids so richly deserve.
Perhaps we can revisit them down the road, when both Bristol and Levi have gone back to school to get educations and Tripp is a school kid.
But by then, hopefully, we won't give a damn.
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