Sunday morning found me shaking my head like a dog trying to get water out of her ear as I read the story on the front of the Times' Metro section about Diana Taylor, New York state banking superintendent and longtime girlfriend of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Taylor's all-but-in-the-bag nomination to replace Donald Powell as chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was recently blocked in a surprise move that some have speculated was the result of pressure from the tobacco or gun lobbies, in retaliation for Bloomberg's antigun policies or citywide smoking ban.
It's an intriguing tale; Taylor is more than worthy of the splashy feature about her that ran Sunday. And I won't lie; I was not dismayed by its initial whiff of Danielle Steel-ish drama: "By day, she regulates thousands of institutions in the nation's financial capital while he owns a multibillion-dollar business and runs a world-class city. By night, she is his much-photographed partner in the glittering social swirl." Cue the "Dallas" theme!
But things took a worrisome turn as I read writer Diane Cardwell call the couple's relationship "something of a novelty in government circles" and describe Taylor's behaviors -- hanging out at Bloomberg's house, attending events with him, telling the media that she's proud of him -- as if reporting on the mating habits of some exotic flying squirrel.
Bloomberg's feelings about his relationship receive the same quizzical attention. Cardwell reports that while the mayor occasionally makes "Take my girlfriend, please" jokes, he "appears devoted to his significant other" and last week skipped a White House dinner to celebrate Taylor's 51st birthday, explaining, "That has to be a very high priority on my list of things to do."
Fascinating! This "girlfriend" creature spends time with the mayor in public and private; they appear to like each other quite a lot; they may even have sex -- and yet they remain unmarried. What gives? Where is the ring? If he's getting so much milk for free, will he ever consider buying the cow?
You think I'm kidding. I'm not. "Still, the question arises," writes Cardwell in all seriousness: "After nearly six years of dating and with all they have in common, why have the two, who are both divorced, not married?"
What is this, 1964? Why is this a question? And why is Taylor, a Wall Street macher, a state banking executive and the center of a story about the influence of lobbies on federal appointments, required to answer it? Maybe she wondered the same thing, since as Cardwell notes, she pursed her lips "as if she had just swallowed cough syrup" before managing to spit out, "It's been five and half years, it's great."
But just as Cardwell describes Taylor as "much livelier when speaking of just about anything [but the subject of her relationship with Bloomberg], like her work bringing banks to low-income neighborhoods that have none," she's taking on the banking superintendent's "regrets about not having children of her own." It's unclear what Taylor's regrets are; Cardwell does not quote her on that subject but, rather, on the fact that she has cute nephews, which apparently shows "a silver-lining approach that she appears to take to adversity."
I had pretty much passed out by the time I got to Vogue editor Anna Wintour's appraisal of Taylor's wardrobe ("she obviously doesn't have that fear of fashion") but remained conscious enough to note that finally, in the last three paragraphs, Cardwell addresses Taylor's quashed FDIC nomination. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work," Taylor says of the experience. "You think you're in control and you're not."
Like when you do an interview with the New York Times 10 days after the collapse of your federal appointment and you wind up answering questions about why you're not hitched, don't have your own kids and steer clear of pantsuits?