May is "Spurned Woman Month"!

With reality star Kate Gosselin on the cover of four tabloids, it seems that America just can't get enough of wronged wives.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published May 14, 2009 8:18PM (EDT)

Was it just over a year ago that Silda Spitzer stood bravely by her man? Remember cringing for her dignity, wondering if she didn’t just want to tell the world how pissed off she was? Well, open up the whupass, because May just might turn out to be Spurned Woman Month.

Last week we took our first faltering, collective steps away from Stiff Upper Lip Land, with Italy's Veronica Lario. Closer to home, we have Elizabeth Edwards. But Edwards still plays the part of the political wife, acknowledging her pain while keeping the source of it firmly at arm's length. So it takes a woman with no political ties, one whose bailiwick is reality television, to give America what it really wants from these adulterous dramas -- a little righteous, exasperated indignation.

Kate Gosselin, the ubermom and costar of TLC’s "Jon & Kate Plus 8," graces the cover of no less than four magazines this week for her husband’s alleged dalliance. After Jon was photographed last month, sans wedding ring, stepping out with 23-year-old Deanna Hummel, Gosselin didn’t hesitate to go into public smackdown mode. Kate, never one to mince words, told Larry King soon after that "Jon is dealing poorly" with their life in the public eye. Now, she declares "WE MIGHT SPLIT UP" from the cover of the new People.

But while it's rather cathartic to see a woman who's been embarrassed by her mate's shenanigans call him out on it in an equally grand way, there’s something dishearteningly knee-jerky about the reaction. Inevitably, at the first whiff of Jon's extracurricular activities, the tabloids turned around and alleged that Kate's been stepping out as well, with her bodyguard (a rumor she vehemently denies).

More tellingly, however, is the weirdly intense investment the public has in maintaining the status quo. Newsday is running a poll about whether the Gosselins should stay together. People's results are already in: An astonishing 76 percent of the respondents said they should. "Readers are holding out hope!" the accompanying analysis chirps.

In her interview, Gosselin herself says, "I will never give up hope that every member of our family can be absolutely happy again." It doesn't matter if you're the wife of a president or a governor or a reality TV queen. Cheating is bad, sure, but breaking up? A tragedy! The sobering implication for American women is that staying together, even if you're a tough-talking, straight-shooting dame, even if the father of your kids is off partying with a 23-year-old, remains the one true path to "happiness." Where's Christie Brinkley when we need her?

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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