THERE HAS YET to appear a US-media article that ‘gets’ Segolene Royal. Apparently hypnotized–like a scarily high percentage of potential French voters–by her own suggestion, they embrace the Presidential candidate as a cross between Catherine Deneuve and Cardinal Richelieu.
But Royal reminds me more of the girl who was the head of our class for the last two years of high school. I’ll call that straight-A paragon Carolyn Q. Her father happened to be our new Principal, but he ignored her and she him; in fact, in the beginning, we felt kind of sorry for her awkward status. Carolyn was glassily good-looking, tall and slender, brown curls framing a porcelain complexion. If the pink bloom on her lips and high cheekbones came out of a drugstore compact, we other girls never saw her use it. Serene and focused Carolyn was never late for class. Nor did she ever lose her temper, fall apart over a poor grade (of course there were none) or fail to get the lead in the drama club musicals. She was immune to our everyday, hormonally-induced miseries— acne flare-ups, food rages, pms, the tampax that fails in the middle of an exam. She never confessed to a crush on anyone, boy or girl, young or old, and if she dated it must have been in some rarified social sphere out of bounds to the rest of us. She seemed proof incarnate that outward purity is a sign of inner virtue—or vice versa. Only a few girls from the marginal bohemo-goth clan muttered that for such a brain, Carolyn never said what she thought about anyone or anything.
She had no friends. But she didn’t seem to know that.
She pulled a straight 800 on the SAT’s and was accepted at Harvard.
What comes next probably has nothing to do with Segolene Royal (who with admirable loyalty stands by the brother who helped plan and execute the lethal attack on the Rainbow Warrior.) A few days before graduation—at which event Carolyn Q. would sweep the prizes, from Physics to Advanced French—a rumor burned its way through the school faster and hotter than the ignition wire leading to a bomb. The explosion of the truth-bomb, to belabor the metaphor, rained an ashy fallout all over our graduation. The news was simply this: that Principal Q. had been summarily relieved of all duties by the school board, on account of having been discovered, after anonymous denunciation and months of secret investigation, to be a complete fraud. His Yale and Oxford degrees, his international C.V. as an educator, previous addresses, apparently even the name of Q—all a brilliantly constructed and marketed fiction.
Carolyn came to her graduation. She walked up the aisle alone for each prize wearing a gracious, firm smile. I’m sure all of us who watched were thinking more or less the same thing: wow- that must take incredible will-power. But by then, no one felt sorry for her anymore.
No forced parallels. No analysis, for now. Just a sense of deja-vue.