Dear Tell All: I'm trying to make sense of the revelation that Madison-based track legend Suzy Favor Hamilton secretly worked as a high-priced prostitute in Las Vegas for the past year. I've followed Favor Hamilton from her days as a running phenom at the University of Wisconsin through her Olympic appearances. With her wholesome cover-girl looks and personality, she was America's sweetheart!
I can't believe that this respectable businesswoman, corporate spokesperson, motivational speaker, wife and mother would charge $600 an hour for sex with strangers. The racy pictures she posted as "Kelly" make me sick. What is the world coming to?
Dear Shock: I have only an associate's degree in Advice-ology, but that won't stop me from hazarding a psychiatric evaluation. In interviews from before the scandal, Favor Hamilton spoke of the pressure she felt during her running career. Then there was the pressure she must have felt as a model, to always look good; and the pressure she must have felt as a spokesperson and a motivational speaker, to always be respectable. Favor Hamilton has described herself as a "pleaser," and that surely made the pressure more intense. It's no wonder she struggled with depression and an eating disorder.
In this context, her behavior begins to make sense. Well, maybe "sense" is the wrong word. No matter how we try to put her actions in a rational context, they will remain a mystery. In the realm of sexuality, people have always acted bizarrely contrary to their own self-interest. Favor Hamilton joins Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer and others who've been pilloried in the public square for letting their libidos run the show.
Maybe we can skip the pillorying this time. Favor Hamilton didn't kill anyone or steal anything. In attempting to explain herself, she said that, at 44, she was looking for relief from her midlife routine. A lot of people can relate to that, even if they can't relate to having sex with strangers for $600 an hour.
If Favor Hamilton is guilty of anything, it's of being human. In my mind, that's a venial sin.