I saw a show last night on A & E called Sports Wives, where they followed Deanna Favre, Debbie Clemens, Charisse Strawberry and Pattie Petty in their daily lives. It was a fascinating show...part Cribs, part True Hollywood Story.
I thought Deanna Favre was the most "normal" of the women--a down-to-earth former tomboy from Hattiesburg, MS, who married her childhood sweetheart. Charisse Strawberry was a bit too holy-roller for my taste, and seemed to rationalize about her husband a lot, but she seemed like a good mother. After a while, I got sick of listening to Pattie Petty speak--her speaking voice seems naturally squeaky and raspy--but her story was the most compelling. She and her husband, NASCAR driver Kyle Petty (son of the more famous Richard Petty) lost their son Adam in a racecar crash at the age of 19, and during the taping of the show Pattie gets a call saying that a plane carrying a good friend and his family crashed, killing all on board. Surprisingly, however, the wife I'd probably want to spend any time with would probably be Debbie Clemens. She's charming, vivacious and strong. I liked watching her with her kids--all boys, and the way she handles Roger. The only thing that bothered me was the whole fashion-design end of things; frankly, I thought the stuff she was designing (and selling for upwards of $250 per item) was only getting produced and marketed because of her name rather than on its merit. But, to each his own.
Ultimately, though, the only outward differences between their lives and ours are that 1) they have huge houses, and 2) when things happen to them like they do, inevitably, to everyone, they get reported on the evening news.
I have actually been interested for a while in the wives of professional athletes, because in a way I think their lives mimic a much older pattern of marriage--that of a medeival lord and lady. If you think about it, medeival ladies of the manor were at the center of a relatively gigantic focus of wealth; they were seen as their husband's partner and equal in the work of running their combined property; and while it was common for the medeival husband to be gone on long crusades and to have a wandering eye, his lady was entitled in the most literal sense of the word--she was the carrier of the name, the bearer of his legitimate children, the key to the continuation of his recognized family line. Marriage wasn't necessarily just about soul mates in those times.
While I am making a judgement from afar, I think it's pretty much an open secret that athletes sleep around on the road, and of course it's plain fact that during their sports season, the wives "might as well be single parents," which is how Deanna Favre put it. The proportionate reward for these things, however, is that the wife in this case is entitled, just as the medeival wife was--to the spoils of her husband's wealth and notoriety, to be his partner in official appearances and endeavors, to be, essentially, the Chairman and CEO of the franchise that is his name, property and lineage.
I'd love to do more research on this. It would be great to either read more on or hear more from the wives of major figures in general, to find out about the unique and unusual position they fill as women in what are often thoroughly male spheres of existence. My theory is that any of the women who marry a star--be it an athlete, a rock star, or a high-ranking politician--do so with eyes open, aware of the unwritten agreements they are making. Or else they would not survive.