Sandra Bullock Trades Hubby for Oscar

Sandra, James & Oscar

Sandra, James & Oscar

“The Sandra Bullock Trade
by David Brooks (

Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?…Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being.”


How ironic is it that in the very year that a female director Kathryn Bigelow cracks the glass ceiling to win the Oscar for Best Director, the real headline-grabber is a female actress whose husband’s mistress is caught with her pants down – revealing “White Pride” tattoos – or sleeveless, sporting a swastika armband? Brooks suggests that Sandra Bullock’s success tipped her husband into the arms of his Nazi-tattooed tootsie – and by implication, that a woman who enjoys “tremendous personal triumph” is headed for a “severe personal blow.”

Really? Ms. Bigelow seems to be weathering the storm of success quite nicely, thank you.  And isn’t Ms. Bullock’s husband, Jesse James,  a bad-boy biker with a history of breaking the law?  Was he really the guy-most-likely to hold a lady’s umbrella on the red carpet and keep his private urges in check?  Is it Oscar’s fault? Don’t thousands of women who don’t win Academy Awards or enjoy a “tremendous professional triumph” have cheating husbands?

Re: “Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being.”  Actually, all social bonds – including friendship, community, family, non-marital love and commitments (plus marriage) are what’s important in determining happiness. Excluding non-married people (singles, widows, divorced people, gays, lesbians, celibates, etc.) from feelings of happiness and legitimacy creates unhappiness.  It’s not being married or unmarried that counts – it’s what you do with your life and how you feel about yourself and your relationships.

Ms. Bullock’s academy award is a very real achievement – and a sense of accomplishment can bring happiness.  As a teacher, I give my students gold stars when they successfully complete their assignments. We all like acknowledgment – on and off the red carpet. Unfortunately, Ms. Bullock’s husband’s behavior – the consequences of which are vastly magnified by the glare of public scrutiny is, to say the least, non-supportive – but should hardly come as a major shock. When a girl marries a bad boy, she gets excitement – but that may not add up to slippers-by-the-fireside security.

Other famous women have dealt with this issue.  Lucille Ball, whom I interviewed for my book Queens of Comedy, had a passionate, but troubled marriage with her first husband Desi Arnaz, a handsome, magnetic, touring bandleader whose babalu charm was catnip for the ladies. Did Lucy’s enormous public success bother him and contribute to his womanizing? Maybe. After their divorce, she picked a second husband who allowed her to be the star in public – but provided a safe haven in private.

If a woman is talented and ambitious, must she give up either her career or all hopes for a happy relationship?  I think either choice leads to frustration – and is not one that Mr. Brooks would consider for himself.  Feeling that she must make this trade-off (success vs. personal happiness)  is very undermining to a woman’s confidence and ability to achieve and enjoy her success.  I think it would be better to encourage women and men to live out their dreams – and look for partners and friends who support them.  Jesse James is not the only fish in Ms. Bullock’s pond.

It takes thought, negotiation, and a bit of luck to combine public success with a happy private life. Success and public acclaim can breed envy in our nearest and dearest.  This is true whether we win Oscars or flattering attention at a party. Sometimes, it’s possible to share the spotlight or not drag our partner/friend/relative into arenas where we shine and he/she is in the shadows. It’s not easy. Some relationships are keepers, and sometimes it’s better to throw that fish back in the water.  Sailing our fishing boats through the turbulent waters of relationships is a challenge – an “if.” That is what it’s all about  – how to be happy if…

Happiness Habits

  • Cultivate and value positive relationships and accomplishments.
  • If you like the spotlight, pick a partner/friend who is happy to let you shine
  • Share the glory and thank your supporter(s).
  • If you don’t like/don’t get public attention, remember – your behind-the-scenes support is crucial – a loyal partner lets you know that.
  • Undermining the “star” by bad behavior tends to backfire. Are there other ways to get what you need?
  • Question what you read/hear/see in the media – and test the opinions of experts (including mine) against your personal experience.

“No matter what the music, learn how to dance!”
Dr. Susan Horowitz (aka Dr. Sue) is a Motivational Speaker, Media Host, Singer-Songwriter “CD: Dr. Sue “Keys of Love” , Author of “Queens of Comedy” (Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Ellen DeGeneres etc.) “Read with Me” (Children’s Book of the Month Club), “I Am Loved” (Inspirational Poetry) “Blog: HOW TO BE HAPPY IF” Twitter: @howtobehappyif
copyright 2010 Dr. Susan Horowitz (aka Dr. Sue)


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