"You don't do the things that I do. You want to do things I can't do. Always something breaking us in two.” – Joe Jackson
One of the most public marriages in New York City is now undergoing a very public separation.
Almost as if they were launching a political campaign or a major policy initiative, Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray gave an exclusive interview to The New York Times to put a positive spin on what most couples would consider to be sad news: They’re breaking up.
“You can feel when things are off,” de Blasio told The Times’ Matt Flegenheimer, “and you don’t want to live that way."
A colleague summed up the surprising developments in an email to me on Wednesday morning: “Them separating seemed impossible to me BUT them separating by saying they’ll live together, date other people, and announcing it in a three-hour interview with Matt Flegenheimer that includes de Blasio singing to him at the end is actually the most de Blasio thing I can imagine.”
While we almost never know what goes on behind closed doors, the “Bill and Chirlane” show was largely a political hit that helped de Blasio get elected mayor. McCray was a prominent part of many of de Blasio’s mayoral press conferences for much of his eight years. Depending on where you sat, the mayor’s very-effusive and very-public dotings toward his wife were either extremely romantic, or a little TMI and gushily over the top. Either way, it was an emotional sea-change from Michael Bloomberg, who seemed pretty unsentimental despite being born on Valentine’s Day, or Rudy Giuliani, who suddenly announced he was getting divorced in a mayoral press conference.
Bill and Chirlane were very 21st Century New York; bi-racial, hip and living in Park Slope with two kids. But somewhere along the political line, things clearly got tough for them, and they wanted a big change.
So how to tell people? The plan to do an end-run around the New York tabloids was also a classic de Blasio move that got a classic de Blasio result. In Thursday’s papers, The Times placed its major scoop on page 21. The News? Page 3. And it was a screaming front-page story in the New York Post with an accompanying rabid Andrea Peyser column in which she dubbed the couple “freaks” and called de Blasio “Gotham’s worst-ever leader.” (I guess she never covered Jimmy Walker or Abe Beame.)
Despite the couple’s Panglossian take on things, it’s a sad end to a political era that already seems like ancient history. Putting a marriage through the political wringer can be a tough process. Resist rolling your eyes and give them a break.