One thing no real man, much less a gentleman, does is leave a woman who is carrying his child to pursue another woman. It’s a sad statement on our society that men can do this and not be ostracized by society.
Kevin Federline is a lightweight, not normally deserving of much comment, except to illustrate how and it’s participants can go. Federline, a high school drop out, was a dancer for a number of top pop acts, including Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson. Federline dated minor actress Shar Jackson and had a daughter with her in 2002; Jackson was pregnant with their second child in 2004 when Federline started dating pop princess Britney Spears. He became engaged to Spears on June 25, 2004. His second child with Jackson was born on July 20, 2004; he married Spears on September 18, 2004. But, as is not always the case, he got as he gave. After having two more childen with Spears in rapid order, she filed for divorce from him in November of 2006 after two years of marriage. If he had hoped that the marriage to the famous pop icon would jump start his career, he was sadly mistaken. His attempted career as a model, actor, and rapper quickly fizzed among embarrassing reviews and lack of public interest. By 2011 Federline had a fifth child with a third woman, and was fighting serious weight gain. Other than child support from Spears, he had no clear source of income. Lesson: Dumping your pregnant wife to marry a star is not necessarily a good career move.
Unlike Federline, Laird Hamilton seems to be a man’s man. The professional surfer and extreme sportsman stands 6’3” and weighs 220. Hamilton has jumped off a 125 foot sea cliff, paddled across the English Channel on a surfboard, and invented different ways of riding the waves, but it was the death defying 50 foot wave ride that vaulted him to fame. Laird married Brazilian body boarder Maria; in 1995 the couple had their first child, Izabella. Laird admits to having broken both hands “by hitting oak doors instead of people.” Even among his friends he is known as a man who can be both loving and cruel, and not someone to be crossed. In mid 1995 he met volleyball star and model Gabrielle Reece; Reece is a beauty who has leveraged her career as an athlete into a modeling and television career, and dated a number of famous athletes. Elle magazine listed her as one of the five most beautiful women on earth. Even when Hamilton had become the world’s preeminent wave rider, he had a hard time turning that into commercial success; a challenge already conquered by Reece; her branded Nike shoes were the first to outsell the Air Jordans made famous by basketball superstar Michael Jordan, and she had her own TV show featuring extreme sports.
One week after meeting Reece, Hamilton left his wife and newborn baby to court Reece. “He lost all his friends,” says one acquaintance. “People got bitter. I didn’t know who he was anymore. Hamilton and Reece married in 1997. Hamilton, not changed a bit by the marriage, conquered bigger and bigger waves, including one wave in Tahiti in Jan 2000 that was so big, so thick, and so dangerous, that it left onlookers speechless, and cemented Lairds mythology in the surfing world. Hamilton was not impressed; she filed for divorce in January 2001. She appeared on the cover of Playboy, and was seen with sports superstars like Charles Barkley and Tiger Woods. At this point, the story would seem not too different from that of Kevin Federline; Hamilton meets big name star, dumps wife and child, then is dumped by new wife. But perhaps because Hamilton is much more man than Federline will ever be – or perhaps because Reece is a much more mature and thoughtful woman than Spears – the ending might be quite different.
Hamilton pretty quickly decided that “I have to behave differently”. His wife said, “We realized there is a ton of love there, so we dusted ourselves off, asked for forgiveness, and vowed we’re going to do better this time.” They reconciled, and built a new house near Hamilton’s ex-wife and first child. And his career is doing better. It’s interesting to note that both Federline and Hamilton, completely different as men, and both willing to accept the help of big name women, feel compelled to make it on their own. Federline’s attempt to make a career as a rapper was a complete failure, but nonetheless an attempt. As Federline told a men’s magazine in 2006 before their split, his need to make his own money was “something my wife has had to learn about me”. As Hamilton told Men’s Journal: “I’m trying to have a house and family and all this stuff, so as the man, I have to create support. Even though my wife’s successful, that has nothing to do with my feeling of accomplishment. That’s in my genetic makeup from Adam and Eve. So this (making a living) is my wild animal hunt.”
Despite the jump start from his wife, his career is still following a very macho direction. He’s done stunt work in a James Bond film, and his company is called BamMan productions, as in Be A Man, which stars both Hamilton and Reece in extreme sports TV shows and movies, including the surfing documentary Riding Giants.
Do these two stories indicate when its okay to leave a pregnant women for a more beautiful or successful wife? Of course not – the answer is never. No man leaves a newborn child of his own accord. And since we already know that there isn’t much justice in this world, we shouldn’t be surprised that neither man will be the worse off for having done so. Federline will eventually return to a well deserved obscurity, but, in the meantime, he had his day in the sun, receives generous child support from Spears, and will remain a minor celebrity as the father of Spears’ two children. His own rap music was probably no worse than much of the stuff that becomes successful, but the public was in no mood to embrace Britney’s man. Federline is a shallow man who got what he deserved. Hamilton is a real achiever in his own right – a man who faced down nature in its most elemental force. But in the final analysis any man who leaves a pregnant woman is less of a man for having done that. And certainly not a gentleman.
(Men’s Journal, Last Man Standing, July 2004)