July 5, 2005 | It was a Saturday morning in the Fall of 1998 when the sound of my beeper woke me up from a deep sleep. I was so tired from a week of grueling production work at my CNN job, that I wasn't sure if the sound of the beeper was just ringing in my head, a dream, or an actual new page. I grumpily fumbled for the beeper and sure enough—it was my office bugging me again. As I called in, I thought to myself, "What could be so urgent that they have to beep me on my only day off? Was it another plane crash, school shooting, or perhaps a - murder story?"My boss on the other end of the phone picked up and said, "Hey Aliza! Monica was just spotted at a café in Soho. Can you go down there and try to talk to her and get her to do the show?"

My boss, of course, was referring to an interview with Monica Lewinsky, the infamous White House intern, who was what we considered in the TV business the "biggest get" at the time. It was my job to reel her in for the "Larry King Live" show in any way possible, including practically stalking her, following her to cafés and trying to run into her in public bathrooms.

My stomach sank, as I realized that yet another glorious day of my life was about to be wasted on the "Monica chase." I remember saying to myself that there has to be another reason I was put on this earth, besides getting Monica Lewinsky on Larry King. God must have other plans for me.

I had already invested quite a lot of time chasing Monica. The first time I met her was at Larry King's book signing and cocktail party in Washington, D.C. I had invited her through her lawyers and was quite surprised when she decided to attend. When she arrived, the whole Larry King staff was a bit dazzled. She was quite vivacious, clever and pretty in person. She was excellent at cocktail party talk and we could see how President Clinton had been enchanted by her. I will never forget when she was introduced to Wolf Blitzer, CNN's White House correspondent, who was also vying for an interview with her. She said to him without missing a beat, "Oh, you may think this is the first time we met, Mr. Blitzer, but I actually met you before, when I worked in the White House Press Room. I used to hand out information to reporters before the briefing sessions." Then she smirked: "you never paid much attention to me then—now I bet you wish you had!"

I rather liked Monica, perhaps because she was a bit like me, and had been part of a world that I also dabbled in. We were both nice, chubby, middle-class Jewish girls who had big spirits and big goals. Through the months I would speak to her on the phone as well as her lawyers, mother, step-father and aunt on a semi-regular basis. Our conversations were superficial and centered on me trying to get her to like me, trust me, and like Larry King enough to give him the first interview with her. But what I really wanted to do was scold her like a big sister for being so foolish, to have believed that the President really liked her and cared about her. I wanted to talk to her about the sorry state of male-female relations in America. Part of me believed (maybe it was silly) that she had also come to the conclusion that being physical with a man before marriage was a dead-end road of misery and shame.

By the time I met her, I was about 10 years past my own Washington intern days. I was all too familiar with that world Monica had entered, full of young post-pubescent girls who go to Washington and flirt with powerful, but also married men, most of whom have no scruples or ethics. I was enchanted by it too, but also sickened—simultaneously—but we all knew at that time that this was the game to be played to get a job, or to just have a really good summer.

Monica was the most infamous example of a disturbing subculture in America: young interns and married men. The tragedy of this culture is played out in many other less glamorous situations each year. Monica became the public symbol of the desperate means women go to to be loved, accepted and feel special. While most women obviously don't have affairs with the President, she was a tragic figure to all of us because our culture also makes us feel that we, too, have to use casual sex to feel validated and worthwhile.

That was why when I was beeped on that Saturday morning I was so sad and
angry. Sad because Monica reminded me of the current male/female imbalance that I too was suffering from, and angry because I was forced to glorify and honor her regularly to do my job. I knew at this moment I was on the brink of an existential breakdown. Where was the public moral outcry? Instead people were defending the President, his wife and Monica, as if it was all very normal behavior. Didn't anybody see right from wrong anymore? I felt that my world had become chaos.

It was this breakdown that led me to look more deeply into the teachings of traditional Judaism. I was looking for a system of how the world was supposed to be organized, and how men and women were supposed to interact. I was looking for a framework that restored the security and honor women deserved. And I was looking for a framework where both men and women wanted to be married and have families. Finally, I was looking for the answer to what God really had in mind for me.

A year after the Monica breakdown ( I never did get her on the show), I took a three-month leave of absence and went to Israel to study at the women's seminary Neve Yerushalayim. After two months, I knew I had to stay to learn more and quit my job. Six years later, I am now married to a wonderful man and have two beautiful children. All are things I don't think I could have ever accomplished if I had continued on my previous trajectory. Monica, too, wants these things. If you remember, the last words she said in her interview with Barbara Walters is that she hopes to be married with children someday. These are the things that most women want, but only those of us who make unconventional choices and bold steps against the stream will attain them.

Aliza Bloom attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Columbia University's School of Journalism. Before working for Larry King, she was a Foreign Affairs Aide for Congressman Charles Schumer and a producer with MSNBC. She currently lives in New Jersey.




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