Have you ever had a moment where you wonder exactly how bad you should feel for Ruth Madoff and the specific things you should feel bad about for her? Don't worry: the New York Times did it for you.
Today's Times Styles section piece pretty much encapsulates everything that's wrong with them: Why We Should Feel Bad For Ruth Madoff. Seriously. It's called "The Loneliest Woman In New York." This one writes itself.
The piece's byline belongs to one Lynnley Browning, a Times Business reporter who clearly wanted to get close to the Madoff action. And here she is, face pressed against the window that is Ruth Madoff's life right now. It's a fascinating portrait, really: she's stuck in her Upper East Side apartment! She can't go anywhere and she can only spend money on food! Which sounds like a really nice Saturday! Browning has a different kind of opening, though:
She used to get foil highlights every six weeks - her shade is Soft Baby Blonde, and she was religious about color - but the last time she called her Manhattan salon, Pierre Michel on East 57th Street, she was told not to return. "I understand," she said, according to the salon's co-owner.
Browning then proceeds to do a rundown of the other people who've ostracized Madoff and the things that've become out of reach to her: a florist in Amagansett, her kids (who have started referring to their parents as "Ruth" and "Bernie"), the gym she can no longer work out at, the Italian restaurant down the street they owe a tab to, the other Italian restaurant she used to frequent but can't (because Bernie swindled too many regulars there), etc. She paints Ruth as having a lonely, solitary existence, one in which the walls are closing in on her:
Even in her exile, Mrs. Madoff's world is rapidly getting smaller. Victims of the scheme are pushing the bankruptcy trustee and federal prosecutors to sell anything they can, including the couple's penthouse, which was used to help secure Mr. Madoff's bail; it could be seized after Mr. Madoff's sentencing, which is scheduled for June 29.
And there's a vague element of culpability placed on Ruth in the article, but clearly: not enough. Anything that paints Ruth as lonely and sad in any regard in utterly insane. Her husband took thousands of organizations, non-profits, and families, and absolutely hosed them, and she was right there by his side, knowingly doing his bidding. So when the Times counts off all the different concessions Ruth has had to make over the last few months, even down to what she's wearing...
Before the scandal, Mrs. Madoff radiated an understated sense of taste. She favored slim black pants, fine-gauge white cotton crew necks, Susan Bennis Warren Edwards crocodile-leather flats and classic gold jewelry, according to a friend of the family who saw her regularly at gatherings. Now Mrs. Madoff spends her days largely confined to the two-story four-bedroom penthouse on 64th Street near Lexington Avenue, dressed in jeans and an Oxford-style shirt, according to someone who is in touch with her regularly.
...it looks ridiculous, and totally oblivious. And not that we're the last word on sensitivity around here, but come on: the woman invoked marital privilege, she's going to get off clear and free for a crime she was fairly implicit in. There're thousands of stories about people who've had to make concessions because of her husband, and the Times Style section - ever of the people - just spent a few thousand words about Ruthie's pizza bill and visiting hours. Thrifty.
Federal, White Collar Criminals: they're just like us!