November 3rd, 2009
02:28 PM ET

Defending Jon Gosselin!

With the World Series ending soon, America will soon be able to focus on its other national pastime: bashing Jon Gosselin. Ever since Gosselin and his wife Kate split, and Jon started partying it up with a much younger woman,  many have  gleefully ridiculed him as a negligent father, a wannabe playboy and your basic Class-A dog.

Now, Jon’s admitting his sins. This past weekend he appeared before cameras at a New York synagogue to apologize to his ex-wife for his behavior. In choosing such a public forum, Jon was also offering an implicit apology to those of us who’ve followed, and disapproved of, his post-breakup antics. It’s an apology we should accept. It may be my basic sense of fair play (or my Y chromosome) talking here, but Jon Gosselin is getting a bum rap. Here’s why:

1.)    We all saw this coming –  Back when the titular family of  “Jon & Kate Plus 8” was still intact, viewers picked up on two simple facts: 1.) the eight kids were adorable and 2.) Kate wasn’t very nice to Jon. Kate habitually bossed, belittled and berated Jon, often in front of the children. Jon and Kate’s troubling marital dynamic became so entrenched in popular culture that even non –watchers became aware of it. In fact, some people I know who are now on the “I Hate Jon” bandwagon used to actually pity Jon and openly wonder when Kate’s antics would make him snap. Well, after their split, Jon did snap; he careened headfirst into a boozy sea of European yacht parties, willing young women and ugly Ed Hardy T-shirts. Acceptable behavior for a father of eight? No. Understandable behavior for someone first tasting independence after a long and one-sided relationship? Definitely.

2.)    Breakups are hard.  We all know that people sometimes act out a bit after they’ve ended a long relationship.  It’s a painful process that sometimes takes years to work through. If Jon’s truly over it now, as he says he is, it will have only taken him a little over four months. Again, not an ideal situation but an understandable one.

3.)    Kate hasn’t been perfect either.   Jon hasn’t cornered the market on questionable post-divorce behavior. Kate’s rushed on to almost every major daytime TV show to complain about divorce matters best settled privately in court. And by giving tacit approval to TLC’s ruthless campaign to savage Jon’s reputation and salvage the “Kate Plus 8” empire, Kate arguably has complicated this split every bit as much as Jon (who, it should be noted, helped build that empire) has. No, two wrongs don’t make a right. But when two people each stack up an impressive list of “wrongs” and only one gets called on it, something isn’t right.

It’s only natural that we take sides in the Jon and Kate breakup; we each have our own experiences, values, and ideas about relationships that can’t help but influence how we react to this very public split. But by endlessly bashing one or both parties in this saga, we ignore a sad truth: that Jon and Kate both are doing what they think is best for themselves and their children during a terrible ordeal – an ordeal that many of us have either witnessed or experienced ourselves. Yes, Jon and Kate have each earned some well-deserved criticism for their actions. Still, they both deserve some compassion as well.

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