Flights of folly

Jennifer Wilbanks

Is it a full moon?

I was going to pass on the Jennifer Wilbanks "Runaway Bride" story. I figured it was best to let such an absurdity pass with as little note as possible. That was before I surfed across CNN carrying a live press conference by her pastor reading a statement.

Hardly had Ms Wilbanks turned up missing but the cable networks went baying after the story like so many hounds chasing a fox. Mercifully, fox-hunting is now banned in Britain, but here in the US cable news is still legal.


And there seems nothing cable news likes better than a missing-woman story. But when Ms Wilbanks turned up in New Mexico and was found out to have just run away — not been kidnapped and raped as she first alleged — you would think the media would drop the story. I mean, it's not like there's nothing else of importance going on in the world.

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But no. CNN — "the world's news leader" — has kept on milking the story. So today they carried the reading of her statement, live. According to Wilbanks' statement, dramatically read by a Baptist minister, she didn't run away because she had cold feet. Rather, she was fleeing "certain fears controlling my life" and "had issues." The minister could not, however, identify those fears and asserted that she was not "strong enough" to appear personally to explain herself.

Puh-leeze! She was strong enough to make it from Georgia to Albuquerque, New Mexico. She could walk unassisted through the airport (albeit with a police escort) wearing a towel over her head to return to Georgia. She's "strong enough" to stand in front of a microphone.

Puh-leeze! She was planning a wedding with 14 bridesmaids, 14 groomsmen, and 600 guests. As Freud said — or should have, if he didn't — sometimes a cucumber is just a cucumber and cold feet are just cold feet.

And now we're supposed to feel sorry for her, supposed to be understanding?

In the coming days, I fully expect that we will be introduced to an endless succession of psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, counselors, and other "helping professions" who will expound at length — having never met Ms Willbanks, of course — on her state of mind; on what she's "going through" and what she's "been through"; on the significance of marriage to women in contemporary American life; on coping strategies; on facing one's fears; et cetera. Perhaps Senator Dr Frist will even look at her billboard picture and make a diagnosis.

There will be interviews with the fiance, with his family, with her family, with neighbors, with members of the postponed wedding party. Then, there will be her dramatic reappearance after therapy, with appearances on all the morning TV shows. For sure, she will be interviewed by Katie Couric, not Matt Lauer. Then there will be the book, which she will write so she "can help just one woman avoid what I went through" — and make a lot of money, too.

Self-indulgence has clearly gotten out of hand.

And speaking of making money! Enterprising folks have flooded eBay with over 250 items of Jennifer Willbanks memorabilia for sale.

peanut toast t-shirt wedding invitation For sale on E-Bay Missing bride found on a peanut ($0.99); on toast ($550); cheap T-shirt ($3.99); authentic wedding invitation ($232).

At least someone has a proper attitude toward this sorry affair.