He's Back!

Article excerpt

Byline: Rebecca Dana

You may not like it, but Maria Shriver is giving Ahhnold a second chance.

Don't do it, Maria!

That is what anyone with a sense of a woman's dignity was thinking last week when reports emerged that Maria Shriver was considering reconciliation with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilder emeritus and former governor of California who, over at least 14 years, exercised his sordid droit du seigneur over the family maid.

"I just don't see much of a future here," says divorce lawyer Raoul Felder, with rare understatement. "What is she thinking, that something is going to be different now?" It was less than a year ago that Schwarzenegger's spectacular betrayal came to light: a prolonged affair with Mildred "Patty" Baena, the family's housekeeper. The ugliness of the infidelity was compounded by the abuse of power at the heart of a relationship between a public figure and his domestic help. We soon learned that the liaison with Baena had resulted in a bouncing gap-toothed child. Stories then poured forth of Arnold's dog days: a pattern of such promiscuity as to make Tiger Woods look like a bashful cub.

Forget the dissembling, forget the years she spent defending him against allegations of sexual misconduct. We cheered Shriver when she summoned her self-respect and ditched Ahhnold, even as he marauded around Hollywood, sweating through an "I Survived Maria" T-shirt. She moved out of the couple's mansion. She reinvented herself as a leaner Oprah, launching a blog and website devoted to "ideas, inspiration." She made a documentary about Alzheimer's, the disease that afflicted her father, Sargent. She recently interviewed Lady Gaga at a young women's conference in Brentwood, Calif., for heaven's sake, as part of her self-invention as a totem of female empowerment.

By refusing to bow to the humiliation, she followed in the path of other defiant women--Jenny Sanford, Elin Nordegren--who refused to go through the public rituals of a scorned wife: the greasy mea culpas, the standing by your man.

And then, boom: Shriver and Schwarzenegger are spotted virtually canoodling at the Ivy, the cheesy Santa Monica restaurant where celebrities go specifically to be seen. …