Do let us know when you’ve got enough for a trio, won’t you?
These days, the closest I come to public performance is at a neighbourhood karaoke bar in New York…. One night last year, I was waiting my turn to sing when a woman spotted my name on the list. “Jian!” she said to me. “Your name is Jian? Ha! Hey, you know who ruined that name for you?” …For me, it was just another day in the life of the notorious Jian. She apologized and said all the right things…. Mostly I felt bad because she felt bad. But then we rallied and sang a duet together. And then we became friends and are regularly in touch. Chalk up one more human being who no longer thinks I’m a creep.
—Jian Ghomeshi, New York Review of Books, Oct. 11, 2018.
And, since then, I’ve dedicated my life to finding the real chokers
In October 2014, I was fired from my job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after allegations circulated online that I’d been abusive with an ex-girlfriend during sex. In the aftermath of my firing, and amid a media storm, several more people accused me of sexual misconduct. I faced criminal charges including hair-pulling, hitting during intimacy in one instance, and the most serious allegation, on consensual choking while making out with a woman on a date in 2002. I pleaded not guilty. Several months later, after a very public trial, I was cleared on all counts.
Get that—female? Female friends!
One of my female friends quips that I should get some kind of public recognition as a #MeToo pioneer.
No, they can’t take that away from me
There are lots of guys more hated than me now. But I was the guy everyone hated first.
At the CBC, I had a Canadian-style reserve when American stars would get obstinate on the air. The necessary image of a liberal public broadcaster can be tediously correct. I wore the right ribbons, used the right hashtags, hosted the right guests. I did interviews with everyone from Toni Morrison to Gloria Steinem, Drake, and Maya Angelou. I attended demonstrations and spoke at progressive fund-raisers. It didn’t occur to me that I could ever be one of the bad men.
Actually, more like a poster man for boys who are assholes
Before 2014, it was unimaginable to me that I would become a poster boy for men who are assholes.
Cagily copping to the part that’s not a crime
Since then, I have spent almost four years reflecting on my relations with women I dated. For some, nothing I say here will be enough or be put the right way. Even as I feel deep remorse about how I treated some people in my life, I cannot confess to the accusations that are inaccurate. What I do confess is that I was emotionally thoughtless in the way I treated those I dated and tried to date.
And, not to dwell on it, but I was only 39
Dating and having sex became another measure of status. When a well-known fellow broadcaster saw me with a twenty-something date at a film festival event in Toronto around 2006 (I was then thirty-nine), he left a voicemail saying, “Dude, you are the king!” That memory is mortifying now, but at the time I basked in his praise and wanted more. He’d never called me before and never mentioned my work; the real message was that the women I was with were the true gauge of success.
How secret was it? Why, it was so secret I didn’t even know about it!
You’re confounded at how tales of your alleged behavior from years past are now used as a sledgehammer to destroy the career you’ve built and determine the way you will forever be seen…. The accusations you face get conflated in social media with horrible things other men have done that are totally unconnected. The details of the allegations seem to become irrelevant, as does any legal decision. The stain of bad actions becomes indelible; a presumption prevails that the worst of what is tweeted is to be believed. You wonder how you can exhibit any contrition about ways you may have behaved badly in the past without validating every crazy thing that is being said about you by people you’ve never met…. People on TV expressed “shock” about the allegations of misconduct and my “secret life,” as it was sensationally termed. I was shocked too.
Just another casualty of the culture, man
Since the scandal, the reaction of men has perhaps been most striking. Aside from some, including former media colleagues and friends who reported on my downfall with a zeal that was transparent in its efforts to display their own virtue, there was a distinct pattern to the men whom I would encounter in the first year, amid all the headlines and shaming. Many of them strangers, acquaintances, friends, or people reaching out in social media would at some point furtively say, “What happened to you could have been me….” Just as my name was trending as the ultimate avatar of bad male behaviour, men were confiding in me that, in various ways, they were not much different…. I began to see my own actions as part of a systemic culture of unhealthy masculinity.
Now I hear from them…
At the other end of the spectrum, I get messages from women who tell me that they “enjoy the same lifestyle” and want to meet up for sex. I don’t respond…
On second thought, skip the band—she may have heard it
A couple of years ago, on a trip to Europe, emancipated by the anonymity of being abroad, I was on a train from London to Paris and found myself sitting next to a single woman in her late thirties…. As soon as our conversation began, I felt galvanized by an automatic reflex from my days as a Somebody. Tell her about your show. Tell her about your band. Sell your book.
Questions like, “What’s the best Leonard Cohen interview you’ve ever heard?”
But this interesting woman was speaking to me without knowing or caring if I was Somebody. As if maybe I had the ability to be worthy without reciting my résumé. She did the talking for most of the trip, and I listened. I poked some fun and enjoyed making her laugh. There were moments when she would reference events or places or people (“I adore Leonard Cohen”) that would once have been my cue to talk about myself (“you know, I did one of the last interviews with Leonard Cohen, and…”). Instead, I found myself asking her questions.