Todos somos Hilaria.
Okay, most of us are not Spanish, or even Spanish-manqué. But that doesn’t mean we can’t sympathize with Alec Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria (neé Hillary Hayward-Thomas), even if she isn’t the least bit Spanish and has often claimed she was.
She probably felt Spanish. And who doesn’t lie about themselves at some point in their lives?
My freshman year of college I took a course on Dickens, Balzac, and Tolstoy that was way out of my depth even though it only required us to do the reading. When the teaching assistant called me in to discuss problems with my paper, notably spelling and grammar, I mispronounced a word or two and let him infer that English was my second language. (“How do you say in English, concombre?”) Under those circumstances, he was impressed by my fluency and didn’t count sloppy writing against me in the final grade.
Had I majored in yoga and married Alec Baldwin, that might well be me explaining that I spent a lot of time overseas and everyone is wrong about me on Instagram.
If I were a Senator from Connecticut who joined the military at the time of the Vietnam war, but never actually served in Vietnam, I might well have used the word “we” when addressing combat veterans from that war. And if I were running for president in 1987 and had a weakness for campaign eloquence, it’s possible that I, too, would have borrowed the words and life story of British labor leader Neil Kinnock and described myself as the descendant of coal miners. Joe Biden had to drop out of the race because of it and run two more times to nail the job. (Incidentally, if Biden is president, isn’t it time to let Brian Williams anchor the network news again?)
Had I majored in yoga and married Alec Baldwin, that might well be me explaining that everyone is wrong about me on Instagram.
People fib. Most keep it at exaggeration—a hardscrabble childhood, an illustrious ancestor, a perfect S.A.T. score, a close call in a war zone. It’s more problematic—or pathological—when they make things up entirely. I had a high-school classmate who bragged about having a handsome, aristocratic English boyfriend, and when it came time to produce him, claimed he was killed in a double-decker bus crash in London. (When she grew up, she worked for the C.I.A. Or said she did.)
Where is Hillary/Hilaria on that spectrum? Hard to tell, but there doesn’t seem to be a venal motive behind the imposture. She wasn’t pretending to be from Spain to disguise a low-class background, get a job as a bilingual teacher, or qualify for an E.U. passport. She wasn’t taking anything away from anyone; presumably, she just wanted to make herself seem more interesting and exotic. It’s bizarre, and maybe a little borderline, but nobody got hurt.
So, how do you say in English, mucho ado about nada?
Alessandra Stanley is Co-Editor of AIR MAIL