I’ll admit it. I’m a political wives fan.
I love them. Democrat or Republican. Especially if they’re crazy in some kind of way. The more interesting the better. It was fabulous during this election cycle when almost 20 people were running for president and all their wives were out there trying to be supportive and helpful, smiling, trying to convince me that the man who loved them up is the man for America.
It doesn’t matter if they’re accomplished or successful in their own right. No one wants to hear that. Just grin and be the ever charming hostess.
It must be maddening.
America doesn’t like it when you muck with their mythology. The public has their vision of what and who a First Lady is and she is seen, but not heard, unless her husband gives her some talking points and permits her to bat her eyes and pleasantly smile, then meekly go through the whole “I’m not used to giving speeches routine” even if they run a Fortune 500 company or inherited a Fortune 500 company.
They have to put up with mother fucker of all hoohah. Everything an American woman has to put up on a regular basis but with the volume cranked up to 11. They have to wear the mask and if you refuse to wear the mask you are eviscerated, i.e. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Teresa Hines Kerry.
How dare you not be Donna Reed and June Cleaver! Don’t you know you’re supposed to vacuum in heels and gaze longingly at your husband like it’s 1972 and he’s Al freakin’ Green? Seeing a future First Lady navigate the minefield of modern femininity, gender panic and popular 1950s Singer Automatic fetish fiction makes me respect them all the more. I know I couldn’t do that 24/7.
I could support my husband, no doubt. I could be tough and tenacious and look pretty all the while. But good Lord, the bullshit? The Donna Reed-meets-Claire Huxtable bullshit? That’s enough to make you want to cut someone.
People really don’t like it when future First Ladies act like human beings. People want their mythology. Even if it’s dumb as hell. Even if it doesn’t exist outside of fundamentalist Mormon sects. Even if it’s illogical. Like, let’s be real. Who the hell thinks Cindy McCain bakes cookies? The woman is an heiress. She’s worth millions upon millions of dollars. Why would she ever be near an oven? Of course her recipe is a knock-off. She probably just had her chef write it down and the chef got it from Hershey’s. Who cares?
Sayeth another future First Lady watcher:
This business about First Ladies having to have cookie recipes is bullshit. Do you think either Cindy or Michelle would ever have to be in the hot kitchen making meals for her husband and his guests. Only moron I know that ever did any cooking in the White House is Dubya and that making hot dogs to serve to and insult the British Royal family.
And I know they’ll eventually insult something Michelle Obama, an Ivy league graduate and successful lawyer, didn’t actually cook.
Really? Cooking and cleaning? That’s still the raison d’etre? Even if you’re upper middle class or better? Even if you spent your prime “home economics” years working on the bar exam?
No matter how much a future First Lady stumps for her husband, unless she’s doing something immoral, like running pitbull fighting rings with Michael Vick, tricking out girls from BET Uncut videos or enslaving the children of Bangladesh to make Etonic tennis shoes for 5 cents an hour, they should be off limits. Seriously. No matter how “colorful” they are. Just because they fell in love with some dude who wanted to be president shouldn’t mean they’re fair game.
Why can’t folks leave my crazy future First Lady’s alone? I enjoyed Hillary when Bill Clinton was running in 1992. I thought she was hilarious, refusing to drop her maiden name and make everyone feel comfortable. When she barked that she could have stayed home and baked cookies but didn’t I put on a black glove and raised my fist in solidarity, telling her to keep on rocking in the free world. But everyone acted like she’d committed some grave sin. Never mind a plurality of mothers work outside the home. Somehow in 1992 the prospect a woman *gasp* not baking cookies was horrifying. A First Lady is supposed to be the Comforter-in-Chief making small talk with lower level foreign dignitaries, hosting the family White House Christmas video and coming up with some bullshit literacy program to pimp.
Put on the apron, les bitches!
But Hillary didn’t. Bully for her.
I like future First Wives is because of the duality they have to perpetrate. Like how Laura Bush had to quit smoking when her husband became president. Or how she killed that dude in a car accident when she was younger. It was much more fascinating that hearing about her mother in Midland, Texas and being a librarian.
I liked that Betty Ford was a recovering addict. That Lady Bird was as active in working to push Civil Rights in the south as much as her husband LBJ. I liked Eleanor Roosevelt because she also backed Civil Rights back when Civil Rights weren’t cool. That she kicked it with Mary McLeod Bethune and joined a black sorority. I even liked Nancy Reagan when I disliked Ronnie.
Barbara Bush was dullsville to me when she was First Lady but became dramatically more interesting once she wasn’t anymore, disagreeing with her husband on abortion and being the family’s designated bulldog enforcer. I even liked Judi Nathan Guiliani. Even if she was the “other woman,” like Cindy McCain was the “other woman” to the man in her life. So what if they were “dirty mistresses,” as Grey’s Anatomy would label them. It’s their crazy flaws that make them interesting.
I don’t want some 1950s fantasy Stepford Wife. I want the real. I want the quirk. I want the personality. I don’t like it how the machine wants to smother their independent spirits.
The political wife is the only proof of the candidate’s true humanity. The candidate has to compromise, cut-corners, morph, flip-flop, pontificate and babble away the inconsistencies. They have to be a politician.
But the wife isn’t a politician. She’s the only symbol (besides maybe the kids) that the candidate was once a normal, flesh and blood person. That before all this drama he did what we all did. Mess around and fall in love. The wife represents the still living human spirit in the mass marketed Madison Avenue mess that has become our presidential election process. That’s why I love Michelle Obama so much. She couldn’t hide the realness if she tried. She won’t compromise.
It’s laughable how people are labeling Michelle’s latest publicity push as some stunt to fix her image. Fools. There is nothing wrong with her image. She is being her brilliant self every time out the gate. She’s not trying to pull some okie doke. She was intelligent, statuesque and gorgeous before she went on The View and she’s still that way now after giving White House/Black Market a huge sales boost by wearing a dress sold in their stores.
Everyone should just give up the ghost and admit their are either in love with her or obsessed with her. Admit that it was the fact that she had a personality, tough but dignified, that made you either like her or hate her in the first place. Don’t come up with angry black woman, Donna Reed bullshit. Just say it.
Michelle Obama keeps it real in the truest sense of that trite phrase.
I’d like to suggest that her Republican rival Cindy McCain do the same. Stop sending recipes for things, dammit. Stop the babe in the woods routine. You know exactly what you’re doing. Posing in Vogue while wearing denim jeans. Dissing Michelle then running behind something when a reporter calls you on it. You’re an intelligent business woman. It’s demeaning to watch you diddle around, pretending that old bastard you married was molded from chocolate and magically turned into Tyson Beckford.
Seriously, Cindy. Seriously. Stop screwing around. If you want to go after Michelle, it’s OK. She’s a big girl (literally and figuratively at 5’11”). I’m pretty sure she can handle it.
Then I can shout future “First Lady fight!” and the battle will commence.
And while I enjoy your crazy pill-popping, charity-thieving, man-stealing patootie, Cindy, we all know which woman I’m backing.