Donald Trump says his wife Melania “truly loves” being the first lady, which is the surest sign yet that Melania Trump fucking hates being the first lady.
On Monday, Melania revealed her White House holiday decorations, floating through the East Wing in all white like a distressed spirit trapped between worlds. She glided past a bloodless White House replica done all up in white chocolate, past ballerinas in all white; she hovered down a corridor flanked with long white branches reminiscent of extremities stripped of their flesh, reaching for something both upward and inward. The branches were lit from below as though fleeing subterranean heat, like grasping hands emerging from graves, crops killed instantly in a flash freeze. For the first time in half a century, the creepiest thing about the East Wing wasn’t the gauzy, eerie portrait of Jackie Kennedy.
Christmas at the White House will be both sad and hilarious, as most of Melania’s demonstrative disdain for her job is. Classic Melania!
Vanity Fair ran a piece this weekend claiming that Melania didn’t ever want to be first lady “come Hell or high water,” and that she, like the rest of the world, didn’t think her husband would win the presidential election. That story capped off months of intermittent speculation that the FLOTUS might be miserable, in Newsweek, several times over in Vanity Fair, on the cover of US Weekly (“Melania’s Struggle,” read the hot pink cover line next to one of what must be tens of thousands of sad Melania photos that currently exist). What could it have been that tipped the media off? The constant scowling? The fact that the first lady dragged her feet for five months before moving in with her husband?
Trump responded to the latest “Miserable Melania” story on Twitter, tweeting, “Melania, our great and very hard working first lady, who truly loves what she is doing, always thought that ‘if you run, you will win.’ She would tell everyone that, ‘no doubt, he will win.’ I also felt I would win (or I would not have run) - and Country is doing great!”
Here’s what we know about the president: He lies. He lies about everything, even about things that he has no reason to lie about. He lies about how many Twitter followers he has, he lies about being under investigation for ties to Russia, he lies about whether things he said on videotape were things that he actually said. He lies about observable reality. It wouldn’t be off-brand in the least if he were lying about this too.
Melania has every reason to feel forlorn. Her husband seems to dote on his daughter with the sort of affection normal people reserve for their spouses. He uprooted the life of her and her child in pursuit of the ultimate vanity project gone out of hand, from a gilded penthouse in the New York City sky to a stone prison in a Virginia-Maryland swamp.
And since her husband’s election, most public actions of Melania Trump have been commensurate with her circumstances. They’ve read like a cry for help—the hand slapping, the wincing smile, the sleeves that keep getting crazier and crazier, as if an outward manifestation a human spirit resigned to entropic misery. Who can forget the first couple’s wooden first dance at the inauguration ball, Melania leaning away from her husband with the sort of disdain one might reserve for a sweaty armpit on a crowded subway? Or her face during the inauguration itself, a tragedy mask accessorized with a glamorous powder-blue Jackie O. ensemble?
Melania descending a military plane scowling behind enormous designer sunglasses is the avatar of the great American pall.
The Vanity Fair story that set the president off claims that Melania is settling into her role as first lady. But it might be that America is settling into accepting that we have a first lady who is terribly sad, or that Melania’s resolute blankness is something onto which Americans can project their angst about the state of things. We are Melania. Melania is us.
At the very least, Melania’s corridor of holiday sadness has given us a nice preview of what the world will look like post-nuclear holocaust. God bless us, every one.