While King of the Snowflakes Donald Trump has always worn his heart on his sleeve, with his phallically long ties and neurotically overstyled hair, his third wife, Melania, gives away as much as the blankest of fashion models – which is what she was when they met.
And what a love story it has been for the woman born Melanija Knavs! You know, just the classic tale: boy picks up girl when he is on a date with another girl with the unforgettable name of Celina Midelfart; boy starts dating new girl and gets her to boast about his virility on live radio with Howard Stern; boy was married twice before, with his first ex-wife saying in a sworn deposition that the boy allegedly raped her after surgery to reduce a bald spot was more painful than he expected (though she later said she didn’t mean rape in a “literal or criminal sense”, even if “as a woman I felt violated”); girl and boy get married in front of 350 close friends, including Simon Cowell and Rudy Giuliani; boy runs for president and gets girl to give a speech which turns out to be plagiarised so girl is internationally humiliated; boy is then revealed to be fond of grabbing pussies that belong to other girls, meaning girl is further humiliated; boy becomes president and girl has never looked more miserable – and that is, by now, a high bar. Someone book Kate Hudson: we got a timeless romcom here.
Last weekend saw the addition of the latest chapter to this saga when Melania, only five months behind her husband, moved into the White House, looking as opaque as ever behind giant black sunglasses. You could hardly tell that she had been winched out of her Fifth Avenue apartment by crane, even as she clung on to the gold stucco and dictator chic decor by her fingernails. Her husband took a break from hanging out at his golf club in New Jersey to welcome his wife and youngest child, although he couldn’t quite be bothered to tweet about it, opting instead to cheer on his daughter Ivanka’s TV appearance on Fox & Friends. That’s the thing about being a parent, you have to choose your priorities.
In the absence of any words from Melania, who has previously listed “fashion magazines and Pilates” as her interests, armchair analysis has filled the vacuum: a detailed blog about her @flotus Instagram account, which consists largely of photos taken through windows, was particularly memorable. The president’s relationship with his wife has become a source of especial fascination to those liberal Trump watchers who are desperate for a more generous take on Melania. At the inauguration, he strode ahead of her into the White House, leaving the Obamas to help the woman who once dutifully spewed his birther garbage on TV. At that night’s ball, her body language seemed to suggest she was dancing with a rotting sea walrus. These images have been pored over, as have more recent ones where Melania looks like she’s fighting back: the moment when she seemed to swat Trump’s tiny hand away in Israel was one of the few instances of combat in the Middle East the whole world could get behind. When Melania dressed as a glamorous widow to meet the Pope, multiple wags suggested she was simply following the advice of her beloved fashion magazines and dressing for the job she wants.
All this has fed a #savemelania movement on social media, one driven largely by women, and it’s easy to guess why. Some 53% of white women voted for the self-professed pussy grabber, so the idea that a white woman could be at once Trump’s biggest victim and his most defiant rebel has both a self-flagellatory and a self-vindicating appeal. And given Ivanka’s wearily predictable complicity in her father’s presidency, the prospect of another woman in the family fighting against him is especially alluring.
All this is magical thinking of the highest order. Since arriving in the White House, all Melania has done is take another photo of a window, the passive princess in the tower. The only contribution she has made to her professed passion, the fight against cyberbullying, has been to protect her own reputation and successfully sue the Daily Mail for alleging she worked as an escort. Liberals keep making the mistake of looking for an ally in the Trump family. Like Ivanka, Melania reflects plenty of white American women, just not the ones liberals want; along with many of her husband’s supporters, she might not like what he does, but as long as she’s comfortable she will stand by him. Melania has always insisted that, with her, what you see is what you get. Maybe the rest of us could do her a favour and take her, like the model she once was, at face value.