Cindy McCain's Guide to Being a Political Wife

She is not a Stepford wife, thank you very much

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As some Republicans try to push media-shy Cheri Daniels into letting her husband Mitch run for president, Cindy McCain tries to explain how to be a "successful political wife" at The Daily Beast. Her main bit of advice: Don't read anything people write about you. Though McCain tries to present her story in an uplifting way, her essay reveals how difficult it is to be a political spouse, punished by the press for any deviation from a weird and dated model of wifedom. It's somewhat dispiriting to read that after three decades as a political spouse, McCain's learned that the only way to deal with the terrible things being said about her is to passively ignore them.

McCain, saying she didn't know what she was getting into when her husband first ran for Congress, hints that she was "misunderstood by staff and others when we're trying to be a good spouse." And she does not like her image as a severe ice princess:

The intensity of the media and the media’s ability (or inability, depending on how you look at it) to produce 24-hour news had changed everything.

You would think there would be more understanding of the candidates and their spouses. What I found was that because it was such a fast pace, they understood me even less. I’ve seen things written about me that said "she's cold," or "she is a Stepford wife." Really, I’m just very shy. No one bothered to ask that. I’m not sour-graping it here. I’m just trying to explain.

It's telling that McCain feels she needs to pre-emptively say she's not a whiner before suggesting that maybe she's not a stupid romantic comedy stereotype. As Michelle Cottle writes, political wives face an impossible set of expectations: Be pretty, but not too pretty. Be stylish but not uppity. Quit your job.

McCain tries to end her essay on an uplifting note, saying being a political spouse means having "a front-row seat to history" in which "you're inside all the workings." But what sticks are the paragraphs above that, in which McCain reveals just a tiny bit how the grueling schedule of a popular politician affects a real person:

John travels an awful lot now, which is fine because the kids are gone. Our life is a little different now. I come to Washington more, so we can see each other (and, of course, he comes home). I want him to be happy, so it takes some extra effort to make sure we're together.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.