The Real Ann Romney
Continued from previous page
There is no reason to believe either of them ever wanted their lives to be anything other than the apparently effortless embodiment of an old-fashioned ideal. What’s striking is that for all of Ann’s easy grace, she seems continually surprised, even indignant, that anyone would see these core values of her life differently — not only that the rest of America hasn’t lived as she has, but that it might not share her unshakable belief in her husband’s destiny.
– – — – — – — – — – — – — – — – — – — – — – –
“I never think of describing myself,” Ann blurted out in that guileless Boston Globe interview, asked to use three words to do so. She added, “Mitt’s upstairs, should I put him on?” (She eventually came up with “peaceful, loving and serene.”) She has been derided as spoiled or entitled, but her missteps seem to be born of obliviousness, not malice. Whenever possible, money has insulated her – her father was a rich man, she married into wealth at 19 – but so did almost uninterrupted adoration.
She’s had to think about describing herself since then, and not just because her husband kept running for office. In 1998 — after the failed campaign, around the time of the Olympic preparation, and before Mitt became governor – she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which she has described as a loss of self. She would later say she ripped up photographs of herself from that time.
“We have an identity. My identity was mother, accomplished, doing many things, taking care of everybody, and all of a sudden I couldn’t even take care of myself. It’s like a rug being pulled out from underneath you. What are you left with? You really have to evaluate, who am I really?” she told Fox News. But she was saved by the enduring love in her life: “For Mitt, that’s where he gave me the greatest strength, because he was the one reminding me that it wasn’t what I did, why he loved me, it was who I was.”
She had found a way, at least rhetorically, to define herself in relation to others, and it was no longer as a “daughter of privilege.”
“We’ll all have a dark hour in our lives,” she said in the same interview this past May. “I am grateful that my heart has been opened up and softened, and that I can appreciate and understand when someone is going through a challenge, what it feels like.”
Ann’s illness interrupted a life of remarkable symmetry. Ann and Mitt got married four years to the day after their first date on March 21, when she was 15 and he was 18. Exactly a year later, also March 21, their first son was born. If no one has ever really witnessed discordance between them, it may be because they fervently chose each other and then essentially grew up together, rather than growing apart.
On that first date, they saw “The Sound of Music,” an appropriate and instructive cultural 180 from Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” which the Obamas saw on their first date. One movie for the pair of wholesome Michigan teenagers in 1965; another for the critical theory-reading pair who in the ’80s met as adults, with concomitant baggage and compromises. Michelle was technically Barack’s superior at the law firm where they met – a first-generation professional who had just declared to her mother that she was going to focus on her career and not on dating – and they were both of Harvard Law. Meanwhile, having converted to Mormonism after meeting Mitt, Ann withdrew from BYU and moved to Boston for Mitt’s own Harvard Law and Business turn, during which she finished her degree in French at the extension school. (Mitt had gone to France for his mission.)