I’ve been seriously remiss, not having caught up with Bristol Palin in months and months, until her (second, unengraved) wedding announcement arrived via Us Weekly. What struck me most forcefully — although possibly not the rest of America — was that she said she wanted to get married in a Carolina Herrera wedding gown: a vibrantly traditionalist choice, perhaps not wholly in keeping with the rest of her character.
A few backtracks settled that mystery, however: not one month ago, with her mother’s blessing, Bristol appeared alongside her sister Willow in a Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot. The two were standing in the family kitchen, Bristol in a crimson off-the-shoulder Herrera full-length gown, the perfect attire for baking chocolate chip cookies or, as a subsequent photo revealed, wading ankle-deep in frigid water (“Willow helps her sister in the kitchen: Carolina Herrera dresses; Bristol at Anchorage’s Cook Inlet: Carolina Herrera shrug, $6995”). I’m not saying a heavily discounted designer dress is enough to make anyone want to marry Levi Johnston, but obviously it’s a start.
During the course of those fashion spreads, which, given the lengthy lead time of glossy journalism, probably took place three months ago, a delighted Sarah Palin was heard trilling a plea to the interviewer to eat the baked goods. Meanwhile, the daughter of the wannabe president had this to say about the father of her baby: “He’s a stranger to me. I don’t want to get into it. It’s just dirty laundry.”
But oh what a difference a single romantic text message makes. Cleansed is the laundry. Vanished are Bristol’s grudges about Levi’s intemperate remarks concerning his future in-laws. Gone is her hurt over her fiancé’s desire to hook up with other girls. Did he tell Vanity Fair that Sarah couldn’t shoot straight? That her outdoorsy image is just a calculated electioneering stunt and he’s “never even seen her touch a fishing pole”?
No matter. What really freaks out this teenager, and this is evident in both her actions — quick! make the wedding announcement a done deal — and words, is Sarah Palin herself. “It’s intimidating and scary just to think about what her reaction is going to be,” she told a reporter.
In other words, she’s so terrified of her own mother she’d rather reveal her wedding to the world. So fearful and discomfited that she is planning to flee the parental home at age 19 in order to fall into the embrace of … a Playgirl centerfold.
Now obviously, Mrs. Grizzly has cornered the market on honey. The proven ability, as the past year has shown, to rake in $2.1 million in fundraising (second only to Mitt Romney) for starters. Her adventurous endorsements of certain women candidates: California’s Carly Fiorina, who is running for the Senate; the gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, who, despite some early setbacks and charges of adultery, won the South Carolina primary; and Georgia’s would-be governor, Karen Handel. All of these ambitious women owe a lot to Sarah: votes, great publicity, exciting prospects.
But one can’t help wondering. How, exactly, has Sarah benefited her own daughter? Reinforced the teen’s self-esteem? Bolstered her prospects?
Soon, too soon, we’re more than likely going to be asked to vote for a pro-lifer whose own daughter finds her daunting and “scary.” There’s definitely something about Sarah. And it’s peculiar. It is relative strangers who love her. She is at her best when seen from a distance.