Desiree had just flipped open her People magazine to a story about Patrick Swayze’s last days at his ranch in New Mexico when her cell phone rang again. “Shit,” she said with an exaggerated sigh as she put down her panini and answered as if she didn’t already know who it was.
She looked across the table at Michelle and they rolled their eyes at each other. Michelle finished the last of her Whopper Jr., crumpled up the wrapper, threw it across the room into Desiree’s desk garbage can. She threw up both arms in a mock cheer–“yes!”—as she made her way back to her own office.
“No, it’s not a problem at all Secretary Clinton. Any time,” Desiree said. After an extended pause during which she nibbled the edges of her sandwich, stretching out long strings of cheese and then nibbling them up to the crust, she answered, “No, I don’t think that will be a problem. I doubt very much that anyone will notice that they aren’t Fair Trade. I think, to be quite honest, Mrs. Clinton, they’ll be focusing on what you’re wearing, not President Clinton.”
Since joining the Obamas in Washington as their social secretary, Desiree Rogers had no idea she would be freelancing for every high profile player with a thank you note to write. So far today she’d gotten calls from Barney Frank asking how to word a commitment ceremony program and another from Former First Lady Laura Bush delicately asking if the Obama girls had mentioned anything about inadvertently uncovering a few items the Bush girls may or may not have accidentally “stashed” behind a loose heating vent after a night in the White House family room with Ashton Kutcher. And now, with Chelsea’s wedding planning in full swing, she’d been getting calls from Hillary during every break in her Mid-East Peace negotiations.
“No, Mrs. Clinton, I don’t think it matters if the invitations come from your office or President Clinton’s.”
“Yes, Secretary Clinton, I do think it would be perceived as a slight if you didn’t invite her. But, I don’t think you have to have a photo taken with her. If you’d like, I could call the Speaker and ask her to wear flats.”
“Honestly, I think Jordan Almonds are pretty benign. I don’t think they’ll be perceived as a political statement. What does Chelsea think?”
During one of their more tedious conversations with the former First Lady, Michelle had wandered into Desiree’s office head tilted back as she shook the last remnants of a bag of Cheetos into her mouth. “Tell her she ought to be more concerned about the fact that her future in-laws will have to attend the wedding via Skype,” Michelle snarked before wandering back to the kitchen for a Dr. Pepper.
Desiree waved her off as she covered the mouthpiece so Hillary wouldn’t hear her. Hillary forbade anyone from mentioned the fact that Chelsea’s future father in law was currently serving an eight-year jail term for his involvement in a Nigerian email scam. It was kind of ironic, though, Desiree thought. Both the father of the bride and groom taken down by something so utterly ridiculous and tawdry. Men will do anything for sex or money, she thought.
It wasn’t that Rogers minded giving advice on social do’s and don’ts. In fact, when she was in college, she wrote a social column for her college newspaper. She called it: Social Path, a clever play on words, she thought—a not so subtle mockery of the very people she seemed to be advising– girls who had grown up watching their mothers navigate the fine line between socialite and celebrity but who weren’t quite sure how to adapt it to their own “Girls Gone Wild” generation. Had Paris Hilton been ten years older, Roberts wouldn’t have needed to write the column at all.
But now, her role was less about recommending caterers and tailors to Washington’s elite and more about reminding them to delete their text messages and erase their Internet history. She hadn’t, either, expected to become a de facto White House priest—getting random calls from various Democratic party operatives, first confessing their sins (mostly carnal) and then asking for advice on the best way to handle it. The worst part was that all too often, they didn’t take her advice anyway.
Had John Edwards taken her advice when they were still on the campaign trail, he would be vice president right now. She’d begged him, more than once, to forget trying to cover up his affair and to come forward using the opportunity to show that he was, after all, just a man. It was a perfect opportunity she’d said, to show that even liberal Democrats believed that every life was precious and that family values trumped all. Just tell the truth and get it over with,” she’d said in a covert parking garage meeting between Edwards, Obama and Rogers where she now distinctly remembered a Dave Matthews CD playing on Edward’s car stereo. It was working for Sarah Palin. She’d managed to turn her teenage daughter’s pregnancy into a pro-life public service campaign. It could have worked for Edwards, too. Elizabeth would have gone along with it. As long as he’d gone on Oprah with her.
The Obamas had also eschewed her advice on the White House dog. She’d advised Michelle, in private, of course, that a smaller dog would be more flattering to Michelle’s shape. A low lying animal would draw attention to her solid calves and slender ankles. Instead, Bo’s height meant that every shot of the dog focused squarely on Michelle’s hips and waist. A nightmare for every woman, black or white, no matter how fucking fabulous her arms are.
But, no, the Obamas had acquiesced to the Portuguese American Federation and now nearly all of the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ, was squarely in Obama’s court on health care. It wasn’t worth it if you asked Desiree Rogers. Nothing was worth having your ass photographed every time the dog went after a Frisbee on the White House lawn.
After hanging up with Hillary, Rogers returned to her lunch and the magazine she’d smuggled into her office in the bottom of her brief case. Normally, if anyone saw her reading a gossip magazine, she’d pretend that she was doing research or just keeping up with what was being written about the Obamas. But, in fact, she was addicted to gossip magazines. And, the fact was, they were usually right. When they’d recently reported that Michelle working in the White House’s organic garden was a farce, Rogers was privately amused at how close to the truth they’d been.
She was just settling into a photo montage of Swayze and his wife when her phone rang again. “Jesus Christ,” she moaned and looked at number on the screen. This time, she closed the magazine and put her sandwich down. “Yes, sir. Yes, I understand. I’ll make the reservation. I know. I promise. Just the two of you. No one will know you’re going to be there.”
This was the part of the job she hated. The lying, the deceit. It wasn’t in her nature. But, it came with the territory and she knew that when HE asked her to do something it didn’t matter what kind of mockery she had to make of her own values, she would do what she had to do. And, poor Michelle. It was must have been so difficult for her to put on such an act in public. She pretended like nothing at all was wrong. But, Michelle knew it came with the territory, too.
Desiree Googled the restaurant and found the number. It was one of the hottest new organic restaurants in Georgetown. She dialed the number on her cell. “Hello. Yes, this is Desiree Rogers, White House Social Secretary. I need to make a reservation for Mr. and Mrs. Obama this evening. It’s their anniversary. And, you know, Mrs. Obama insists on only eating organic.”
Oh, the deceit, Desiree thought. It was definitely the worst part of the job.