After weeks of speculation and wild theorizing, the people of the U.S. can finally rest easy after receiving confirmation, via blurry photo, that First Lady Melania Trump was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the far-away figure in a black dress we saw for two seconds at an event where the press wasn’t allowed.
Frankly, I’m relieved.
That’s right, as the White House said she would be, Mrs. Trump appeared alongside her husband Monday night at an event honoring Gold Star families. She even tweeted photos of herself at said event to put to rest any speculation:
Computer, enhance. Ah yes, she’s the woman with hair next to Donald Trump.
And while FLOTUS’ last tweeted remark on the subject, presumably written by a vaguely right-leaning algorithm, chided the media for suggesting anything untoward, her weeks without a public appearance were unprecedented. In fact, it was the longest break a First Lady has taken in modern history, since she hadn’t been seen publicly since May 10, four days before she went in for treatment of a benign kidney condition. That’s a long time! Naturally, there were a slew of theories about where she actually was, ranging from the mundane to the exotic.
Here are five of the most intriguing possibilities.
Some folks on Twitter speculated that maybe the Stormy Daniels scandal (I know it was 30 scandals ago, but try to remember) was the last straw for FLOTUS, and she left the man who is, somehow, still, the sitting President of the United States.
Personally, I like to picture Melania on a kind of Eat. Pray. Love. adventure where she gets her groove back and doesn’t have to think about how she married a man who sometimes thinks her name is actually Melanie.
She Got Plastic Surgery
Still others on Twitter suggested that, rather than the condition the White House suggested she was hospitalized for, Melania actually underwent plastic surgery and had a longer recovery time than expected.
It is fine, because Melania can do whatever she likes with her own body and appearance. And it’s also not surprising that the White House would cover it up, since the President famously put Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski on blast for allegedly getting a facelift, and it would be a little hypocritical to be suddenly totally chill about a woman's body autonomy.
Then again, fear of hypocrisy hasn’t really stopped a politician before so...
She Has a Body Double
This one actually predates her disappearance and doesn’t really help in explaining why she was gone, but it’s so deliciously conspiratorial that it must be included. There’s long been speculation that Melania Trump doesn’t actually make some of her public appearances and instead calls in a ringer.
Or maybe that's Melanie? This theory is a little too Twilight Zone to be convincing, but that tweet was from back in October so imagine how this same corner of the internet is reacting now.
We are through the looking glass here, people!
Her Disappearance Is an Elaborate Ruse to Make the Media Look Bad
Could hiding Melania for weeks actually be intentional, so that Trump’s hated mainstream media comes up with theories about where she went, only so the administration could parade her out and point to said theories as further proof that the press is just peddling fake news? Maybe!
This one gives some serious credit to whoever's running the show at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but falls in line with much of Trump’s ballyhooing about his unfair treatment in the press. It also lines up with what 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl recounted recently, about why the President says he maligns journalists so much:
“I said, ‘You know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this?’ And [Trump] said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.'”
No one will believe you. (Shudders.)
Look, there are a million reasons Melania Trump might not be around, and we can speculate about her whereabouts 'til the First Lady comes home, but then we'd be missing the point: This is an administration that’s perfectly comfortable letting past presidential decorum fly out the window. Not only does this push the limits of how long the President and his ilk can get away with misdirection, but it shows who will come to their defense when they do. Yeah, bizarre conspiracy theories are fun to talk about, but they’re also a way to remember how truly not normal much of President Trump’s behavior in office has been.
Also, this is clearly the correct answer to where Melania's been: