In 2007, I was finishing a book about my husband's race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio when my editor called with some changes.
In the book, I had rattled off quite a list of all the wrongs, perceived and otherwise, visited on us during the campaign. Unfair headlines. Misleading polls. Dirty tactics. I wanted to document every last ounce of ugliness.
This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.
My editor had other plans.
"You don't need that," she said. "Or this. Or that, either."
With every suggested cut, I responded with the apoplexy of a middle schooler.
"But they did these things," I said. "I want people to know about it."
"I know about it, honey," she said. "That's good enough."
Then she delivered what has since become the motto for my life: "No whining on the yacht."
My husband, Sherrod Brown, had won. I was about to come out with my second book. Despite a few male journalists' gleeful predictions that my career was kaput, I also was returning to my newspaper column.
No whining indeed. I did, however, leave in the part about how someone tried to steal our trash. My editor and I agreed that was funny. Sort of.
The title of my book, "…and His Lovely Wife," should give you a pretty good idea of what I think of traditional campaign coverage. The media love to depict so-called political wives as props or problems. We're either "humanizing" the menfolk with our womanly ways, or we're the dowagers of doom for their careers. Not much middle ground there, unless you count Ohio Gov. John Kasich's recent attempt to cast political wives as chambermaids.
"It's not easy to be a spouse of an elected official," he said last month at a rally for Mitt Romney. "You know, they're at home, doing the laundry and doing so many things while we're up here on the stage getting a little bit of applause, right?"
Just so you know, I threw in a load of whites before I started this essay. Love those new Tide Pods. Don't eat them, though.
The campaign life can be pretty rough on spouses, particularly those auditioning for First Lady, unless you enjoy having reporters assume you no longer think for yourself. The hardest part, in my view, would be never leaving the house wearing comfortable clothing. There you are, in your 12th hour of Spanx, and if you're no longer smiling, 14 bloggers will accuse you of sabotaging your husband's campaign.
Which brings me to the first rule of campaign wifery: Never complain.
Second rule: Really, never complain. It's an immediate fail.
Consider, for example, what happened to Ann Romney a few weeks ago. Apparently she'd had it with all the snarky Republicans picking apart her husband like chicken off the bone.
"Stop it," she said in an interview last month with Radio Iowa. "This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring."
"This is hard and, you know, it's an important thing that we're doing right now and it's an important election and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt's qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country."
The Atlantic's James Fallows declared Mrs. Romney's candid response a "break" that was "sad and damaging."
"Self-pity is doom for candidates," he wrote. "They're asking for the honor of representing and leading us. We expect them to act as if it's a privilege, not a burden. Worse, an admission like this is a tell. Winning campaigns never allow themselves to seem frazzled or put-upon.
I was thrilled that Fallows thought a politician's wife had such power. This wasn't his point, I realize. But still.
Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts, if only in the media's mind. She was smart and beautiful in 2008, and she's just as smart and beautiful in 2012, which was expertly documented by Jodi Kantor in her book, "The Obamas."
However, nothing riles up journalists faster than another journalist getting lots of attention. Without reading Kantor's book, some critics were all over the reporter for doing something she never did, which was to depict Mrs. Obama as an angry woman.
I reviewed Kantor's book for The New York Times, so I thought it'd be a good idea to actually read it. My take was that Kantor had portrayed Michelle Obama as her husband's champion and still her own person, too, and we know how that can tick off the media. (See Ann "You Try It" Romney, above.)
Mrs. Obama felt the need to defend, not only her loyal-wife self, but those in her husband's administration who did behave badly, as described in the book.
"I'm sure that we could go day-to-day and find things people wish they didn't say to each other or said," she told CBS News. "People stumble. People make mistakes."
Exactly what we've come to expect from a first lady who insists on hugging everyone.
I write for a living, churning out columns and essays on a weekly basis. I'm also working on my first novel. So, naturally, in Washington most people want to talk to me about what it's like to be a senator's wife. I tell them my expertise is limited to Sherrod. He still makes my coffee in the morning, grabs a chew toy with his teeth to play tug-of-war with our dog and plays "Hey, Jude" for me on the piano. Life is good. When I write a column that inspires angry mail to his office, he pumps his arm in the air.
About six months after Sherrod was elected, I was standing with a number of longtime senators when one of them smiled at me and sighed. "You know, Connie," he said, "there are all kinds of expectations of senators' wives."
"Yeah, I know," I said, nodding.
"And you have failed to meet even one of them."
I could have cried.
"Thank you," I said, laying my palm across my heart. "Thank you."
Connie Schultz is aPulitzer Prize-winning columnist for Creators Syndicate and Parade magazine, and the author of two books, "Life Happens" and "…and His Lovely Wife."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun