The XX Factor

Donald and Melania Trump Reportedly Sleep in Separate Bedrooms. How Should We Feel?

America’s first couple.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

There are a few appropriate responses to the news, broken by US Weekly on Wednesday, that Donald and Melania Trump allegedly sleep in separate bedrooms. One is anger: How dare this magazine make me think about the president of the United States in the snoring, bedheaded, pajamaed state of slumber or in any proximity to conjugal activity?

Another is boredom. Of course the Trumps don’t share a bed—nothing about their body language or verbal references to one another has ever telegraphed anything approaching affection. Readers of this news may also experience strokes of schadenfreude (wheeee, more evidence that the groper-in-chief doesn’t ever have sex!) and discomfort (aren’t we supposed to think politicians’ consensual sex lives don’t matter?).

Yes, in general, adults should have the right to sleep and sex in whatever arrangements best suit their needs. No one should use a politician’s consensual sexual activity, or lack thereof, to besmirch his or her character or fitness for office. It was gross, for instance, when a Trump surrogate argued during the campaign that people shouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because he didn’t think she and Bill have sex.

But that’s why this particular bit of news, for this particular president, does matter. Trump used a big-powerful-rich-daddy persona to win the presidency, and he painted that persona with the help of the ever-younger string of women he’s married and claimed to sleep with. All three of his marriages generated press “leaks” that suggested Trump was great at sex and had a lot of it with his respective wives, sometimes multiple times a day. The implication to anyone with eyes is that a past-his-prime man uses money and power to get sex and arm candy service from traditionally beautiful women. The US Weekly report turns that implication on its head.

Plenty of couples sleep in separate beds, of course. Some people work jobs that keep them on different sleep schedules. Some have snoring issues and don’t want to keep their partners awake. Some are characters in 1950s TV shows that won’t let them appear in bed without at least one foot on the floor. An unofficial study of my personal opinions reveals that 100 percent of hetero couples who call one another “mother” and “father,” as Mike Pence and his wife do, sleep in separate twin beds with the sheets firmly tucked in on all sides, in formal pajamas and nightcaps, crucifix affixed on the wall where it can be seen from any potential sexual vantage point.

According to one of US Weekly’s anonymous sources, though, the Trumps don’t just have a case of late hours or sleep apnea. Melania, who refused to even move to D.C. when her husband got the city’s most important job, “wants as little to do with Donald as possible” and “is not interested in Donald, the presidency, or anything involving him.” The magazine’s cover says the two “give each other lots of space”; another source said the two sleep in the same bedroom but different beds, calling the setup “very ‘royal’ of them!” This is an excruciatingly generous description of the relationship that produced Melania’s infamous Inauguration Day smile-frown hybrid expression of existential despair.

Melania’s flack claims this is all bogus, telling US Weekly “It’s unfortunate that you are going to feature unnamed ‘sources’ that have provided fictional accounts.” Unnamed “sources,” which bears a shady similarity to so-called “judges,” are good enough for the Trumps when they’re positioning Ivanka Trump—who seems a far more likely personal and professional confidante to the president than Melania—as a pro-gay centrist, but not when they’re revealing what most of us have already assumed: that the Trump’s marriage is not, like the Obamas’, a seeming match of life partners who fully respect one another’s intellects.

At any rate, it is quite nice to see this president get bad press he’ll actually care about, especially from a publication recently bought by the Trump sycophants at American Media Inc. Trump’s ignorance on policy and other issues of national importance is a point of pride for him, but when someone threatens his manly-man persona in public, it hurts.