Thoughts on Caroline, Beauty, Jello-O

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Yeah yeah, I know I'm not supposed to judge politicians based on beauty. But bear with me for a moment while I judge one by her beauty choices.

Here in New York, we're being bombarded with pretty pictures of Caroline Kennedy, who's trying to convince Governor David Paterson to appoint her to Hillary Clinton's old Senate seat. Up until this year, JFK's daughter dodged the limelight, and she's still frustrating reporters who want to ask her tough questions face to face. But while she may look and act the part lately, I'm not writing Ms. Kennedy off as an aloof princess just yet.

Turns out, according to a biography by Christopher Andersen, teenaged Caroline put up with constant nastiness from her mother. "You're not having dessert," Jackie O said at the Ritz in Manhattan once, loud enough for eavesdroppers to hear. "You'll be so fat nobody will marry you." Caroline negotiated her way to some cherry Jell-o, though without the whipped cream. At another point her mother was overheard "'screaming' at her daughter for not taking the matter [of weight loss] more seriously." Then Jackie wrangled four months of diet pills out of a doctor for Caroline - who was still in high school. So how did Caroline react to her mother's fat-mongering? She shaved off an eyebrow.

I wish Ms. Kennedy would give us more to go on in judging her readiness to be senator (not that we matter; the governor is the only person with a vote for now). But in the meantime, I'll posit that she's more than just some woman with "views similar to those of other New York Democrats." She's also someone who survived - as a teenager - not just a mother's obsession with her weight (a lot of women have pulled that off) but a press corps'. And in lean economic times, she might be someone who can negotiate cherry Jell-o for New York.


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