Kellyanne Conway was born Kellyanne Fitzpatrick in South New Jersey on January 20, 1967.
She was raised by her mother, Diane Fitzpatrick, after she and Kellyanne’s father divorced when Kellyanne was very young. “Kellyanne was reading by the age of 3. She loved to learn,” Diane has said of her daughter. Kellyanne escaped working class roots where she studied Political Science at Trinity College and eventually law at George Washington University. She’s an accomplished woman. She also does standup comedy.
She’s a divisive figure, the woman who may have singlehandedly guided Donald Trump to the White House. She has no problem spinning facts or attempting to cover-up any malfeasance committed, publicly or privately, in the past, present, or future. She is the type of person who grins at the face of truth before ordering a Yeungling. That’s not for her.
There’s something about her though. Yes, she has reformed a beast and is very bad, the kind of being whose hooves have been reshaped into heels and passes as human. You cannot stop watching this person prattle on, spinning the truth into golden lies.
On the surface, she and I don’t have much in common. Or do we? Her last name is (Was.) Fitzpatrick. She has a Diane Fitzpatrick in her family. I have a great aunt named Diane Fitzpatrick who is a raging alcoholic who once got so blasted at a wedding that she thought I was unrelated to her and attempted to seduce me. Kellyanne is from New Jersey. My parents are from New Jersey. We both pulled ourselves out of working class roots to legitimate colleges in Washington, DC. We both enjoy politics. We’re both dye bottle blondes.
The last name thing—The Fitzpatrick.—is what makes me crazy. Knowing this truth (“truth”) casts Kellyanne as a different figure. It offers a context that she is a fun loving Catholic girl who will fight for a cause out of a need to survive instead of an actual belief in truth. It’s a selling outward and upward to get ahead. It’s the sort of deal you make with a dark force in the hopes that you will be sanctified in their darkness. It’s a desperation unique to those fiery Irish Jersey people that we love to make fun of. She is Atlantic City with a law degree. She is a Fitzpatrick.
Of course I do not know Kellyanne but I know her because she is family. She is a person that I have met at weddings and funerals who I squint at from the back of the conversation in an attempt to understand the how and why we are related. Her hair is piled high on her head, thin and breaking at the ends, makeup lying like dried pus on sore wrinkles. Her outfit is gaudy and cheaply gilded and she stands out as an alternate reality fashionista. She is the person who drinks all the bad wine, who I will later ask my parents if we are related to. They will nod and I will ask them how and they will say that we have a lot of distant cousins that we don’t keep in touch with, some of whom have that rough Jersey Fitzpatrick way that we don’t necessarily participate in. I’ll nod and wonder how much more of New Jersey I’m related to.
This happens every few years, more and more Kellyannes revealing themselves as adjacent family at once-in-a-decade events. I’ve never actually met another person with the same surname who wasn’t related. Fitzgeralds, Kilpatricks, Fitzhugh: I’ve met people with those names. I’ve never met another Fitzpatrick though. Particularly, I’ve never met a person who goes by “K. Fitzpatrick” like me. You could even scramble the first part of her name and my name and end up with the same name.
She is a fiction to my fact, a person in an orbit outside of my real life. She exists in a fantasy of she and my making that, sadly, is actually real life. She is the wet crawling woman from the Ring movies that falls out of the television, this time from a political reality program that now rules the nation. It’s scary because it’s irresistible. You watch the tape she stars in even though you know you will die.
Again: what’s unfortunate is that I know Kellyanne. I probably really am related to her in some tangential way, a cousin of a cousin of a cousin four times removed, our family trees shaking hands at the roots feet beneath the earth. I know this person is inherently good but is still trying to escape the past for fear of the then becoming the now and beyond. It’s a working class Irish Catholic Jersey fear that I hear in my father’s voice whenever we talk about money. It’s the type of zombie eyed glaze that makes him pant when you mention retiring. There is a concern that the mid-century working class struggle is going to snatch them out of their successes and force them into poverty. That is probably why my father voted for Donald Trump. (This is unverified but I assume my Fitzpatrick patriarch was lulled by the reigning Jersey Cheeto King™.)
This is what gives Kellyanne her demented genius: she is escaping a greater demon behind her, that Jersey past, the one where she actually is a person who attends funerals for dead Fitzpatricks because she has nothing else to do. If that means attaching yourself to an Annoying Orange™ demogorgon to get out, that’s what you have to do. Yes, you take baths in bleach when you get home, stripping your skin until you burn yourself down to bones to see your own truth, but you still have hope. She has hope although misguided.
It is understandable, it is wrong, but it is a unique type of Irish Catholic Jersey desperation that requires your latching on to something in order to just survive.