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I Wish I Could Be as Openly Sad as Jeb Bush

Who has the most heart-shredding dignity in the face of heartbreak? Did you say Adele? You are wrong. It's Barbara Bush's fourth favorite-son.
via Getty Images

God, I wish I could walk around in my pajamas, mascara running, and a voice hoarse from wailing into the void, just as Jeb Bush is doing every time he's forced to talk about his shit-show campaign.

Over the weekend, Jeb Bush, a human Eeyore, appeared on CNN and ABC with his mother, the venerable Barbara Bush, to nudge his national polling numbers pass the 4 percent mark. When asked why her third, possibly fourth, favorite son should be president, all the white haired matriarch could muster was: "Of all the people running, he seems to be the one who could solve the problems." She's known Jeb literally his entire life and she can only speak to how he "seems".


Cut away to Jeb's face, cast in a permanent melancholy, like the way everyone gets on Downton Abbey when they talk about World War I.

Look at those eyes, they're sinkholes of need. He just wants to be somebody's favorite. "I'm different," he says later in the same interview. "People understand that. My life experience is different from that of George, certainly different from my dad, the greatest man alive. It's not better or worse, it's different." He's explaining to the interviewer why he deserves to be in the race, but the sentiment could equally be about why he deserves to be in the family. "Mom. I matter too!"

Incidentally, he's wearing the same sweater he was accused of wearing four days in a row. My sadness clothes are bike shorts from H&M with little pineapples on them, but the principle is the same.

Right before the Iowa primaries, Jeb was asked if he could still surprise the media in Iowa, he responded, "Yes, since the expectations are so low." How do I capture that honesty? That lack of attention to self-presentation? I want to bottle Jeb Bush's disappointment, turn it into a perfume, and wear it to funerals.

Have you seen the video of him hugging the one person who voted for him in Iowa?

This is hilarious and yet so very painful h/t @Mike_hugs
— Roqayah Chamseddine (@roqchams) February 4, 2016

Look at the vulnerability on his face. It's not just that he's sad, it's that we can see how happy he'd be if one person maybe voted for him. Haven't we all been Jeb at some point? Craving the approval and affection we're never going to get?


How do I capture that honesty? That lack of attention to self-presentation? I want to bottle Jeb Bush's disappointment, turn it into a perfume, and wear it to funerals.

Bearing witness to someone else's tragedy has an air of sacrament about it. It's why we watch tearjerkers at sleepovers, why in ancient Greece the tragic play was a sacred ritual. It was a shared catharsis that unified the group as a whole. When we share a sadness, our individual identities are broken down and we mix together in one communal soup of despair.

That is why I can't stop watching clips of Jeb Bush. Throughout his entire campaign, Jeb has maintained the sad, slumped posture of a nerdy kid forced to try out for the varsity team just to impress his withholding father.

Torn between duty and true love, he broadcasts total vibes of "I want to be alone." And yet he persists, dragging the husk of his being through New Hampshire with a look of serene resignation on his face. At the end, he says "I feel better," and you can see that he almost believes it. Almost.

It's the need in his eyes that most attracts me to Jeb. The obvious thirst, the desperation. We should have know the "please clap" moment was coming, because he's been asking us all to clap with his eyes for months now.

I have been this boldfaced in my neediness. I walked to my friends house once in a blizzard just to get her approval of the shoes I'd bought. The shoes had no traction and I fell three times in the two blocks it took to walk there. When I got there, she wasn't even home. I called the coffeehouse where I'd hoped she'd be and cried at the barista through the phone. "Have you seen Saraaaaahhhh? She said she wanted to see my shoooooes!!" She wasn't at the coffeehouse either.


Jeb Bush expressed the same need for validation with a lot more class when instructed people on how take selfies. He said taking selfies was the "11th amendment of the Bill of Rights." There is an 11th amendment, Jeb. It's the one protecting states' rights, which are pretty important to Republicans. More important than selfies.

There is something magnetic about a desolate soul. A centeredness that only comes with the knowledge that everything is terrible and always will be. Happy people jump around. And use their gym memberships. And actually try to do stuff, which is just pathetic when you think about it. Jeb Bush is a man with two feet on the ground because he cannot fall any lower. He's Emma Thompson at the end of Love, Actually. He's clapping for his daughter in the nativity play, desperately holding back tears, and resigning himself to a life that he knows will hold little pleasure from here on out.

I want to comfort him like that sloth on that freeway in Ecuador. "Hey buddy," I'd say to him. "You look lost. It's OK, I'm gonna get you home."

It probably goes without saying that a female candidate could never survive this long being this pitiable. The funding would just dry up. It probably doesn't hurt that Jeb is part of the oligarchy. His wealth insulates him from the repercussions of his fussiness, but only so far. That's why he needs a new career, something that utilizes his unique set of skills. Might I suggest host of the Family Feud? We put the Feud host through an emotional meat grinder for our sick enjoyment, and I can think of no more suitable candidate. In the meantime, I'm going to keep Jeb in my heart. And if I get the sense that nobody likes me, not even my own mother, and my life has become a desperate plea for attention, I'm going to let the world know. Because that's what Jeb would do.