Of all the many faces a wife has to wear in public, the one assumed when your husband makes a joke at your expense is perhaps the hardest to pull off. The smile has to be wide but not toothy (wife code for "You're on the sofa for the foreseeable"), and unless muted, laughter is a risky move - all too often coming across as forced or worse, demented.
On Saturday night Melania Trump gave a master class in the art. As her husband lambasted the press for its "bias" in his speech at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City - attended by both Hillary Clinton and the Archbishop of New York - she fluttered her false eyelashes in faux weary anticipation of a gag she could see coming. "I'm going to get into trouble here," The Donald warned the room, "and not with Hillary.
"Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. Everyone thinks it's absolutely great. My wife Melania gives the same speech, and people get on her case. And I don't get it."
Never mind that the joke itself was plagiarised from a political cartoon that appeared months earlier, it was widely agreed to be Trump's best line of the night - and Melania's reaction was faultless. Demure in a black lace Jackie O dress, she gave a series of graceful little 'isn't-he-awful-but-also- kinda-wonderful?' headshakes (headshakes that happened to showcase that glossy caramel mane to maximum effect), before breaking out into one of those eye-crinklingly genuine laughs models are able to effect on command. "And it wasn't her fault," Trump went on, proudly urging his wife to "stand up" - to applause from both the Left and Right - "but she took a lot of abuse."
I suspect the daughter of a car dealership manager from Communist Yugoslavia has borne greater blows to her dignity over the years than those thrown up by this X Factor-style presidential campaign. Probably always with the same quiet steel; probably always with her eye on the prize. I also suspect that whatever happens on November 8th, she will emerge a winner. In my eyes, she already is. And not just because I have a certain sympathy for women with divisive husbands - although I do find it curious that whereas men are pitied for having troublesome wives, women are blamed for their unruly husbands, and treated not unlike the owners of insubordinate Jack Russells ("please leash and clean up after your dog").
The Slovenian Spitfire has been pooper-scooping after Trump since 1998 - when she first met the property mogul at a New York fashion party, marrying him seven years later - and that's not the only thing she's gotten pretty darn good at. Forget that she's the apolitical face of immigration - having done everything by the book since she touched down in the US in 1996, that she can rock a pussy-bow blouse as well as Maggie Thatcher, speak five languages and that she looks every inch the First Lady, appearing, as the author Hilary Mantel described The Duchess of Cambridge, "to have been designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished."
Melania's got a fire and a kick you couldn't instill in Kate with a Red Bull IV drip. You can see it simmering beneath the surface, but she'll never let it mar the professionalism.
Question them long enough and most political wives will betray a personal annoyance with their husband through a twitch, a stutter or an inability to hold eye contact, but this woman is a firewall of HD standard make-up no private human emotion is allowed to break through. Watch Melania telling CNN's Anderson Cooper that she doesn't "agree with everything" her husband says, "but I think that's normal" and the woman's a cyborg of diplomacy.
Listen to her calling all the recent allegations of sexual misconduct "lies", dismissing Trump's lewd comments - taped without the candidate's knowledge in 2005 - as "boy talk", urging journalists to "check the background of these women?" (passive aggressive lingo for "they're all strumpets") and rationalising that 70 year-old men will be boys, and you've got to admire the work.
In fact, the only slip up Melania has made in the whole campaign was her assertion last week, in the wake of 'octopus-hands-gate', that: "I believe my husband. I believe my husband." But if English were not your first language, how would you know that when used in defence of something or someone, a double positive almost always equals a negative?
Besides which, what she probably meant was: "I know my husband. I know about the 'boy talk'. And as long as it's discreet and I'm absolved of my matrimonial duties, he is free to do his own thing." Only there is no discretion allowed in a Presidential campaign.
This month, Trump's wife has been forced to endure the kind of extended public humiliation that would fell many a hard-nosed WAG. But not this one. Because if the complete and unparalleled lack of public pity extended towards her at this time tells us anything, it's not that she doesn't deserve it, but that she will never be cast as a victim, in her eyes or anyone else's.
After all, the American dream Melania's been living for two decades now will just keep on getting better, whatever happens. Because either her husband will pull off the greatest PR stunt in history, or he and his wife will turn the biggest and most public loss of their lives into a big fat gain.
• Celia Morgan is a British journalist, novelist and critic. She is married to television personality and former UK tabloid editor Piers Morgan