Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Few Words on Michelle (and you know who I'm talking about)

This week, New York magazine dedicated several pages—and its cover—to our new First Lady, Michelle Obama. Very famous writers were charged with trying to find the reason she has gone from almost-reviled to now-revered. Remember the “this is the first time in my adult life that I’ve been proud of my country” comment and the ire it inspired? Or the fist bump? (Something I do with my kids for every good grade; if they knew of its radical connotations, they would probably be fist-bumping me every chance they got. Or getting straight A’s every semester.)

What is it that has caused this transformation in the public’s opinion? I, of course, have a theory or two.

She’s a mother with two small children: Many took issue with the fact that this woman was calling herself “Mom-in-Chief.” Me? I have no problem with that. The family does have two children. With a high-profile father—probably the highest-profile father—and the demands that go along with living in the White House, I respect a woman who would acknowledge that despite the Presidency and all its trappings, there are children to raise. Children who deserve a normal childhood. Children who need to go to school, participate in after-school activities, do homework, practice their instruments and most importantly, play. Michelle Obama recognizes this and seems to be doing her best, including asking her mother along for the ride, to make these things happen for them.

She seems to dig her husband—a lot: I like having a couple in the White House who genuinely seem to like—even dig—one another. Of course Ron and Nancy Reagan were madly in love for all those years but they were so much older than I was when he was in office that they seemed like my grandparents. I couldn’t relate. Hillary and Bill? Should I even go there? And George and Barbara Bush? More grandparents. W and Laura seemed to have a good thing going but not in any kind of relatable way. The Obamas are a different breed of married compared to the last four First Couples. There was that romantic dance to Etta James’ “At Last” at the inauguration ball, and of course, the aforementioned fist bump, a romantic gesture in context. They don’t do the public displays of affection of the googly-eyes, but you can just tell. She speaks of his bad morning breath and the fact that he’s not so good about picking up after himself, but the way she talks about it is in the most affectionate way. I’m sure in the privacy of the East Wing or the Lincoln Bedroom she might not be so circumspect or accepting of his flaws, but when she speaks of him in public, she makes it seem like his habits are endearing. (And we all know that they ARE NOT. Even if he is the damn President.)She’s tall—I love a tall girl. I’m five foot eight and she’s got at least three inches on me. That’s tall. And she wears heels. That’s what tells me she’s comfortable with her tallness. Gone are the days of the petite flower—the Jackie Kennedy’s and Nancy Reagans. We’ve got a woman who is tall, curvy, and looks like she actually likes to eat. Gotta love that.

Basically, she’s just like us. And that’s what I think many of us are responding to. Although she doesn’t have to worry about what to make for dinner anymore, she still rides her kids about making their own beds and eating their vegetables. And she shops retail, mostly; an outfit that caused a stir was one she wore on David Letterman and which she had bought at J. Crew. She’s concerned about military families and literacy and all of the things that we should all be concerned about.

And she’s got great arms. We know that. But to get those great arms, she has to get up at 5:30 to work out with her husband. That’s where I draw the line.

Maggie Barbieri

What are your thoughts on our new First Lady?

2 comments:

  1. I think she is a terrific woman, which is, as you say, what both transcends and imbues her "First Lady-ness".

    Here in Chicagoland she's like a goddess to many. My husband, who works at UCH, worked with her in meetings now and then and said she was so charming and scary-smart and that they were lucky to have people like her working there.

    So, now we're all lucky to have her working where she's working now.

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  2. Frankly, though I do think she's a great role model, I feel sorry for her. Can't imagine having so many people watching my every move and taking notice of what kind of clothes I wear.

    Tough life at best.

    Marilyn
    a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

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