Even the loudest Obama haters I encountered by email and in person over the past eight years would often add a soft little P.S. to their rants: “I like Michelle, though…”
I get that. Michelle Obama and I have a lot in common except for chiseled arms, a commitment to eating healthy foods, unflappable demeanor, giant intellect and emotional maturity.
Yep. Other than that Mick and I are practically twins.
My point is she is probably the woman I admire most, ever. I marveled at the grace and restraint she demonstrated time and again with her vilest detractors. When Michelle got mad, she just planted more broccoli rabe in the White House garden. Taking out your troubles on freshly tilled and fertilized soil is a Southern trait, so I could easily relate.
That said, part of me yearns for Michelle Obama to visit the low road just every now and then once she leaves the White House. Not a full-on reversal, just a short trip down that frontage road that hugs the interstate and leads to an abandoned Howard Johnson’s.
There is a small part of me (OK, there are no small parts of me; that was a “post-truth”) that yearns for post-White House Michelle to sit around in sweats eating potato chips and Lipton onion soup dip and say what she really thinks about the West Virginia bigot who called her an “ape in heels.” Alas, she is better than that on both counts.
I tried to emulate Michelle Obama’s attitude after the late unpleasantness but found it impossible. I tried to quote her now-famous “When they go low, we go high” but it came out: “When they go low, we gleefully exploit it.” Every. Single. Time.
Michelle Obama made me want to be a better mother. Our daughters aren’t that far apart in age and I admired how she was appropriately protective but not suffocating. How did she resist telling an undesirable boyfriend, “You know her daddy could have your fingerprints erased, right? OK. Good talk.”
Her commitment to fitness is something I liked to admire from a safe distance. Her message to young people was clear: Queso dip bad; parsnips good. And they bought it! The First Lady made nutrition, if not quite hip, cool enough to make sure you wouldn’t get bullied for having kale pesto in your lunchbox. When she spoke out, kids listened, mostly because they are really good at recognizing when somebody cares about them and when they’re just pretending.
I’m hoping that in her private life, Michelle Obama will turn her considerable talents and likeability scores into continuing to work with childhood obesity or (new issue) trying to determine why ESPN female anchors dress like hookers. (Nobody needs to see that much cleavage at 9 in the morning, am I right?)
I’ll miss Michelle Obama’s wisdom, J Crew sweater sets, carpool karaoke cuttin’ up and, sigh, even the parsnips. You go, girl. But don’t go too far.
Celia Rivenbark is the NYT-bestselling author of “You Don’t Sweat Much for a Fat Girl.” Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.