There must be something in the water today, because everyone seems to have their knickers in a twist about one thing or another. Or perhaps I’m the one whose easily irritated by the blogs I’m reading right now. Either way, I have to take isse with this post from XX about why we shouldn’t envy the Obama’s marriage. An excerpt:
Of course, I find it remarkable that the Obamas make time for each other, and I am well aware that any sucessful long-term relationship requires effort. But, I’m also aware that Michelle and Barack probably see each other for an hour a day, and that’s a generous estimate. Would you really want to be in a relationship where “date night” only happened every six months and involved bulletproof vests? Actually, I find them to be a very poor marriage utopia: Who wants to daydream about hard work and therapy-speak? In a way, I find actor couples a more satisfying fantasy—they have excessive amounts of leisure time and passion to spare.
Fair enough. I don’t think any of us are seeking to be bound by the same employment and political constraints as the Obamas. And I’m really surprised that Jessica Grose, the author of the post and a co-editor of XX, thinks otherwise. I didn’t give the post Grose cites, by Amanda Fortini, the most thorough read, but I’m doubtful that Fortini’s point was to say that folks envy the Obamas because they think the balance between being the most powerful people in the world and having a nice marriage is easy. By contrast, the reason people appreciate and (perhaps) envy Barack and Michelle’s marriage is because it stands in stark contrast to so many of the other White House marriages we’ve seen — and because they make it “look” good — not because they remind us of the couple who lives down the street.
I often think about how hard it must be for the Obamas to continue to make a pass at having a normal life, while recognizing the impossibility of it. The president says again and again that he’s blessed with a down-to-earth wife and great children who so far don’t seem too impressed by the crazy life that they live, but that only goes so far. There’s a part of me that wishes they could do the same things I remember fondly from when I was a kid: going out to dinner on a Friday night with my parents and my brother; going shopping on Saturdays with my mom; sitting around at the house over the summer weekend or during the holidays when I was home on break from college. Whatever the normalcy the Obamas attempt, they can’t just hop in the car and go to the local Italian restaurant for a bite to eat. At least not without having forty million folks crowd the parking lot and try to sneak a peek throgh the windows.
I’m just not sure what point Grose is trying to make in her post. That we should not look to the Obamas for inspiration because we run the risk of becoming people too busy and too powerful to be normal? The power couple gone awry? Far be it from me to assume what kinds of inspiration folks are taking from Michelle and Barack, but I’m hard pressed to believe that that is the obvious lesson.
I think, rather, it’s that, despite the divorces and the breakups we hear about on television and in our own lives, there is still the possibilty for human beings in this day and age to have happy, loving marriages. That we can and should all attempt to carve out space in our busy schedules to spend quality time with our partners and our families, whether we are the most scheduled executive or the stay-at-home parent. And that we can be our own fulfilled person while also a member of a partnership. It’s not a complicated lesson. But it’s one that seems to have been missing from our White House for a while. I’m glad to have it back, and hopeful that it’s not an illusion.