Michelle’s Frown

Anybody else still basking in the glow from inauguration day? I’ve got a pile of papers and magazines with pictures that still give me a thrill. I especially like the parade shot of Michelle and her husband with huge grins. But it’s Michelle’s frown that grabs me. The frown that nobody seems to have photographed made an indelible mark on my memory.

Michelle wore it when she walked out to the viewing stand, and it captured my attention. I wondered, “Why is she frowning on this of all days?”

My first thought – I’m embarrassed to say – went to the dress. My clothing often hits wide of the mark. Whether hiking in the rain, attending a ball, or working in the office I manage to get it wrong a good part of the time. So I’ve had that frown. The one you wear when you realize you’ve struck out again in the clothing department. On inauguration day the assembled dignitaries wore navy blue and black with occasional patches of red and in walked Michelle in her vibrant gold dress — not just vibrant, but glittering, with texture! She did not blend into that crowd.

Then I realized she did not intend to blend into that crowd. That’s what change is about. It couldn’t have been the dress. Maybe she didn’t like one of the sentences in the speech her husband was about to give. Maybe she had just heard that the Chief Justice planned to administer the oath without notes. Maybe she noticed that her daughter had snuck in the camera. Or maybe she’d just had an arcane policy dispute over her cell phone. But I think that kind of frown would be more cerebral, less primal.

This frown signaled deep concern: not just the end of life as she knew it, but the loss of her husband as she knew him. When he became the President of the United States his responsibilities increased a billion-fold. Try as she and he no doubt will to maintain a stable home for the family, their galaxy has shifted. Apart from the public and security intrusions on their privacy, the number of legitimate reasons he might be late for dinner has grown exponentially. What loving wife wouldn’t frown?

So, a week and a half later I’m grateful for Michelle’s frown. Sorry Laura, but I have never cared for the simpering first-lady look. Michelle’s frown reminds me that she is not just an intelligent and talented woman. She’s real. She’s multi-dimensional and she’s emotionally honest. As long as our first lady feels free to frown things may go wrong, but on a deep level all is right with the world.

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