America has fallen for the Obamas. The history, the high glamour, the PDAs on the White House lawn. It’s a universal picture of love. But for many successful black women, with college degrees, ambitious careers and five-year plans, that enchantment has become something of an obsession.
Those of us hoping to find suitable mates in a dating landscape that is, statistically speaking, pretty grave, are absolutely giddy about the very existence of the first family and especially about the possibility that we could find our own Barack.
We’d give up three hair appointments in a row, our designer puppies and that annual tropical vacation with our best grad-school friends to meet a man like him. Brilliant. Confident. Best smile ever. So into his wife. On the cover of April’s issue of Washingtonian magazine, he appears shirtless to illustrate the publication’s No. 2 reason to love D.C. (“Our new neighbor is hot!”) But if we’d first encountered him the way Michelle did, as a regular guy, under the glow of office lights instead of the spotlight, would he have made our lists at all?
In footage that plays when the networks mention how our cool, young, black president shot hoops with his staff and friends on Election Day, Obama is close to gawky in a simple gray T-shirt tucked in just a bit too tightly. Between plays, you notice tapered pants pulled up a little too high. A slightly skinny build. In those few frames, he’s not the hottest guy on the court, let alone in the country. When he appeared as a presidential candidate on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, my initial swoon as he stepped on stage was short-lived. He playfully hip-bumped the host in an overly bouncy dance routine that embarrassed me into looking away. Suddenly, I was watching my boss get down at the company Christmas party or a friend’s dad grooving to Earth, Wind and Fire at her wedding. Not bad. Endearing, even. But “swagga” did not spring to mind. Sure, Obama is a dad and a boss to many . . . but I get the impression he’s been dancing like that his whole life.
I’ve played matchmaker, unsuccessfully, for scores of black professional women. And I’m convinced that Michelle’s got something on many of us. Not her intelligence or her confidence or sense of style, her glowing skin or the carved silhouette of her arms. I could fill a room with friends who have all these qualities to spare. I’m talking about the choices I imagine she made in those crucial moments between meeting Barack and deciding who he would be to her. She must have focused on an abundance of goodness instead of his hint of goofiness and fixated on a warm smile instead of a pair of oversized ears. It’s easy to see now that he was a great catch, but how many of us would have been open to this guy who strayed so far from the black Prince Charming ideal, starting with his very name?