In Becoming, Michelle Reveals Barack Obama Was a ‘Swerver’—and It Could Be Disorienting

Illustration for article titled In iBecoming/i, Michelle Reveals Barack Obama Was a ‘Swerver’—and It Could Be Disorienting
Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision (AP, File)

There is a lot we want to know about Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, the highly gifted young girl from Chicago’s South Side who made history as America’s first black first lady. What she smells like, for example, or whether she fantasized about throwing a shoe at the back of Donald Trump’s squirrelly toupee at his inauguration, or precisely how many times she’s rolled her eyes at Barack’s dad jokes.


OK, her book likely doesn’t reveal those details, but there’s at least one very interesting tidbit that we’re privy to today—Barack’s swerviness.

Now, what does Michelle mean by “swerve”? She explained to NPR that, in contrast to her obsessive and orderly “box-checking”—going to Princeton, then Harvard Law School, then choosing the “safe course” at a corporate law firm—Barack was a lot more shifty.


“I’m snuggling, and I’m like, ‘What’s on your mind, babe?’ thinking he’s going to talk about my eyes. Instead, he’ll say something like ‘world peace and hunger and you know, fixing the economy.’ And I’m like, ‘Is that what you’re thinking?’” she said.

As Michelle told Oprah in her recent interview in Elle Magazine, she just wasn’t built that way.

“I wasn’t a swerver. I wasn’t somebody that was going to take risks. I narrowed myself to being this thing I thought I should be. It took losses in my life that made me think, Have you ever stopped to think about who you wanted to be? I had not. I was sitting on the 47th floor of an office building, going over cases and writing memos,” she said.

She admitted to NPR that the experience was “destabilizing” and that she worried she would lose herself:

I felt like, I need to anchor myself in who I was so I wouldn’t be this woman following this man. I really felt that I could get caught up in his swerving, that I would just become part of his swerve rather then figuring out my own self. So, yes, it was destabilizing but it was a motivator. ... So that I didn’t just become his woman, which I knew I didn’t want to be.


A possible lesson to draw from this? If you’re a box-checker, get a little swerve in your life. Or just ... be Michelle.

Staff writer, The Root.

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Often we tell our sons they can be anything they want to be and we tell our daughters what they should be. That’s a hard pathology to break.