Don't mess with Michelle Obama

Every ounce of the First Lady, writes Barbara Amiel, means change

Don’t mess with Michelle ObamaI thought about Michelle Obama on Mother’s Day. No special reason except I was in a West Palm Beach park walking my two dogs (who caught fleas as the town seems to be cutting its pesticide program now that President Obama has said they can’t use his stimulus money to operate the train system) and I passed several Mother’s Day celebrations. Swarms of children and women, but the fathers were, as President Obama puts it, MIA.

Half a dozen Afro-American kiddies came up to me and pointed at the dogs. “Will they bite?” they asked sensibly. “Not if you’re nice to them,” I replied as one little rotter started jabbing a stick menacingly toward the dog’s eyes. Little Maya (115 lb. of dog) did her well-known teeth-baring-and-snarl number known as “Holy S–t” around town. I was all for her taking the horrid child’s arm in her jaw but given my circumstances that’s not too helpful.

Heaven knows I didn’t want to ruin the child’s future relationship with the Lassie of his dreams, but there is a limit. I was nurtured on Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes: “Billy in one of his nice new sashes / Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes / Now, although the room grows chilly / I haven’t the heart to poke poor Billy.” The London Times spoke of author Harry Graham’s “enchanted world where there are no values, nor standards of conduct or feeling and where the plainest sense is the plainest nonsense,” but that was 1898 and this is Hallmark America 2009. One bite and I’d get 20 years to life.

So, instead, I warmly asked the little lad where his dad was and he looked at me, duh. I tried for mom. He pointed at one of the large ladies sitting eating who seemed wildly disinterested in the possible amputation of her son’s arm. The remaining children, having run away, came back one by one to stroke my big white dogs in wonder. All they see are pit bull mixes. I rather like pit bulls, who can be as gentle as St. Bernards if treated properly, though the ones here mainly live chained in littered yards of cracked earth covered with tin cans, torn bits of paper and broken kettles with a short piece of electric cord and a sign, “Bad Dog.”

As the sun went down, cars of young men arrived, clearly not dad material in any permanent sense, with their hip-hop music booming “I still don’t love ’em, I still don’t trust ’em / I get paranoid every time I f–k ’em.” Ruthless Rhymes for Disappearing Dads, I suppose.

Which is why I thought of Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is a big mother of a woman but not fat. Every toned ounce of her says don’t mess with me. If Helmut Newton were alive he’d be doing kip-ups to photograph her for a Big Nudes volume two (no disrespect meant). Those deltoids, biceps and triceps brachii are killer attractive. When Barack lectures on the need to get absent fathers in line, he sounds sincere but weedy. Michelle on the other hand doesn’t need a teeth-baring snarl to give her admonitions some menace, though given her slight underbite she could do it pretty well.

Quite interesting, living at that point when the beauty aesthetic changes from scarecrow to curvy. Mrs. Obama has put the seal of approval on being big, and having limbs like four toothpicks myself now feels revolting. Racial equality really kicks in when non-Caucasian bodies become a universal beauty ideal. Mannequin suppliers clocked the demand for bigger bottomed models around the 1992 “more junk in the trunk” movement, but Jennifer Lopez’s 1997 breakthrough performance in Selena made it mainstream.

Now, manufacturers are butt-mad, looking for the sorcerer’s stone of jeans construction that will lift up the pancake asses of whites. Since beauty ideals often take their cues from the seats of power—le mot juste—Mrs. Obama’s five-foot-eleven, I’d guess 150-lb. look is bound to confirm the attraction of more flesh, not wobbling Rubenesque, but firmer everything.

That bizarre 1962 film Mondo Cane showed some culture where recumbent mountains of female flesh lay happily being stuffed with food in the hope of becoming the fattest, ergo most respected wife for the chieftain. Even in normal cultures most men find a full-figured woman more sexually attractive than a sylphide, but that’s distinct from the ideal of beauty. With a size 12 in the White House on a good-looking woman, it’s the long goodbye for anorexics. Are there body dysmorphic disorders of the “I’m too thin” kind? We’ll soon know.

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