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Opinion | Barack and Michelle: Scenes From a Marriage


Somehow, they defied the stereotype of those living their vows inside a political bubble — the wife with the adoring stare, the absentee husband who only seems to care. What’s more, their description of how the two became one and stayed that way seems, dare I say, authentic.

Here’s Michelle, a first-year lawyer by way of the South Side of Chicago, Princeton and Harvard Law School, on meeting, dismissing and then falling in love with the man who walked into her office one summer day. She’d heard he was cute, smart and ambitious. “I was skeptical of all of it. In my experience, you put a suit on any half-intelligent Black man and white people tended to go bonkers.”

And just to be clear: “He was refreshing, unconventional, and weirdly elegant. Not once, though, did I think about him as someone I’d want to date.”

But as summer went on, she fell for his weirdness and his wit, his tardiness and his tranquillity, and when the mystery tug at her heart became too strong to resist, she knew she was in trouble. “He was like a wind that threatened to unsettle everything,” she writes. She spends more than 50 pages in her memoir on the courtship.

By contrast, it takes Barack, a notoriously loquacious man, a mere four pages in a book of more than 700 pages to get from meeting Michelle to their wedding day

Going into politics proved to be one of the biggest sources of contention in their marriage. “We began arguing more, usually late at night when the two of us were thoroughly drained,” he writes. “‘This isn’t what I signed up for, Barack,’” says Michelle. “‘I feel like I’m doing it all by myself.’”

Indeed, like so many women, she made a considerable sacrifice of her own career to ensure that the family they raised would be normal, and to help Barack become the most powerful man in the world — something he consistently acknowledges.

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