by Cheli English-Figaro, Esq.
I saw it. I experienced it live and in person.
I stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow jubilant democrats at the Biden Home States Inaugural Ball as we anxiously awaited President Obama's arrival.
When President Obama and the First Lady finally appeared, the noise from the crowd was deafening. There was precious little difference between the screams made in this room filled with tuxedo and ballgown clad baby boomers and the screams made by teenage girls at the Jonas Brothers concert my children and I attended last summer.
But when President Obama took his wife in his arms and started to dance, the audible gasp that filled the room was immediately followed by a collective sigh. Shortly thereafter, all of the husbands in attendance received accusatory glances from their wives.
We have seen it before though. We all know women whose husbands openly and unabashedly adore them. They are the women who receive flowers every Thursday just because. They are the wives who get brought hot tea on a chilly winter's morning to help ease them into the day. We notice the way their husbands smile at them, lean into them to share a secret, touch their faces, their waists or their shoulders at the slightest provocation and seem to feel privileged just to have these women in their lives.
We watch those couples. We wish, we dream, we envy, but we never hold it against our own husbands. That's primarily because, more often than not, the adored wives closely resemble the American beauty ideal. They look like Barbie. Or if they are African-American, they look like Barbie with a little bit of a tan. So, when we don't measure up to that standard, we concede that as "ordinary" women (even the "ordinary" among us with a double Ivy League pedigree like me and Michelle Obama), we shouldn't expect that type of adoration. We muddle through our marriages determined to count our blessings and to make the best of a situation which has little likelihood of changing.
But then we see President and Mrs. Obama and all bets are off. President Obama may have brought hope to the nation, but Mrs. Obama has brought her own brand of hope to the nation's women.
When we look at her, we don't see a Barbie doll, a movie industry-approved super star or America's next top model. We see our friends, our co-workers, our sisters, our neighbors, ourselves. And when we see the way the most powerful man on earth looks at her, something in us is affirmed. Something long buried, wakes up to claim a piece of the rock. There's something about watching President and Mrs. Obama that makes all American women believe that they deserve to be cherished too.
A moment of self-reflection causes some to wonder what Mrs. Obama does that we aren't doing to make her husband adore her so openly. However, when viewed from the outside, she appears to treat him the same way most wives treat their husbands. We can all easily imagine hearing her remind him to pick up his socks - at least in their pre-White House days.
So perhaps it is simply that open adoration begets love, intimacy, respect and a host of other positive feelings vital to a truly fulfilling marriage. If that is the case, all husbands should take heed.
My guess is that President and Mrs. Obama did not anticipate being marital counselors for the nation, but we have certainly learned a thing or two from their example. Therefore, consider this fair warning: Husbands, step up your games. Valentine's Day is around the corner. I hope you guys have plans to start redeeming yourselves.
Cheli English-Figaro is a cofounder and President Emerita of Mocha Moms, Inc. She graduated from Yale University and Columbia University School of Law. Prior to leaving full-time employment outside the home, she practiced law in New York and Washington, D.C. She currently works part-time from home. She has been featured in Ebony Magazine, The Washington Post, The Washington Post Magazine, The Prince George's Post, the Washington Afro-American and The Gazette. She has written articles for numerous Mocha Moms, Inc. publications and is a featured writer for the Proctor and Gamble website, HomeMadeSimple.com. She was also a regular guest on National Public Radio's Tell Me More with Michel Martin. Cheli and her husband live in Bowie, Maryland with their three children.