The Obamas Are Bringing Sexy Back To Marriage

I’m a big fan of the old “Thin Man” movies from the 30’s and ’40’s. If you haven’t seen them, they’re about Nick Charles, a wry and debonair detective who enjoys martinis, solving convoluted murder plots, and spending time with his lanky wife Nora. I can take or leave the murder mystery element of the films; what I really love are Nick and Nora as a couple. They have a certain rapport that you don’t see between a man and a woman in too many movies, past or present. Nora isn’t just standing around breathlessly, waiting to be taken care of, nor is she rolling her eyes at Nick’s antics, waiting for him to hurry up and grow up. They tease each other, are interested in each other, seem attracted to each other, and occasionally like to get soused together. Who (apart from teetotalers) wouldn’t like to have this type of relationship with his or her partner? I watched a DVD extra on “The Thin Man” after I bought the box set and a commenter put it perfectly into words: “‘The Thin Man’ made marriage look sexy.'” That’s how I feel about a certain couple in the White House. There’s no doubt that a large portion of the country is fascinated by Barack and Michelle Obama’s rapport. Just take a look at how much the media dissected the now-infamous fist-bump Michelle gave Barack on the campaign trail. You don’t see too many public couples demonstrate, in a single move, friendship, familiarity, support, lightness, and a connection to contemporary life. They’ve got a partnership that is modern, loving, and well-worn with challenges they’ve overcome together. They’re bringing sexy back to presidential marriage. Here’s how they do it.

They Flirt
The Obamas tease each other in interviews, touch each other affectionately (sometimes on the posterior), and aren’t afraid of the occasional hot date. “Not to be crass, but you could tell by the look on his face that he knew he was getting some that night,” a friend of mine mentioned after we saw the pictures of the Obamas smiling and heading to their car after their dinner at Spiaggia soon after Barack’s victory. This is highly encouraging to married couples — the Obamas have been married for almost 17 years, and they can keep the spark alive, especially after the extra stress placed on their relationship by the media exposure and hardships of politics. When the Obamas make eye contact and smirk at each other in a way you can tell is just between them, it makes me hope that after a few decades together, my husband and I can still have that kind of fun.

They’re Contemporary
He’s a fan of “Single Ladies,” and she’s into fashion. You get the impression that separately or together, if you met the Obamas, you could find something light and fun to talk about. While there’s a fine line between trying to hard and merely being up-to-date on pop culture, it’s nice to see that despite the challenges of marriage, politics, and having kids, the Obamas remain tuned in to what’s going on in popculture. Sasha and Malia probably don’t think their parents are terribly cool, but whose kids ever do? The Obamas are an example that marriage and parenthood don’t automatically mean withdrawal from the fun, frivolous elements of American life.

They Challenge Each Other
Barack and Michelle Obama didn’t meet online, or at a bar, or on a blind date. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those methods of meeting a mate, of course. But, to me, brains are sexy as hell, and you can’t get brainier than two Harvard law students (one current, one former) meeting as she mentored him at one of Chicago’s biggest and prestigious law firms. Who can resist stories of Barack trying to charm a cool, professional, not-interested Michelle? More than intellectually stimulating each other, the Obamas have revealed the tribulations of a family with a new mother working and her husband traveling downstate three days a week, and the ensuing negotiations on how to make the family work. That itself doesn’t sound so sexy, no, but I love the fact that Michelle especially seems to have said: “This is what you have to do to make it work.” As they’ve discussed before, the Obamas didn’t have much money before Barack’s books made it big, and the fact that they had to hustle to keep themselves afloat makes them sexy to me. When the President looked at his wife adoringly on inauguration night, it wasn’t the son of a scion smiling at his pretty carefree socialite wife. They’ve got serious history there.

They Take Care of Each Other
It’s been well-covered that Michelle Obama was never a big fan of politics to begin with, and eventually her husband’s career affected her own. As Barack Obama became more serious about his political ambitions, Michelle scaled back her own job obligations. The “momification” of Michelle Obama has been much discussed — championed by some, maligned by others. And when Michelle was raked over the coals by some press and pundits for remarks she made on the campaign trail, her husband rushed to her defense. Regardless of how you feel about Michelle’s personal and private actions in response to Barack’s political career, it is clear that they operate as a team and yet are relatively transparent about what challenges they’ve faced making their partnership work. It brings, oh, what’s the word, hope, to see a couple stand together and evolve, yet it’s not a TV sort of marriage where it seems effortless. They’re honest about the fact that it hasn’t been easy. It’s nice to see a success story, and a real-life one at that.

They Take Care of Themselves
There’s something to be said for saying, as a couple, “Just because we’re married doesn’t mean we’re dead.” Both Michelle and Barack, even with their busy lives, are known for their attention to physical fitness, she at the gym and he on the basketball court. While it’s tempting (especially during Chicago winters) to hunker down and feed each other chili and cookies in front of the TV, I know I do feel better when my husband and I tear ourselves away from the couch and go work out together or go for a walk. Keeping yourself in good shape for both yourself and your partner indicates a certain dedication to making sure that not only your sweetie has someone nice to look at, but that you consider your own body an investment, worthy of taking care of for the long haul. And, Barack and Michelle look good together.

They’re Good Parents
Of course, this is all based on speculation, but the Obama girls seem like happy, well-adjusted little girls, and their parents love for them is evident, not just from interviews and pictures but the routines, rules, and guidelines set forth for them (I loved that they still would have chores to take care of when they live at the White House, even though clearly there is a large staff on hand to make the bed and take out the trash). That the Obamas can take care of their relationship so well and raise two good kids only makes them appear stronger as a couple.

I understand that not everyone adores the Obamas, separately or as a team, but the interest in them as a couple is strong. Politics doesn’t typically create happy marriages, so while it’s not only rare to see a political couple that creates an appealing duo, the country holds its breath, too, to see if the Obamas can keep their strength, honesty, and appeal throughout the Presidency. If they can do it, so can we other married couples.