In an attempt to pin down the exact coordinates of my happy place, I've reinstated my pre-election policy to steer clear of news articles whose headlines make me want to fling myself from the Coronado bridge (the murder of Dr. George Tiller) or run other drivers off the road (the $4.5 billion of tobacco-company stock held by health-insurance companies) or key every car in the parking lot of the Mormon monstrosity in La Jolla (18,000 legally recognized gay marriages still have not threatened the foundation of my one).
While I feel it's my duty as a self-declared wonk to keep up to date on world affairs, I've let my New Yorkers stack up unopened, and I've recently been skipping online news articles in lieu of anything with glossy pictures. Why waste precious time with cumbersome words, I figure. They're necessary, I know, but they're so---wordy and, too often, molecularly depressing. Kind of like a Seymour Hersh exposé.
The daily cycle is a tidal wave of tragedy, hopelessness, injustice, familial murder-suicides, airplane crashes and foreign wars. Even the trashy stuff is more than I can bear, what with the follicularly challenged pair of cretins called Jon and Kate Plus Eight (breathe, Belfer).
Because my eyes can roll back in their sockets only so far, I've temporarily limited my intake of current events to articles that advertise visual aides in the headline: “Michelle Obama Visits Eiffel Tower with Sasha and Malia, Wears Stylish Scarf (PHOTOS).” Pictures of her stylish scarf, you say? Picture me uplifted and scrolling down, bypassing all the wordy words.
Of course, the missus hit the perfect note with her scarf. And, of course, she draped it with all the je ne sais quoi-ness of a true Parisian. I bet she even went so far as to—Mon Dieu!—speak the language. And given that she isn't saddled with an accent from Midland, she probably didn't say bon-jew-er when being respectful. Score one more for bringing civility back to the White House.
While I thought Michelle looked lovely, it was Malia who caught my eye this time. It took a sec for the full impact to register, but I did the cyber version of a double take when I clicked back one photo. There she was, the budding fashionista, sporting a sassy red windbreaker and, beneath it, the very same T-shirt I was wearing while not reading the article about her trip to France.
I was unnaturally thrilled that I could be so hip in my tissue tee with the Indian-inspired batik silk screen. But the realization that I was elated to be dressed like a 10-year-old immediately squelched my elation. Did I just shop in the Juniors section and not know it? Have I lost track of age-appropriate attire? And worse: Could I be in danger of dressing like my child?
The implications of that last thought were paralyzing as I saw my life play out beneath the vaulted ceilings of Rancho Peña-wherever, bejeweled tracksuits hung in the closet, Cookie Lee and Silpada parties the highlight of each passing month. Maybe the daily news isn't so depressing after all.
The horror of my imagined life threatened to derail my end-zone fashion dance as I stared at the mini-me on the computer. But I didn't let it because the real reason for my glee was that I knew Malia's shirt wasn't purchased at Barney's or Bergdorf's.
Our T-shirt came from Target. Yes. It. Did. Miss Malia wore our $12 Target shirt to the Eiffel Tower. Last week, her mama wore a $10 Gap tee and $24 Gap cardigan when she lunched with Nancy Reagan. And as documented by photographer Callie Shell, our president has holes—not diamonds—on the soles of his shoes.
All of this focus on clothing may seem, on its face, superficial. But it isn't. Heidi Montag making the CNN homepage for quitting and then un-quitting a reality show in Costa Rica because “the devil” advised her to “get out of the jungle” is superficial. Our first family being frugal is reassuring and smart. Though, I'd like to openly encourage B. Obama to loosen the pocketbook and update his wardrobe with some Ben Sherman flat-front trousers. The pleats make him look disturbingly Republican and un-cool especially when paired with his silence on gay service members.
What the first-family pragmatism does for me is instill a sense of patience and an ability to step back from the reactionary ledge. They embody a thoughtfulness nonexistent during the mission-accomplished years and have a way of bridging the daunting crevasse between red and blue. Certainly, those uncompromising outliers on the far ends of the political spectrum will never be satisfied. The temper tantrums of those who stockpile ammo and incite violence, and those who throw their hands in the air at the imperceptibly slow pace of change blind them to nuance.
On some level, I understand this frustration. As an unapologetic leftist who believes women should have the choice of what to do with our bodies, who believes all Americans should have access to healthcare and who believes gays should be allowed to marry and serve openly in the military, I want more and I want it faster.
If only because we have thinkers modeling proper behavior for the rest of us, I'm willing to wait and see, to give things time and to try to view the bigger picture, literally and figuratively. I take much comfort in knowing America currently has the best ambassadors I ever expect to see in my life, and while Malia and I spend our respective allowances at the girl's department in Target, I'll try to enjoy the apoplectic fits of the haterz.Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.