As Barack Obama’s presidency draws to an imminent close, many people are reflecting on what this presidency meant to them.
Young Jeezy said his president is Black. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote that his president was Black. We may never again be able to say that we have a Black president.
I was looking at photos of Michaëlle Jean (Canada’s former Governor General) and Barack Obama together, and marveled at and reminisced on the time when the heads of state of Canada and the United States were both Black.
But what is perhaps most significant to me about Barack is his relationship with Michelle. In fact, Barack and Michelle Obama are #relationshipgoals.
Their relationship inspires me. It shows me what is possible. It shows me that Black men do love Black women. It shows me that I can be unapologetically Black, and educated, and confident, and opinionated and unabashedly myself and still be loved.
Sometimes when I have a particular person in mind, or I come home after another ambiguous coffee date, when I am wondering if he loves me/loves me not, I look at my situation and I look at their relationship and I compare and contrast and I evaluate the distance (sometimes the chasm) between what I have (can I even really say I have anything???) and what they have.
And just when I get over-excited and I think the search is over and I think I may have found the real deal, the “One”, I see a picture of Barack escorting Michelle off of the plane with umbrella in hand. I see him lovingly gaze at her while she is making a speech. I see him tell an audience “how beautiful is my wife?” I see him say that he “married up.” I hear him say he “appreciates his wife’s curves.” I see him try to steel a kiss. I read that he noticed the vulnerability in her eyes and wanted to get to know her better. I see his head pressed against her forehead, his hand on the small of her back. I see them making faces together, being goofy together, not taking themselves as seriously. He acts as if Michelle is Cleopatra, Aphrodite, Halle Barry, Jackie Kennedy, Vanessa Williams, Beyoncé, Nutella, butterscotch, vanilla, chocolate, diamonds, gold and platinum all rolled up into one. She is it. She is not only his bride — she is his pride. And I can’t help but compare. I evaluate the chasm between what I want and where I am now. Between what I desire and admire and what had just transpired.
How Barack loves Michelle is the mark. It’s a standard — and a tangible, reasonable one at that. It’s reasonable because it’s real. Could I ever imagine my current love interest doing that for me? No? If not, what does that mean? Their relationship forces us to ask these questions. Their relationship is like the GPS for my life. It helps me envision what my destination could look like. In periods of singleness, it reminds me what I’m waiting for. Their relationship forces me to re-evaluate my own, and to the extent that mine doesn’t match up, I recalculate and recalibrate.
It serves as a reminder.
It reminds me of what I want my relationship to look like. It helps me determine if my current situation matches up.
It’s hard to marry someone who merely tolerates you when you now know that there are men out there who will look at you like Barack looks at Michelle.
I created vision boards as a reminder. I know that life happens and we find ourselves in random situations – jobs, relationships. My vision board reminds me that before all that has happened actually happened to you, when you were in a sober-minded and level headed and not drunk-in-love or desperate-to-be-desired state, this is what you originally wanted. Before the disillusionment, disappointment, dejection, and jadedness, this is what you wanted. When I get carried away by love, lust, fame, fashion and fortune, I am reminded that this is what I wanted. Yes, the guy you are with is cool and employed, yes, your job pays the bills, but once upon a time when you had nothing and you were brutally honest with yourself, this is what you wanted. I am forced to ask myself why I allow myself to be in situations I never really wanted in the first place. My vision boards keep me accountable. They keep me from shifting and from settling. That’s not to say I won’t settle. I actually don’t know what I will do. But at least if I settle, I will know that I am settling and not coax myself into thinking that my heart’s desires have been fully met.
I just want the Lord to send me a good man. At this point, I don’t even know what one looks like, and that’s what Barack Obama symbolizes. He shows us what a good man looks like so that we might be able to recognize one when we find one – whenever one finally crosses our path, because a lot of us don’t know or have ever seen what a good man looks like.
You can’t be what you do not see. Many of us haven’t seen very healthy, loving marital relationships. We’ve never seen affection without sex. We rarely see an educated Black man love an educated Black woman in real life (the Cosby show only whetted our appetite, but the Bill Cosby scandal has put a damper on all of that, to say the least). We don’t know what Black love looks like. We’ve never seen mutual respect and loving friendship in action. We don’t know how true love looks and feels. I think that’s precisely why many of us settle.
We don’t know what it looks like, and because we don’t know what it looks like, we settle, saying “this is it… I think?” And then “maybe this is it” becomes “this will do. Having never seen it, we don’t know for sure, and we settle for semblance. We think that this is as good as it gets, not knowing that it could be better – way better. We don’t know what a good man looks like. We never knew that some husbands help take out their wives weaves or do their daughter’s hair or give foot massages. We don’t know what’s possible so we settle for what we deem plausible.
Portrayals of black love enlarges our vision and challenge us to think bigger, aim higher, and demand more in our relationships.
Barack and Michelle’s relationship shows us what real love looks like, and helps us seekers in love distinguish between fact and fiction, appearances and reality, authentic love and the performance of infatuation.
I do not want to put them on a pedestal (after all, Brangelina and Israel and Meleassa Houghton divorced, so anything can happen.). I’m not in their marriage, so I don’t know for sure if it is as good as it looks. But by all appearances, it looks like it’s strong and striving.
Barack and Michelle — they give us goals. They help us dream. They give us something to hope for. They help us have ambition, to imagine more than what our present circumstances may show us.
No longer is true, dedicated love and mutual respect just a silly fantasy or a hope. We’ve now seen it authentically done — in the public eye no less. And suddenly our greatest wishes leave the realm of the improbable and find a home in the possible.
Black women do fall in love and they are not too intimidating, or too angry – they too can be are loved, wanted, honoured and cherished.
I fully admit – this may very well be why I’m single. I want what Barack and Michelle have. But if I had to choose between marrying someone with a pulse and marrying someone who looks at me like Barack looks at Michelle, I don’t mind waiting for the latter…
…Because Barack and Michelle are #relationshipgoals.