Thou shalt not ask FLOTUS about botox

January 16

Let it be posted some where prominently: Thou shalt not ask the first lady about botox.

As Michelle Obama turns 50 on Friday, why waste time talking about her possible future choices about cosmetic surgery? Even 20 minutes with one of the most powerful women in the world should be about more than that. Quizzing Obama about botox, which People does in an article on newsstands Friday, highlights the gender-based difficulties women often face.

Unfortunately, whether women serve as first ladies or CEOs, their looks, hair and designer clothing grab the headlines. They’re often viewed as physical ornaments first and brains and heart second. Men don’t bear this burden. They can show up with scrambled egg on their collars, sport crazy hair and more wrinkles than street intersections on a Google map and no one notices. At least not for long.

Name It. Change It., a joint project by the Women’s Media Center and She Should Run, offers research that says women in politics face this scrutiny regularly. A focus on looks affects political credibility, the research also shows.

Like her, hate her or be disappointed in her, Michelle Obama is her own woman and a complicated political figure. She’s an Ivy League-trained professional. She charts her own course and causes as Krissah Thompson reports: Family centered. Military families. Childhood obesity. Getting young people in college. Now she stands at the threshold of an important birthday, and there are thoughts, insights, flashbacks, regrets, hopes, plans, decisions, changes, longings, and God only knows what else that goes on when anyone turns 50.

To remember favorite words from Carl Sandburg: “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

The article in People nicely hinted at how Obama wanted to use her time and talents: “I will be in my early 50s when I leave here, and I have so much more that I should do. I don’t have the right to just sit on my talents or blessings. I’ve got to keep figuring out ways to have an impact — whether as a mother or as a professional or as a mentor to other kids.”

Please, oh, please. More of this from Obama.  The parenting, healthy-living and aging questions People asked of Obama make sense, but what else? What lights up her eyes when she thinks of the future when traditional first-lady speak doesn’t muzzle her? Is she toying with a White House run with Hillary Clinton? Is she dreaming of running an amazing foundation with Maria Shriver about women and poverty that would counter some of the feminist critique of her to date? Wouldn’t her answers to those questions rock the Internet more than replies about botox?

In all fairness, perhaps the first lady refused to dive into a political discussion with People. Besides, People doesn’t usually report those kinds of pieces. Maybe the real question is why did the first lady’s office choose a light interview with People? Why did stories about the interview focus on botox?

Oprah Winfrey or Gayle King – who spent time in Hawaii with Obama – may have to share what Obama typically thinks when she’s not asked about sleeveless dresses, hair bangs, and cardio training.

Then again, we may hear the full truth from Obama herself. She may try to sidestep the tribulations of controversy, but Obama is turning 50. If she’s like many of us who reach that age, the clouds pass, and deep feelings and thoughts erupt. New boundaries take shape. Personal strength becomes more pronounced.  Insight explodes.  At any moment, Obama may let loose her personal discoveries and intrigue us all.

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