Obama Daughters Fascinate Tween Girls

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 18, 2009

The tween girls of the Washington area have transcended differences of race, class and wealth to reach a single, resounding conclusion: They really, really, really, really want to be friends with Malia and Sasha Obama.

They lap up every shred of information about the first daughters, dream about meeting them and strategize ways to make it happen. Minivan rides and dinner table conversations are dominated by questions about the girls: What's their favorite food? What kind of dog did they get? Where can I get a coat like Malia's?

"Sometimes I go up to my room and I just think, 'I want to meet them, I want to meet them, I want to meet them,' " says a desperate Sophie Metee, a fourth-grader at Wood Acres Elementary in Bethesda.

Her mom, Kathy Lindert, just sighs: "Oh, Sophie."

Lindert has entertained hours of speculation on everything "Obama girls" -- what their bedrooms look like, if they like Ledo Pizza and whether they put whoopee cushions on the seats of visiting dignitaries. And this week there was the arrival of the Obamas' Portuguese water dog, Bo.

"All day long we've been looking at pictures of the dog," Lindert said Wednesday, the day after Bo was introduced to the world at the White House.

In poster-strewn bedrooms around the Beltway, other daughters have been doing the same thing. It struck Lindert as strange at first, but she knows her daughter's fixation isn't much different from that of adults across the region who earnestly hope that Barack and Michelle Obama will somehow land at their church or neighborhood dinner party.

Maya Catoe, a sixth-grader from Temple Hills, imagines a friendship blooming through the Girl Scouts.

Maya Laws, from Fort Washington, would rather meet Malia than Miley Cyrus and sleeps with a framed photo of the Obama family in her bedroom.

And Caprice Humphries, a fifth-grader at Beers Elementary in Southeast Washington, writes poems in honor of Sasha and Malia. "Malia inspires me to be proud of myself," starts a verse titled "My Inspiration."

Tween girls are expert obsessors, of course, and psychologists say this is a perfect storm to set their minds spinning. The Obama girls are hugely famous in a media-suffused culture that values nothing more than fame. They are adorable and touched with the glittering sheen that envelops their entire family, and yet, as Sophie Metee says, they still seem "like normal kids."

At the start of adolescence, almost all girls start "looking for role models outside of their own families," explains psychologist Michael Brody of Potomac. "Whether it's in terms of friendships or teachers or in terms of identification with certain celebrities -- which these kids are -- and a certain lifestyle, like living in the White House. It's a tremendous fantasy."

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