Michelle Obama Talks Dating Barack, Her Royal Faux Pas and Daughter's Prom Night in New Memoir
By Paige Gawley
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Michelle Obama's memoir, Becoming, is giving fans a peek inside the former first lady's life.
In the highly anticipated book, which was released on Tuesday, the 54-year-old opens up about how she came to be, the beginning of her relationship with Barack Obama and their life inside and outside the White House.
Keep reading for some of the biggest revelations in Becoming.
1. Barack Obama did not make a great first impression
The future first couple met when Michelle was assigned to mentor Barack, whom she describes as "a hot shot law student," at her Chicago law firm. Michelle found herself skeptical of the wunderkind reputation Barack had amassed before his arrival.
"I was doubtful he’d earned the hype. I’d checked out his photo in the summer edition of our staff directory -- a less-than-flattering, poorly lit head shot of a guy with a big smile and a whiff of geekiness -- and remained unmoved," she admits. "His bio said he was originally from Hawaii, which at least made him a comparatively exotic geek."
With the exception of his "rich, even sexy, baritone" voice, which she heard in a phone call prior to his arrival, Barack didn't curry much favor with Michelle, especially when he showed up late on the first day. After apologizing and a tour of the office, the pair went to a fancy lunch. Though it went well, Michelle didn't see a future with the guy.
"Not once... did I think about him as someone I’d want to date. For one thing, I was his mentor at the firm. I’d also recently sworn off dating altogether, too consumed with work to put any effort into it," she writes. "And finally, appallingly, at the end of lunch Barack lit a cigarette, which would have been enough to snuff any interest, if I’d had any to begin with.”
2. Michelle initially tried to set Barack up with her friends
During that summer, Michelle brought Barack with her to a happy hour that served as "an unofficial monthly mixer for black professionals." He immediately started talking to "a beautiful and high-powered" acquaintance of Michelle's, which was somewhat surprising to her due to his choice of non-work clothes.
"[He] was wearing a white linen blazer that looked as if it’d come straight out of the Miami Vice costume closet. Ah well," she writes. "There was no arguing with the fact that even with his challenged sense of style, Barack was a catch. He was good-looking, poised, and successful. He was athletic, interesting, and kind. What more could anyone want?”
The set-up did not go well, conversations about movies and horseback riding falling flat.
“He shot me a look, implying that he’d like to be rescued," she recalls. "But he was a grown man. I let him rescue himself.”
3. Barack was persistent in his desire to date Michelle
Though Michelle began developing feelings for Barack, she didn't think that would change anything.
"Whether I was going to admit it or not, though, something between us had started to change," she writes. "On days when we were too busy to check in face-to-face, I found myself wondering what he’d been up to. I talked myself out of being disappointed when he didn’t surface in my office doorway. I talked myself out of being too excited when he did. I had feelings for the guy, but they were latent, buried deep beneath my resolve to keep my life and career tidy and forward focused -- free from any drama."
But that "deadly combination of smooth and reasonable" eventually worked its magic and, after a couple of firm-related outings together, the couple kissed at a Baskin-Robbins. "I leaned in and everything felt clear," she writes.
“As soon as I allowed myself to feel anything for Barack, the feelings came rushing -- a toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder," she says. "Any worries I’d been harboring about my life and career and even about Barack himself seemed to fall away with that first kiss, replaced by a driving need to know him better, to explore and experience everything about him as fast as I could.”
4. Barack and Michelle struggled with fertility
Despite being "two committed go-getters with a deep love and a robust work ethic," the couple struggled to conceive. Michelle calls their trouble with starting a family "as surprising as it was disappointing." For a while, Michelle assumed that their conflicting schedules were to blame.
"Our attempts at procreation took place not in service of important monthly hormonal markers but rather in concert with the Illinois legislative schedule. This, I figured, was one thing we could try to fix," she writes. "But our adjustments didn’t work, even with Barack flooring it up the interstate after a late vote so that he could hit my ovulation window and even after the Senate went into its summer recess and he was home and available full-time."
Michelle began treating getting pregnant "like a mission," one she succeeded in before eventually miscarrying. That miscarriage left her "physically uncomfortable and cratered any optimism we'd felt."
"A miscarriage is lonely, painful, and demoralizing almost on a cellular level," she writes. "When you have one, you will likely mistake it for a personal failure, which it is not. Or a tragedy, which, regardless of how utterly devastating it feels in the moment, it also is not. What nobody tells you is that miscarriage happens all the time, to more women than you’d ever guess, given the relative silence around it."
After going to fertility doctors and being unable to discern why she couldn't get pregnant, Michelle and Barack opted for in vitro fertilization, something she says was akin to "a high-stakes lottery ticket, only with science involved."
With Barack away at the state legislature, Michelle was left to issue herself the necessary shots for the fertility treatment, a memory that she marks as the "first flicker of resentment involving politics and Barack's unshakable commitment to the work."
"None of this was his fault, but it wasn’t equal, either, and for any woman who lives by the mantra that equality is important, this can be a little confusing," she writes. "It was me who’d alter everything, putting my passions and career dreams on hold, to fulfill this piece of our dream."
But that all changed about eight weeks later when Michelle successfully got pregnant.
"Suddenly the responsibility and relative sacrifice meant something completely different, like a landscape taking on new colors, or all the furniture in a house being rearranged so that now everything appeared perfectly in place," she writes. "I walked around with a secret inside me. This was my privilege, the gift of being female. I felt bright with the promise of what I carried."
5. Michelle bonded with Queen Elizabeth over hurt feet, made a major royal faux pas
During her first visit to Buckingham Palace -- which she calls "breathtaking and incomprehensible" -- for the G20 Summit, Michelle had her first of many interactions with the queen. After their private audience, the two eventually met up again at a reception for world leaders. The queen -- whom Michelle liked "immediately" -- approached the first lady during the event and told her, "You're so tall."
Michelle accepted the remark, commenting that her Jimmy Choo heels gave her "a couple of inches." After looking down at Michelle's feet the queen questioned, "These shoes are unpleasant, are they not?"
"I confessed then to the Queen that my feet were hurting. She confessed that hers hurt, too. We looked at each other then with identical expressions, like, When is all this standing around with world leaders going to finally wrap up? And with this, she busted out with a fully charming laugh," Michelle writes. "Forget that she sometimes wore a diamond crown and that I’d flown to London on the presidential jet; we were just two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes."
That interaction, though, escalated into an "epic faux pas" when Michelle touched the queen's shoulder. Media reports circulated, speculating that Michelle was "generally uncouth and lacking the standard elegance of a First Lady." Michelle, though, didn't particularly regret the royal exchange.
"If I hadn’t done the proper thing at Buckingham Palace, I had at least done the human thing," she writes. "I daresay that the Queen was okay with it, too, because when I touched her, she only pulled closer, resting a gloved hand lightly on the small of my back."
6. Malia Obama begged her parents to "be cool" on prom night
At age 16, the eldest first daughter told her parents that she had been invited to prom "by a boy she kind of liked." Though usually a no-no due to security, Malia was being allowed to ride with her date to the prom. When he arrived to the White House to pick her up -- taking the path "heads of state and other visiting dignitaries normally arrived" -- Malia implored her parents -- Michelle with bare feet and Barack in flip-flops -- "Just be cool please, okay?"
By Michelle's account, she and Barack managed to "play it cool," though Malia still laughs and calls the experience "a bit excruciating."
"Barack and I shook the young man’s hand, snapped a few pictures, and gave our daughter a hug before sending them on their way," Michelle writes of her daughter and black suit-clad date. "We took what was perhaps unfair comfort in the knowledge that Malia’s security detail would basically ride the boy’s bumper all the way to the restaurant where they were going for dinner before the dance and would remain on quiet duty throughout the night."