On Monday, in a hot-mic precious moment between President Barack Obama and a U.N. official, the leader of the free world joked that he'd stopped smoking because he was "scared" of his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama.
Of course the world according to slow news days jumped on the chance to run some variation of this headline, "THE FRIGGIN' PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF WOMP WOMP IS A WIMPY GIRLY MAN WHO ONLY DOES STUFF CAUSE HIS MOMMY/WIFE TOLD HIM TO!"
The McFlurry of media coverage surrounding what seemed like a sweet little offhand comment plays into two distinct fears the rest of the world can't outgrow.
Like a toddler clinging to a Gloworm at night, the modern zeitgeist refuses to let go of the nagging wife trope. Since we're all trapped in the plotline of "Big" and all guys are just little boys playing dress-up in a grown man costume then it's the ever-thankless job of women to play the part of wife and mother to a fellow adult who should know better. So when one of the most powerful men in the world "admits" to being scared straight by his wife, the rest of the man children can point and yell, "See, see! I told you!"
Add to that the fact that Michelle Obama, despite being one of the most popular first ladies since Jackie O, is constantly being burned in effigy every time her husband takes a dip in the polls. She's the anti-feminist militant ruler of the Black Panther party who holds clandestine meetings in the Lincoln bedroom about how to secretly replace patriotic potato chips with those foreign pita triangles.
So, of course, a woman like that would be cracking the whip better than Christian Grey behind the scenes -- and Obama probably likes it, too.
When news of Obama's hen-pecking made headlines, my first reaction was something like, "Come on? For serious?" And then I thought, "Now wait a damn minute. Don't we all do stuff out of 'concern' for our significant others?"
I'm not "scared" of Ike, my long term love, by any stretch of the imagination. However, there are a myriad of gross things I do -- things I won't even describe here for fear of public shaming -- that he yelps about. Lots of those gross things were byproducts of that single lady schoolin' life. In those salad days, I pretty much ruled with impunity. Oh that half-smoke sitting on my nightstand for five nights in a row? I'll get to it.
But now that I share not only my emotional but physical space with another human being who has opinions, some of my beloved Garbage Pail Kids habits had to get cleaned up. And that goes for more than just being a considerate roommate. I pay more attention to my health, my general safety and etc. because Ike has pointed out some wide loopholes. And, trust, I've made some pretty loud observations of my own when it comes to his foolishness.
There's compromise and then there's "Just stop doing that 'cause it's dumb." I assume the president and the first lady know the difference between the two.