Michelle Obama Wasn't Giving Side Eye: She Was Mourning Her Family Home

When the memes of the former First Lady flooded in following Trump's inauguration, Heather Jones saw something other than shade being thrown

Tensions were high as the world watched the 45th President being sworn in on Friday. Celebrations rang out on the screen, while millions sat at home with a sense of defeat and impending fear. While Irish dancers and cover groups entertained, people rioted just streets away, and even more were peacefully protesting. Others readied their signs for marches. The mood in many houses was one of general discomfort. My friend described it as a dark cloud hovering above our heads.

Social media was a mix of commentary from people watching the coverage, calls to action, and boycotts. Patton Oswalt suggested everyone see an independent play or go to a struggling museum. Christina Applegate gave a tongue-in-cheek running commentary on The Food Network line-up.

Watching the coverage or not, we were all looking for some levity. Some humour, some distraction, something to break the tension. We giggled as we saw George W. Bush fight a valiant battle with a rain poncho, we shared photos of clever signs like one pointing out that Paul Blart Mall Cop has a 1% approval rating advantage on the new president, and we sent each other clever memes.

In our search for comic relief, it was hard to miss the body language and facial expressions of now-former First Lady Michelle Obama. Very quickly, comparisons were made to Jim from The Office’s signature camera look, and the noticeable shade she appeared to be throwing was captured and shared in photo after photo. Every post was labelled hilarious, and many touted it as the highlight, or even saving grace, of the inauguration.

I admit to laughing. The Jim comparison legitimately made me laugh out loud. Then I came across a montage of videos zoomed into Michelle’s face, collected from different times throughout the day. Many found humour in them, but I saw something different.

She wasn’t throwing shade. She wasn’t unable to hide her disdain for the new First Family. She was a woman verging on tears, trying desperately to get through the day. She wasn’t being snarky or sassy, she was feeling emotional, as humans sometimes do.

We have viewed the Obama's exit from office as a political change, which of course it is. However, what we have been missing in all of this is that they are not just leaving the White House; they are leaving their family home of the past eight years. They are saying goodbye to people and staff they have grown close to. Michelle left her role as First Lady, but she also left behind a house full of friends.

Michelle watched her children grow up in this house. She has memories there. Important, world-changing events occurred in that house, but it’s also the place she tucked her kids into bed, belly-laughed with her husband, and ate ice cream in her sweatpants. She is a woman and a mom before she is a politician’s wife and public figure. When I saw her face, I didn’t see someone desperately trying not to push Melania off the stage. I saw a woman who was experiencing the emotions of a private goodbye, in the most public way imaginable.

Close your eyes and picture how you felt on your last day of high school. For most of us, our final moments were bittersweet. You knew you would be leaving, and your graduation did not come as a shock, but somehow the last day snuck up on you. You were filled with pride for what you had accomplished, you took in the congratulations and commendations, and you were both nervous and excited to start new adventures. But there is that moment when you realize, suddenly, that it’s over. You are saying goodbye. We all took that one last look back at the school as we drove away.

Michelle had to do this, but times a thousand, in front of the world, whilst maintaining composure. Her lack of enthusiastic grin is understandable. She is saying goodbye. She is watching her children say goodbye. And it is hard.

On Saturday, millions of women marched in support of women’s rights and made their voices heard around the world. Michelle will no doubt be held up as an example of a strong woman, and she is well-deserving of the title. The “shade” she threw on Friday will be lovingly laughed at for a while, and I am sure she will appreciate the humour in it.

We will remember her for the truly amazing first lady she was, and the hard-working woman she continues to be. She has built a legacy. But let us also remember her as the woman, wife, and mom who stood tall in front of millions and allowed us to see her heart breaking.

(Cover image via YahooNews)

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