Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

'Michel, Michelle': A Host's Existential Crisis

Michelle Obama i i

Michelle Obama, shown speaking to female leaders in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in March, has become known for both her savvy sense of fashion and gardening. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images
Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, shown speaking to female leaders in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in March, has become known for both her savvy sense of fashion and gardening.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

I have a bone to pick with Michelle Obama.

It is not that I think she's too outspoken or too assertive (whatever that means). I don't.

It is not that I think she's playing it too safe as first lady. I don't.

It's that, well, she's making it tough out here for the rest of us Michelles.

I mean, really, she's taking me back to elementary school, where there were something like six of us in my class. Everywhere you turned, there was another Michelle or ME-chelle or RI-chelle for the teacher to confuse you with. That was also, mind you, the era of that Beatles song, which, despite the fact that it won the Grammy for Song of the Year in 1967 — or maybe because of it — is, in my view, one of the single most annoying songs ever recorded. I mean you could not meet a grown-up with any hipster credentials after a while without him or her trying to sing it to you. Badly.

So annoying.

Well, then, thankfully, that died down, and other people with names like Taylor and MacKenzie, and Jennifer, had to go through it, and I had the Michelle field to myself for a while.

Of course, there were my years at ABC News after my friend Michele Norris came along, but then we worked on different shows at different times of day, for different anchors. We pronounce our names differently. Plus, she's gorgeous, so if anybody ever confused her work with mine, I'd just say, "Oh, well, thank you."

Then, of course, I followed her here to NPR, where we are both now show hosts, but, again, her show is on 50 million stations, so if anybody does confuse us — I don't know what she says — I just say, you know, "That is so kind of you."

But can I just tell you? This whole having a first lady with the same name thing — this is a whole other level of existentialist crisis. Everywhere I turn, I think I am hearing my name. It's like being in the kids' section of Target. Every time you hear "Mommy!" you can't help yourself. You have to turn around even if your own kids are standing right there.

Plus, that other Michelle — we have too many things in common.

I was at the gas station the other day. I thought I looked, you know, rather smart, wearing one of my cute wide belts. And one of my neighbors pulled up, and she said, "Oh, you're rocking Michelle's style."

WHAT???!!!

Excuse me, I have been wearing cute belts for the longest time, thank you very much.

And then I made the mistake of asking another one of my neighbors for help getting my compost pile started, and what did she say?

"Oh, you are starting a garden like Michelle."

Excuse me, I have been growing my own herbs for years. Now, can I help it if I happen to be trying to take it up a notch at the same time the first lady moves to a place with a growing season longer than two months?

Maybe this is what happens when you become "in." I've never been "in." But being out has had its advantages. My husband and I bought our home in a lovely, diverse neighborhood of Washington at a time when many of our friends were involved in bidding wars for their houses. No bidding war for us, I believe, because our neighborhood — as great as it is — is not one of the ones that get written about in the Style section.

When I found out I was pregnant with my twins, I interviewed the doctors who were on all the lists in the magazines, but I ended up with the most wonderful physician, with a modest office in a modest townhouse. And he was one of the best, most attentive, most thoughtful and dedicated professionals I have ever worked with.

President Obama said in an interview connected with the NAACP centennial that black folks can and should embrace a wider definition of what it means to be black but that one thing should remain at the core — an appreciation of what it means to be on the outside. And that makes sense to me.

It's interesting to me how disorienting it is when you finally see, if not yourself, then an image of yourself, on the inside.

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Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues