Friday, June 17, 2011

Michelle Obama’s Arms

Michelle Obama- ten feet away from me!

With all the unpleasant things going on this week, I haven’t had a chance to write about my UNBELIEVABLE EXPERIENCE on Monday. I was Monica Holloway’s guest (thank you Areva Martin, CEO of Special Needs Network) at a fundraising luncheon for Obama 2012, featuring keynote speaker: Michelle Obama! Yes, folks. On Monday I was just ten feet away from greatness, and GREAT ARMS. Holy moly, those arms… I am not kidding.

As Michelle walked out, gorgeous and poised, the Inner City Kids Orchestra started to play, and Monica and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes. It was truly a surreal and magic moment, and suddenly all the things Monica and I had stressed about up until that moment were forgotten.

What did we stress about, you ask? How ‘bout this: WHAT DO YOU WEAR WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO SEE THE FIRST LADY OF THE MOST POWERFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD? I mean, really. Monica and I were on the phone until well past midnight the night before (and we had to be on the road by 8:30 in the morning) talking each other off the ledge. We both tore through our closets, describing in detail each garment we owned, while simultaneously looking at pictures of each other on facebook.

“Oh, how about the dress you’re wearing here at this gig in 2009, Hollye? That looks cute.”
“I can’t wear that! It’s sleeveless! I can’t bare my arms around HER! And anyway I got that dress at Ross…EVERYONE WILL KNOW!”
“Google Michelle Obama right now- there’s a picture of her in a GAP dress- I swear!”

And this is how the conversation went until we exhausted ourselves, nearing 1a.m., neither of us closer to a decision.

At 7 a.m. I decided to wear a blazer and dress pants with a nice blouse. It had been probably ten years since I had worn these “corporate” clothes. I took the blazer out of the closet and there was literally a quarter inch of dust on the shoulders, which I frantically cleaned. Then after trying it on, I noticed the sleeves were an inch too long. Had I always worn it like that? Or had my arms shrunk with age? I could not let Michelle Obama see me this way. So I rushed to my junk drawer to find the old “Stitch Witchery” I bought years ago, because I don’t sew. Remember Stitch Witchery? It’s like a white tape that you iron inside of a hem and it sort of glues the hem in. So there I am…the clock is ticking, my hair is wet, and I’m ironing Stitch Witchery into my ten-year old dusty blazer as my sweet husband is in the driveway in his Pjs washing the bird poop off my car. Ugh.

I finally put myself together and flew out the door. Late, of course. I used every stop sign and traffic light as an opportunity to apply mascara and eyebrows. After missing my exit and having to turn around, I finally arrive in Pasadena to meet Monica, who had spent the morning bedside with her sick son, feverish and vomiting. I met her on the side of the road, where I parked, then jumped into her car, anxious to see what she was wearing.

Monica was looking fabulous in a slip, hot rollers strewn about the car, no makeup and a pile of clothes in the backseat.

HELP! She implored.

“I’m here. Let’s do this.”

We rifled through the clothing choices in the backseat and chose a great outfit. It, too, was an outfit she had not worn in about 8 years, as the designer dress she had just purchased had been ruined at the drycleaners. Of course.

Monica managed to contort her 5”9” frame over and around the steering wheel as she dressed in the front seat of her car, then put her lipstick on while I simultaneously penciled in her eyebrows. Somehow…we pulled ourselves together and drove up the hill to the big event.

The night before, Monica had flown in from San Francisco, where she had attended a memorial service for an old friend. After missing her return flight, she returned to find that someone had attempted to break into her car at LAX and in the process had broken the handle off her door. Monica, in one of her Lucille Ball moments (she has many) had to crawl through the window.

So we pull up in front of this mansion, flustered, insecure, the valet comes to the door and looks at us, cocking her head…Monica picks the door handle up off the floor, “Oh, are you looking for this?”
We laugh, and we know…this is it. Ready or not, here we come.
Monica in her fabulous designer 8-year old outfit
Me - "What Not To Wear"

We spent the next hour in a long line waiting for our pat-down by the Secret Service (woot woot!). While in line with a hundred other women, I blurted out, "Did anyone else here completely stress over what to wear today?” All heads whipped around in my direction. Uh-oh.

“Oh my Lord, YES!” was the overwhelming response. Then one by one women began to tell us their tales of woe…the shopping and not finding, the frantic search, the clothes now lying in piles all over their bedrooms. Every one of us, it seemed, had that Universal feeling that somehow we weren’t “enough” to be in front of the First Lady, that somehow we didn’t belong here. And yet, each of us were invited. (Another universal “Shame” theme…so glad Amy Ferris and I are doing this book on shame. Lordy, it is pervasive).

Anyhoo….back to Michelle Obama’s arms. So we take our seats at our reserved table, next to Star Jones and Eva Marcille- winner of America’s Next Top Model, who says to Monica “Oh I LOVE your outfit!” And I winked at her…TOLD YA. Star Jones was quite lovely, not like that woman she plays on reality shows. She got a bottle of wine from the bar and came back to refill all our glasses. Just as I confidently reach for my mug of wine ( yes, just as Monica and I arrived, they run out of wine glasses so we take our seat next to Star and crew with mugs of wine)  and with horror I notice a long white tape of Stitch Witchery hanging out of my sleeve. Oh screw it!  It was hotter than HADES anyway so I took the damn jacket off and forgot about it for the rest of the day. Which meant I was now free to concentrate on what really mattered - Michelle Obama’s arms.
Eva Marcille, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Areva Martin, Star Jones

Monica and Star:
"Did you see that Stitch Witchery hanging
out of that poor girl's sleeve?"
But as she took the podium and began to speak, all my self- involved worries melted away. What I heard was a woman just like me, who had doubts, who did her best to be brave and stand up for what she believed in, who was striving to be a good mom, a loving and supportive wife, and to do the right thing even when it’s the hardest thing. I learned that the president of the United States calls his wife “Meesh” - I loved that. And I learned something about Michelle Obama’s arms. That they, like mine, comfort her husband at night when it’s been an impossible day, and 
hold her children close to her, just as I do. I learned that we all belonged there on that day and that we are all, as “Meesh” said, in this together.

I learned that clothes do not make the woman (although they help), and that Prada shoes are torturously uncomfortable so who needs 'em (ask Monica) and that what counts is who we are and how we live our lives. 

I also learned that 20 pushups a day are not going to cut it. I gotta get crack-a-lackin’.


  1. She is blessed with beautiful arms and all the workouts in the world are not the same as just having them. I have one picture of me when I was 40 with great arms. It was a fluke of the camera. Now my arms are hideous for many reasons not to be discussed here.
    Hollye, you are beautiful both inside and out. Love your adventure getting ready for Michelle (Meesh).

  2. Wow, from the darkness into the light! Is it just me, or is this crazily ironic? And just kinda like a certain peacock feather we all know about ;)

    Ooh, and I so admire Michelle Obama!


  3. Magic in the front seat of a car...not the first time, nor the last. I can imagine the event was well worth the two are so gorgeous.

  4. oh for god sake, you have the most amazing life. ups downs, JOY sorrow, AND MICHELE OBAMA.
    okey dokey - drinking myself into silly.
    LOVE YOU HOLLYE DEXTER. you make life wonderful.

  5. Hi Hollye, I posted two comments on this piece which I liked very much and neither of them showed up. This is a test to see if I'm failing to press the right button.

  6. Ah, I failed to press not one but two buttons before!

  7. I wish you all could have been there with us!
    And Judy, I wish I could have read your most excellent lost comments.
    You just have to do that word capcha thing before the comment posts. Wish I didn't have to have that thing but if you don't, you get spammed on your blog by spam robots.
    I like real people, personally.


I love hearing your point of view- thank you for taking the time to comment and be part of the conversation!