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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Value of a Good Partner

A smart man is smarter and greater when he marries a smart woman” -Funso Adegbola

She said to me “I don’t like all girls, these days”. 

 That’s weird  I thought but played along eager to find out what it was that inspired this statement. 

“They’re all funny. They complain about how boys want women to be like Michelle but then attack the boys for not being like Barack. They’re never content. They’re always fantasizing about their ideal men. Why can’t they build these men up? Why can’t they inspire these men to treat them like Princesses?” 

I took in her message merely adding “I don’t take all these things serious. Talk is the cheapest thing in the world. Everyone can talk and everyone will talk”.

Barack and Michelle are the quintessential couple. He’s the most powerful man in the world and is a symbol of the fact that the world is evolving to a level where the idea of a black man running the show on a political level doesn’t seem absurd. He captured our hearts while running for the Presidency in 2008. His campaign was the symbol of cool, as seen with his use of the power of celebrity culture. He sparked an interest in politics that the global recession and George Bush had annihilated.

By his side, his wife Michelle complemented him. She fulfilled the stereotype of the strong black woman who is smart, pretty and clever in a way that didn’t leave one wondering why our women tend to be bitchy but inspiring. She worked as hard as her husband on the campaign trail and played a key role in ensuring his ascendancy to the White House. So much so, that so many people believe she’s the more charismatic and powerful Obama.

Whilst Barack was criticized for not being “black” on the basis that by growing up in Hawaii with his white mother and her parents, he had not encountered some of the struggle the blacks have become synonymous with, Michelle dispelled all that and she helped create an air of relativity with the naysayers. She had grown up in a predominantly black area in Chicago to a not so rich family and had been able to earn for herself an Ivy League education at Princeton and Harvard.

There’s a story that relates to them  that has gone viral  that goes as follows: One night President Obama and his wife Michelle decided to do something out of routine and go for a casual dinner at a restaurant that wasn’t too luxurious. When they were seated, the owner of the restaurant asked the president’s secret service if he could please speak to the First Lady in private. They obliged and Michelle had a conversation with the owner.
Following this conversation President Obama asked Michelle, “Why was he so interested in talking to you.” She mentioned that in her teenage years, he had been madly in love with her. President Obama then said, “So if you had married him, you would now be the owner of this lovely restaurant,” to which Michelle responded, “No. If I had married him, he would now be the President.”

Whilst I doubt the validity of the story, it relates to a larger point about the Obama’s relationship. Barack and Michelle came in contact with each other in the summer of 1989 when the Chicago law firm she worked for asked her to mentor their new Summer Associate (Barack).  A relationship that would ultimately consummate in marriage blossomed.

François Hollande was elected as French President earlier this year. Boosted by Dominique Strauss Kahn’s rape scandal and incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s poor economic performance, Hollande was the first left wing President in nearly 20 years. Hollande has a peculiar reputation encapsulated by the fact that he has never been married. He was in a long term relationship with fellow high flying Politician, Ségolène Royal for 29 years and they have 4 children together. For a long time, Royal was seen as the more popular political figure culminating in an unsuccessful run for the Presidency in 2007. That same year, they separated and Hollande officially started a relationship with popular journalist, Valérie Trierweiler. It is widely believed that they had been seeing each other secretly before and this had come to the knowledge of Royal. Ironically, she had been a long-time friend of the couple and this had seen her getting exclusives as seen when Royal granted Trierweiler the pleasure of interviewing her in the maternity ward as she gave birth to her fourth child in 1992.

Since Treirweiler and Hollande became an item officially, a rivalry and tense relationship has developed between the two women and it has been of disastrous effect to his teething Presidency. Over the years, Trierweiler has been guilty of using her position as a leading journalist to attack Royal. However, the relationship amongst the troubled trio has reached its boiling point. As the story goes, Royal and Hollande made a deal amongst themselves stipulating that in exchange for Royal’s support of his presidential bid, he would return the favour by naming her Head of the National Assembly provided she could win a seat. As Hollande stormed to victory, Royal complained about what she saw as a conscious decision to exclude her from the polity. This reached its head when she was not invited to the wedding of Hollande’s mother and subsequently, the Presidential inauguration. All signs point to Valérie Trierweiler’s fingerprints. When the time came for Royal to select her constituency, more trouble was to brew. Seeking to represent La Rochelle, she had to win the party’s ticket by contending against Olivier Falorni, an old friend of Hollande’s who it is believed allowed he and Treirweiler hide out in his home while their affair was still secret. Royal prevailed on her ex-partner to coerce his associate out of the race to clear the path for her and secure her ascent to more political relevance. Hollande addressed the situation in a laid back manner sending emissaries to Falorni instead of handling it himself. The result? Falorni stood firm and Royal would go on to lose the race, despite Hollande making a public declaration of support. 

However, that declaration would create a bigger problem as it drove Treirweiler into furious mode which saw her send out that tweet declaring her support for Falorni in a move designed to undermine Royal.  That would be the final straw as Royal publicly accused her of ruining her political career and the 4 children of the Hollande/ Royal union have stopped talking to her. It also led to significant public criticism with the consensus being she had gone a step too far. Her job with the newspaper Paris Match, is at risk after the owner declared earlier in the year that she was an “an unpinned grenade” whilst also threatening that her contract would not be renewed upon expiration at the end of the year. Vanity Fair credits a quote from an unnamed observer saying “French people can accept a man who is between two women under one condition: that it is clear he’s the master, that he pulls the strings.” Hollande has failed in this regard and his presidency is lesser for it. He has succeeded in breaking the record for approval ratings after the six month mark. He presently stands at 36% in stark contrast with the 51% recorded by his predecessor. 

Compare and contrast Michelle Obama and Valérie Trierweiler and the value of making the right choice when selecting partners is clear. The good partner eases doubts and insecurities. The good partner helps to build, creating value and worth while the not so good partner wreaks havoc, courts conflict and creates unrest. The good partner detests embarrassment; the not so good partner is a source of embarrassment. 

The Obama relationship also teaches us one lesson: The Nigerian lady does not want to speak or possibly entertain the thought of the man she sees as 'beneath' her. Michelle saw some potential in Barack regardless of her temporary superiority. She didn’t think she was too good for him because he was her subordinate. She realized that the superiority was insignificant in the grand scheme of things and was able to rein it in and has been able to influence her man to the heights he has risen to. That’s not to say we shall hold her accountable for all of her husband’s achievements. “How much money does he have? Would he buy me Brazilian weave and Gucci bag? Does he have an iPhone or Blackberry?” are the bones of contention. We disregard future prospects for the short term. What we forget is that a lot of these factors have little or no relevance in the long run. Perfection is being sought forgetting that the very idea of humanity is to strive for perfection whilst keeping in mind that it is a rarity. We’re concerning ourselves with getting A*’s and A’s without doing the hard work required to get those high grades. Perhaps, our generation would be greater if we decided to focus more on supporting and complementing instead of obsessing over rare finished commodities.


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