I was asked if I would become a regular columnist for the leading online divorce portal First Wives World. It is a popular website, and I was delighted to accept the invitation.
First Wives World, which has thousands of members and has been featured in the New York Times, was created to “help redefine the divorce experience for women contemplating, navigating or moving beyond divorce”. It provides resources and advice, as well as the first social network uniquely designed for divorced and divorcing women.
I am contributing a weekly editorial and will also participate in monthly Q&As with the site’s members.
My latest column for First Wives World is about the First Lady Michelle Obama, the great impression that she made when she visited the UK last week, and why I think she makes a great role model for divorced women.
From First Wives World:
The First Lady: “Being smart is cooler than anything in the world”.
Leaders from around the world descended on London last week for the G-20 Leaders’ Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy – and here in Europe, we were all electrified. I must say, I have never seen such public enthusiasm and blanket press coverage of what was shaping up to be just another dull meeting about international affairs.
There was one person in particular who held our rapt attention. This person inspired battle-hardened journalists to fill page after page of their newspapers with effusive praise. This person even managed to eclipse the glamorous Madame Carla Bruni Sarkozy – usually the focus of public attention – who this time around was notable by her absence.
As you may have guessed, we were well and truly swept away by the “Obama Factor”. But it wasn’t the President who had everyone talking. It was the First Lady.
Michelle Obama took “stiff upper lip” London in her stride and conquered it. She met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and charmed them both. Her Majesty even permitted Michelle to place her arm round the Royal Person! Michelle never stopped beaming, she took on all comers and she won us all over.
One of the reasons I admire Michelle Obama is because she represents such a positive role model for divorced women. This may sound strange; after all, the First Lady is a happily married woman. What can she know? Let me explain.
Michelle Obama may look good, but while she was over here we learned that much of her appeal rests in her fierce intelligence. She made quite an impression when she gave a speech to a group of British teenagers and told them that if she, a girl from the South Side of Chicago, could make it using her brains, so could they.
“If you want to know the reason why I am standing here, it’s because of education,” she told them. “I never cut class. I loved getting ‘A’s, I liked being smart. … I thought being smart is cooler than anything in the world.”
Use your brains instead of beauty! You don’t need to sleep your way to the top! You don’t need to be stick thin! You don’t need surgery! These are refreshing messages. After all, there is little respite from all those advertisements and glossy magazine spreads that push youth and beauty as the prerequisites for success in life and love.
Divorce is a distressing experience that may leave you feeling vulnerable and isolated. Divorce is cruel, it is terribly emotional and its effects can last for years. At such a time, you may find yourself tempted to buy into the idea that your weight, your looks and even the contents of your closet are in need of urgent redress. The worries, the regrets, the insecurities… It’s like being a teenager all over again!
I believe that the First Lady’s speech to those British schoolchildren also applies to First Wives. In my experience it is intelligence, hard work and life skills that help women to move on.
After hearing her words, I am hoping for a real buzz when we take our holiday in Chicago this summer. We go there every year, because we love the mix of the city and the shore. As I cycle along Lakeshore Drive, through the City and head round to the South Side, I will think of the First Lady and pay homage to her feisty spirit.
For years I have been complimented on my er …..brain. It used to upset me a lot, because I longed for headier compliments but never received them. Later in life, I learned for myself that being a woman and having a fine brain was a powerful combination. It doesn’t matter what you look like, or how old or fat you feel; it is what you have inside that counts. If you are currently going through divorce: you can get through this. If you are nervous about looking ahead to the future: you can succeed. You can make a better life for yourself and your children, despite the hardships and the pain.
Adversity affects every one of us, but I believe that every one of us can come through with flying colours. Take a leaf out of Michelle Obama’s book. Use those brains, ladies!