'Becoming' Michelle Obama: Even the queen's shoes hurt, and 5 more things we didn't know
Michelle Obama's new memoir "Becoming" will give readers their most intimate look yet at the life of the former first lady. Ahead of its release, take a look back at what she's already shared with us. USA TODAY
The big revelations from Michelle Obama's new memoir have made headlines, including the fact that she and Barack Obama turned toin vitro fertilization to conceive their two daughters.
There are also some smaller tidbits in "Becoming," being published by Crown on Tuesday, that are new. Here are a half-dozen of them:
1. Hillary Clinton's advice.
After moving into the White House, Michelle Obama sat down with one of her predecessors as first lady, Hillary Clinton, who by then was secretary of state. Obama's new role was undefined and sometimes perplexing, "a strange kind of sidecar to the president."
Clinton was candid about her own missteps. She told her successor that "she'd misjudged the country's readiness to have a proactive professional woman in the role of First Lady," Obama writes. "She'd tried to do too much too quickly, it seemed and had run straight into a wall."
During the next eight years, she said, "I myself tried to be mindful of that wall."
2. Even royal feet can hurt.
At her first dinner at Buckingham Palace, the first lady found herself chatting with Queen Elizabeth II. "You're so tall," the queen noted. (Indeed, the queen is about 5-foot-4; Obama is 5-foot-11.) "Well, the shoes give me a couple of inches," she replied.
The queen glanced at Obama's black Jimmy Choos and shook her head. "Those shoes are unpleasant, are they not?" she asked. The first lady acknowledged that her feet hurt. The queen said her feet, clad in black pumps, hurt, too.
"We were just two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes," Obama writes. She then put a hand affectionately across the queen's shoulder — unbeknownst to her, a breach of protocol that would spark a firestorm.
3. Giving Secret Service the slip.
The first lady had to twist her mother's arm to persuade her to move from the South Side of Chicago to the third floor of the White House. She and her daughters needed her there, she told her. Marian Robinson reluctantly agreed, but she waived Secret Service protection. She would come and go as she wished, out the gates to the local CVS and to Filene's Basement, which happened to be in the National Press Building, not that reporters ever seemed to notice.
When strangers would comment that she looked exactly like Michelle Obama's mother, she would shrug and say, "Yeah, I get that a lot."
4. The horrors of Sandy Hook.
During their eight years in the White House, the only time President Obama asked his wife to come to the Oval Office in the middle of a workday was just after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. "Usually, work was work and home was home, but for us, as for many people, the tragedy at Newtown shattered every window and blew down every fence," she writes. "When I walked in to the Oval Office, Barack and I embraced silently. There was nothing to say. No words."
5. A South Lawn nightmare.
Obama recounts a nightmare she had in the White House. She dreamed that someone – a man named Lloyd, from an agency not identified – had set up a petting zoo on the South Lawn for the Obama family to enjoy. Amazingly, there was a lion, a tiger, a panther and a cheetah. They had been sedated to make them safe to walk among, he assured the family.
But when they did, the cheetah bolted. "We've got a contingency plan for exactly this scenario!" Lloyd assured her. Secret Service agents fired guns loaded with tranquilizer darts – hitting daughter Sasha in the right arm. "This is your plan?" Michelle Obama screamed. "Are you kidding me?"
She then woke up.
6. A resource for biographers?
In the acknowledgements, the first lady says she didn't keep a journal, but she did sit down twice a year with a friend, Verna Williams, now at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. Their recorded conversations generated about 1,100 pages of transcripts about her years at the White House – perhaps a resource for future study.