It's official: Michelle Obama isn't just famous, she's a star. There are many indicators for when a woman has reached such a height -- leaked nude photos, the auctioning of a private sex tape -- but Obama has been handed the ultimate crown of female celebrity: baby bump watch. You know you've hit the big time when the public begins breathlessly scrutinizing the curve of your stomach or the wrinkle of fabric around your waist, and so it is for our new first lady.
Apparently, pregnancy rumors have been circulating the last few days in Washington and PerezHilton has broadcast it nationwide with a post titled "White House Baby????" featuring a photo of the first family with a stick-fetus drawn over Michelle's womb. "This is completely unconfirmed and at this point just a 'rumor,'" he writes, continuing anyway, unrestricted by facts. "We're hearing the talk in D.C. is that Michelle Obama is pregnant. Could this be true????? It'd be happy news! Hopefully it's a boy!"
Now everyone's talking about it, despite the fact that 45-year-old Obama has said she doesn't plan to have any more children. WowOwow actually posted a photo of Obama with an arrow drawn to her nonexistent belly, along with the declaration: "It’s no surprise to us ... since we spotted what looked like a bit of a baby bump way back on Election Night." Yeah, so did Rush Limbaugh. This summer, he speculated that Obama would have to announce her pregnancy during her speech at the Democratic National Convention, so inspiring conservative bloggers to feverishly publish analysis of photographic "evidence."
I could sassily remark that apparently having a somewhat curvaceous figure means you're pregnant -- but even female starlets with boyish figures are targeted for "bump watch." The American public simply seems to crave "pregnancy porn" -- tabloid photos of celebrities humanized by stretch marks and weight gain -- and so we search for it everywhere. There's also a shared fascination with the Obamas' relationship, which offers a rare public example of a marriage that seems healthy and passionate. (After watching them lovingly gaze at one another while dancing at the inaugural balls, my mom told me: "They make marriage look hot.") And who could resist the romantic narrative of a baby conceived during the historic presidential campaign and born in the White House; a royal heir to "Bamalot."
Those are the more generous interpretations of "Obama Bump Watch." Limbaugh's past interest in Obama's curves seems derogatory, maybe even racist (then again, I interpret many things he says that way). Ultimately, though, it's hard not to see this renewed pregnancy gossip as part of the "momification of Michelle," a desire to cast her as the star of our new domestic soap opera. Everyone's watching, whether she likes it or not.