Team Obama - Too much of a good thing?

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The Independent Online

In case you didn't find time between your roast and the X Factor results show to read the 7,500-word dissection of the Obamas' marriage in The New York Times Magazine, one of the more revealing passages tells how the First Couple wasn't always so appealing. During the 2008 race for the Democratic nomination, Obama's advisers expressed concern that his rise to the top had been too solitary – that he wasn't seen as much of a family man.

What a difference 18 months can make. Team Obama has submitted to a string of "revealing portraits" and "intimate photographs" culminating in last weekend's epic love-in. But as the pair steers dangerously close to the "Smug Marrieds" territory occupied by other stomach-bothering couples, there are signs of queasiness among formerly sweet-toothed fans. The cry is "too much information!"

We learn that the first time the President asked Michelle out on a date, she refused and that visitors to the White House "occasionally [turn] corners to find the first couple mid-embrace." Meanwhile Obama reveals that as he and Michelle waited to greet foreign dignitaries at September's G20 Summit, she whispered in his ear things "that I probably shouldn't repeat." The reaction to the Obamas' open-door policy is increasingly cynical. Gossip website, Gawker, has described them as "America's most-married powerful couple". Meanwhile a comment on the New York Times' website read, "This stuff is none of my business".

But the Obamas won't be silenced – yet. And the exposure risks fuelling the "Barack-lash" started by – but no longer limited to – Republican rabble-rousers. In the modern political landscape and its open border with the world of celebrity, staying on the right side of over-sharing is tricky. "Hubris and power are natural bedfellows," says Phillip Hodson, a relationship therapist and fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. "But we all know people who have an inappropriate sense of the boundary. Some practise public wishful thinking about their marriage while for others it's simple boasting. In the case of politicians, it's usually about bad PR."

The Camerons have kept public displays of affection subtle, while the Sarkozy-Brunis can't keep their hands off each other. Cherie Blair's account (albeit after leaving Downing Street) of the conception of Leo Blair was a new low. Non-political celebrities find it harder to shock but then Sting and Trudy or Posh and Becks (we won't mention Peter and Jordan) don't have in-trays like Obamas'. "It's great to see that the first couple have such a wonderful relationship," commented another New York Times reader. "Now can the president please get down to solving the country's problems?" Simon Usborne

Why this recession is bra-shaped

After the boom comes the bust. That's what the experts are saying anyway, reporting a 33 per cent rise in sales of conical bras on the high street this month. Apparently, it's all because of the recession.

"They give you 'projection'," says Helen Spencer, head of lingerie buying at John Lewis, pointedly. "They're normally a more traditional product, but young customers want them too."

After the post-war slump, pin-up girls like Jane Russell (pictured below) and Marilyn Monroe sparked a glamorous trend for ultra-feminine, pointy profiles, before the Sixties ushered in a sleeker silhouette. And female assets went sky high after the last recession too – when in 1990 Madonna wore eye-wateringly pointed bras by Jean Paul Gaultier protruding from under a pinstripe suit.

They were to be seen on the catwalks this September, at Louise Goldin underneath pastel-coloured knitwear, and chez Gaultier once again. With the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyoncé also donning Eighties-style, bodycon corsets, resplendent in their twin peaks, is this the beginning of a revival?

"Customers are getting their confidence back," adds Spencer. "They're bold and having fun, and want to show off what they've got – celebrate their natural femininity."

It'd be a worrying thought if hard times meant a return to flaunting our C cups rather than our CVs. But perhaps this is a change for the better: the pneumatic, melon-shaped mounds favoured by enhanced starlets these days bear little resemblance to the actual physicality of a breast, while cartoonish lads' mag cleavages speak of nothing more erotic than a couple of giant orange balloons caught in a washing line. The natural tilt and jaunty angle of a pair of real-life, well-supported boobs is much more thrilling. Bin the Wonderbra, ladies, and pick up Triumph's Doreen model. Maybe they should think about renaming it though. Harriet Walker

The end of TV as we know it

With the nights drawing in and the festive advertising getting into gear, gadget fans like me are pondering what we'll be asking Santa for this year. How about a robotic rodent (the Go Go Hamster) or a camera that's also a camcorder that's also a projector? Will there be a Kindle under the tree? Or a netbook nestling in my stocking? Nope – the item to unwrap come 25 December is the Telly Terminator (£11.99 from This keyring-sized gizmo is a stealth remote control, flicking off televisions at the discreet touch of a button. So say goodbye to the Queen's speech and hello to a peaceful post-lunch snooze. The perfect Christmas present. Rebecca Armstrong