Example: [Collected via e-mail, April 2011]
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."
Origins: This story about which of the spouses is responsible for the success of the husband is a hoary old anecdote that has been told any number of times of various famous married couples. It's not a true account of an actual incident, but is rather an illustrative tale meant to impress upon readers the importance of the distaff spouse's influence on her husband's success.
The wife's old boyfriend is almost invariably presented as someone who makes his living via manual labor, and presumably a rather meager one at that. He is typically a gas station attendant, ditch digger, mechanic, construction worker, or in one telling, the owner of a badly
While the earliest Obama versions of this tale appear to date to late 2010, the story itself has been around much longer, and has been applied to numerous U.S. Presidents and their wives over the years.
Bill and Hillary Clinton versions have been noted as far back as 1993. This version was posted online in March 2002:
It turned out that the gas station attendant was a former high school boyfriend of Laura Bush's.
Driving away from the gas station George W. turned to his wife and said:
"Ain't that odd Laura? If you had married that guy you would be the wife of a gas station attendant instead of the president's wife."
"No, George dear. If I had married him he would now be the president of the United states of America", the First Lady replied.
After they finished talking, she got back into the car and sat next to her husband. President Bush asked her, "Who was that?" She responded, "A high school boyfriend."
To which he replied, "You mean to tell me, that you left the car to talk to him? Do you realize that you are married to the President of the United States? If you had married him, you’d be the wife of a gas station attendant."
She responded: "Honey, if I had married him, he would be the President of the United States."
Mrs. Dinkins: "No, if I had married him, he would be the mayor of
Thomas Wheeler, CEO of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, and his wife were driving along an interstate highway when he noticed that their car was low on gas. Wheeler got off the highway at the next exit and soon found a rundown gas station with just one gas pump. He asked the lone attendant to fill the tank and check the oil, then went for a little walk around the station to stretch his legs.
As he was returning to the car, he noticed that the attendant and his wife were engaged in an animated conversation. The conversation stopped as he paid the attendant. But as he was getting back into the car, he saw the attendant wave and heard him say, "It was great talking to you."
As they drove out of the station, Wheeler asked his wife if she knew the man. She readily admitted she did. They had gone to high school together and had dated steadily for about a year.
"Boy, were you lucky that I came along," bragged Wheeler. "If you had married him, you'd be the wife of a gas station attendant instead of the wife of a chief executive officer."
"My dear," replied his wife, "if I had married him, he'd be the chief executive officer and you'd be the gas station attendant."
Connie explained the he was her first real boyfriend from high school. She confessed that he was more serious about the relationship than she was. Bob then sarcastically said, "It's a good thing you didn't marry him. You would have been stuck with a greasy car mechanic." She was not amused. She then said, "If I had married him, he would have become President of the bank instead of you."
While at first blush, the story seems to confirm that it's the wife who is the making of the one she marries rather than the husband who daily toils in pursuit of his advancement, at a deeper level it tends to confirm a popular conceit that the sole proper occupation for an ambitious woman is that of working behind the scenes to ensure her spouse's success. She's not the one who is to labor towards becoming President or a bank manager or the CEO of a thriving company; her job is instead to guide the man she weds to those heights, her duly assigned place to be standing adoringly and silently at his side when the laurels are being tossed.
Barbara "help meat" Mikkelson
Last updated: 17 April 2011
Canfield, Jack and Mark Victor Hansen. Chicken Soup for the Couple's Soul. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1999. ISBN 1-558-74645-5 (pp. 167-168). Chapman, Annie. 10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2002. 0-7369-0454-9 (pp. 70-71). Collins, James Lee. Always a Wedding: Beginning, Renewing and Rescuing Marriage. Xulon Press, 2010. 978-1-61215-070-3 (pp. 19-20). Vitullo-Martin, Julia. The Executive's Book of Quotations. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. 0-19-507836-5 (p. 230).