M Is For Michelle, An Elegant Mystery

Michelles turn heads with their elegance — even when they're wearing acid-washed jeans.

Michelle is a variant of Michael, which apparently means "Who is like God?" And while Michelles don't necessarily breathe life into clay, they can certainly take your breath away. My image of Michelle is stylish and classy — she's tall and cool and well-dressed and she wears really nice earrings. Her hair's usually in some kind of updo, and she knows how to pull off nude lipstick. But Michelle's also the kind of girl who looks great no matter what she wears. I think of Michelle as a really eighties name, and I think of its bearer as somehow looking glamorous even while wearing leg warmers and a pound of hairspray.

But enough about Michelle's looks — what's she like on the inside? This is a tougher question, because I think of Michelles as a little unknowable. They're the kind of girls might not get asked out a lot, because they don't come off as "approachable." When you go to their houses — maybe for a study session or a very polite birthday party with parents present — you discover that their bedrooms are perfectly clean and reveal almost nothing about their personalities. A pink bedspread, perhaps an old American Girl doll smiling wanly, but nothing that gives you a peek into Michelle's inner life. Michelle's a girl to be admired from afar, because so few manage to get close.

Michelle Obama, with her hula-hooping skills and willingness to get her hands dirty, is a bit more fun and down to earth than my image of Michelle. But she's got the elegance thing down. So does the ethereally beautiful Michelle Yeoh. And Michelle Williams, pretty private in the wake of Heath Ledger's death, seems a bit unknowable despite her sweet smile. But the true, quintessential Michelle is obviously Michelle Pfeiffer. With her cool, feline (figuratively and literally) beauty, she's the essence of stylish Michelleness. And despite her popularity, she's never really been America's sweetheart — she's not one of those celebrities we feel we know. Perhaps it's because her heyday came before the ubiquity of online gossip, but I'm betting it has something to do with her name.

Like Michelle Pfeiffer, the name Michelle was big in the eighties — but not as big as it was in the seventies, when it peaked at #4 in the nation. It's still doing okay, but at #103, its glory days are clearly over. Maybe uncertain times call for warmer, homier names — and with Michelle Obama's popularity reportedly falling, the trend might not reverse anytime soon. But this waning hipness is unlikely to tarnish Michelle's luster — she looks good in anything, including her name.

Michelle [Wikipedia]
Michelle [Baby Name Wizard]

Earlier: L Is For Lisa, Whose Looks Are Deceiving
K Is For Kate, Who Kicks Ass, Takes Names
J Is For Jennifer, The Vanilla Of Names
I Is For Isabel, Who's Snooty, But Earns It
H Is For Hillary, A Barrel Of Laughs
G Is For Grace - What's That Up Her Sleeve?
F Is For Francesca, And I Wish I Were Her
E Is For Emily, Who Seems Sweet (At First)
D Is For Danielle (Or Dani, Who's Apparently Kinda Judgey)
C Is For Courtney, Who's Too Cool For School
B is for Beth (And Barack! And Bandana!)
A Is For Anna: What My First Name Says About Me