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This morning, Harper’s Bazaar published a profile of Dr. Jill Biden—FLOTUS and teacher. I wrote it! A real thrill for me.
Dr. Biden graces the new issue—the first time a sitting FLOTUS has ever covered the magazine. I happen to be partial to the edition that features Biden in her beloved Phillies paraphernalia, greeting locals in an iconic cheesesteak establishment. Delicious.
The piece is about work and trauma and grace and divorce and love and salaries. It’s about how a person can remain present for the people who need her without ever compromising her own boundaries. How she can give so much, but hold onto herself too. You should read the whole thing.
I did the reporting for the profile in March—a wild month. I started it on the road with Dr. Biden. I went down to Washington, D.C., to jet off with her and followed her to about a dozen events in 72 hours. A week later, I turned 30. A week and a half after that, I spent two hours at the White House to interview her in the Green Room. Then I flew to Los Angeles for the Oscars and came home. We had our wedding later that same week. It sounds glamorous and exciting, which it was. It also sounds stressful and exhausting. It was also that. It was beautiful and exhilarating. It was packed. With emotion, with takeoffs and landings, with outfit swaps.
When we finished the in-person interview in that last week in March, Dr. Biden waited a polite 20 seconds before asking to see a photo of the dress. I’m pleased to report she loved it.
I sketched out the profile while I finalized the place cards, ruminated about a kicker while a makeup artist fussed over blush, and answered a phone call from Dr. Biden herself in the middle of our post-wedding brunch. She wanted to wish me mazel tov. A mensch.
It was insane, but Dr. Biden seemed to delight in just how much I was flooring it. “I am a woman who loves to work,” she told me. She’s the first presidential spouse ever to maintain her own career while serving in the White House. When I remind people that that is the case, even the otherwise supportive pull a bit of a face. Like—what does that even mean? Does she have a real job? Or is her gig teaching three classes twice a week in northern Virginia somehow a bit or just for show?
Let it be known: It’s a real job. So real that her staff told me she spends much of her free time on plane rides marking up her students’ papers. So real that she wakes up even earlier than usual to commute from the White House to campus. So real that all of her East Wing responsibilities have to be squeezed in around her class schedule. The March 2022 I had—that’s her normal.
There was one anecdote that I loved that didn’t make it into the piece. An old friend of hers told it to me. She remembered once venting to Dr. Biden while Joe Biden was still vice president. The friend’s garden had been selected to be featured on a local tour in town but the garden was in miserable shape. The plants needed pruning. A back row needed to be trimmed down. The weeds! The weeds were out of control.
“I was complaining, ‘How am I ever going to get this done?’” she recalled. Dr. Biden—teaching as ever, juggling her responsibilities to another administration—had an idea. She suggested a weeding extravaganza. A weeding jamboree! She told her friend to invite a bunch of people over. Biden and one of her sisters went too. The women weeded, Motown blasting. When it was over, the helpers were rewarded with home-cooked dinner. It was fun. Ridiculous.
Later, another neighbor couldn’t help but ask—had that been Jill Biden at the house the week before? Yes, the friend confirmed. That was her. The neighbor wanted to know whether Dr. Biden had been given a private tour of the prized garden. “I had to be like, ‘No!’” the friend told me. “‘She came to help me weed!’”
What did I learn from observing Jill Biden? From talking to her? From reading about her? There are women who will come to tour a beautiful garden. There are women who will kick off their heels and weed.
Also, a huge thanks to everyone who shared the newsletter last week or emailed to tell me what it meant to them to learn more about the incredible activist history of Uvalde. There is so much about this country that Americans refuse to know and accept. I think it is always a good idea to reject that amnesia. I dearly hope this newsletter can sometimes help you do that. I hope it can other times help you shop. And some other times give you reading recommendations and ideas for good treats. Why not? Why not everything?