I must admit: I used to be quite smitten with the man you married. Now, I only have eyes for you. We have never met, but the truth is I love you all the same, from a distance bridged by sisterhood and solidarity. I loved you not at first sight (mine is not a superficial kind of love), but rather at "first read," if you'll allow me to coin a new turn of phrase.
Your accomplishments had me at hello.
Last week, while some bloggers wrote about the green-eyed monster, I got goosebumps when I stumbled upon a photo of you, resplendent in Venice; your crisp white hat -- however perfect -- paled in comparison to your smile. The photo was taken before your civil ceremony to George, the man who admitted he was "marrying up."
Before you say that I am using the term "love" loosely (I confess, I do use the word rather freely), let me give you the case for why I am smitten, and why I believe you are such a stellar role model for women and girls around the world. Here are my top nine reasons, Amal:
1. You're an Original: We live in a world of trends. Some people set them; others follow. I can tell you're a leader. I knew it the moment I saw you -- in your quirky, mismatched shoes. There is something distinctly eccentric about your "Crayola" inspired style. You go against the grain. That's risky and I admire people who defy norms and challenge conventions.
2. Your Beauty Runs Deep: We live in a pretty superficial time. You are naturally gorgeous externally, but what attracts me to you is the same thing that apparently attracted George: your mind and your heart. An Oxford-educated human rights lawyer: how big a turn on is that?
3. You're Unabashedly Stylish: In graduate school, people gave me the impression that being fashionable was incompatible with being an intellectual. This made me very sad. You prove this odd premise wrong, embodying the reality that style is not an assault on brains and vice versa. The way you dress and carry yourself reflects a confident, daring, playful personality. It also shows that, despite your brainpower, you don't take yourself overly seriously. Your super cool, Tatty DevineFrida necklace (I love her too) is a case in point.
4. You are an Academic Rock Star: You are fluent in English, French and Arabic. You're a graduate of one of the most prestigious schools in the world and a human rights barrister. You worked at the Office of the Prosecutor at the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon and at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Like my friend Lia Grimanis, founder of the nonprofit Up With Women, you walk the talk. You know that education is power.
5. You Believe in Yourself: As someone who waited till my 30s to marry, I can tell you the number of disparaging comments I received about my single status shook my faith in my nubility. We all know that peer pressure blows and that social norms can be a heavy burden, but you choose to wait. You didn't settle. The fact that you were in the public eye (way before you met George) must have made it even harder.
6. You're Modest: I heard that Vogue and Vanity Fair came calling when you began dating George. Apparently, you turned them down for interviews. In a world of "selfies," it's refreshing to know not everyone is sacrificing themselves at the alter of self-promotion. There is something decidedly humble and disciplined about turning down the glossiest magazines in the world.
7. You Fight for the Underdog, Daily: I'm not sure if it's because I married a criminal lawyer or because one of my dearest friends is a defence attorney, but I find the fact that you fight for the underdog laudable. Like you, I believe in standing up for the oppressed and vulnerable. I believe we need to shift the public's focus from celebrities to people who are invisible on the margins of society. That you have become a celebrity will, I hope, provide a stage for issues of social concern.
8. You are the Anti-Cinderella: We all know the fairytale: unhappy damsel in distress without prospects gets pretty dress and designer shoes; meets Prince Charming; falls in love; lives happily ever after. While some journalists are regrettably focusing on the fact that you "hooked" or "landed" (I gag on these words, Amal) the world's most eligible bachelor, I think we need to reframe the narrative: two equal, intelligent, socially-engaged people met and fell in love. Or is the story, as writer Rebecca Eckler, writes, a little more complicated. Who, in fact, traded up?
9. You Did Not Sacrifice Your Career: Like many women I know, you have a successful and fulfilling career. With great determination and drive, you focused on getting to the top of your field. This took time. You did not, therefore, succumb to the hysteria of the "marriage cult." (Sidebar: I am not putting down women who prioritized marriage over a career; we all make the choices we make). In following your dreams, you did a service to all women by not succumbing to societal expectations.
We probably won't ever meet, Amal. I am happy to admire you from a distance. But as you know, the world is thirsty for good female role models -- although I am always in awe of the many remarkable female role models there already are. Still, most women -- no matter how inspirational or accomplished - will never have the platform that your new-found celebrity will create. That's a lot of pressure, I know; but I believe you are up to the challenge.
I have given you nine reasons why I love you. But the thing I love most about you (I saved the best for last) is that you embody the sage advice that Melinda Gates (another great role model) received from Bill Gates' mother, Mary Maxwell Gates (another shining star), a few days before she and Bill married. Mary wrote: "From those to whom much is given, much is expected."
You are standing in a virtuous circle of female celebrity role models -- think Angelina and Charlize -- who are harnessing their fame to change the complexion of the world's inequality. And you're not an actress, pop star, or athlete. You are a regular person, just like me.
I hope this will be the dawning of a new day in our star-gazing, celebrity-obsessed culture. How cool would it be if Hollywood gossip columnist Perez Hilton started blogging about human rights and moral responsibility? You make me feel that anything is possible. To this I say, Amen Amal.
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