When they met, Michelle was Obama’s mentor in a law firm. It took ice creams, a basketball test and then a romantic surprise to begin the journey together.
Michelle’s kiss on the world’s stage on November 4 may have been a quick peck loaded with extraordinary meaning. But Barack and Michelle’s very first kiss tasted of chocolate ice cream.
So Obama reveals in his engrossing book The Audacity of Hope. In fact, that phrase may well describe his kiss too — as he was pursuing Michelle, then his mentor in a law firm — with a fair bit of audacity. And “wearing her down” to finally agree to go out on a date with him.
Doing the right things
The gangly, skinny intern from Harvard took his rather attractive “boss” out to a museum in Chicago, then to a movie: Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”. Apparently, Barack did quite the right things that day, including treating her to an ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins. As they sat on a curb, on a sticky summer day, he told her about working in Baskin Robbins as a teenager, and how hard it was to look cool in a brown apron and funny cap. She must have laughed her wonderful laugh at that vision. Then Barack asked if he might kiss her. A first kiss that tasted of chocolate.
Until Hollywood makes a blockbuster of their story called “When Barack met Michelle”, here’s a peek into their romance.
In his first year at Harvard Law School, Barack Obama applied for a summer internship at a reputed law firm in Chicago. Michelle Robinson, although three years younger, was already working there as a practising attorney, having got her law school degree straight after college, at Princeton. The application from the “hot shot student from Harvard” had already created a buzz in the office and was passed on to Michelle, who recalls thinking, in a magazine interview, “Now what kind of name is that!” Already her colleagues were teasing her — the only black in the firm — and pairing them off, even though Michelle was mildly annoyed at their surprise of a black guy who was so articulate and capable. Besides she hadn’t been too impressed with his drugstore student-photo which had made his nose look enormous but was surprised to find him less geeky, and not at all a cocky Harvard type, on meeting him.
She walked him around the office, and as was the custom, took the new intern out for lunch. Barack recalls that she laughed so well, brightly and easily; noted her beauty, her majestic height and also found that she wasn’t in such a hurry to get back to the office. She spoke about her family, her amazing father and stay-at-home mother, and Barack marvelled at how rock-solid and secure it all was. Perhaps comparing it to his own rather fragmented picture of childhood; despite the strong influence of his white mother’s love and devotion. (He had just a fleeting association with his Kenyan father, and later his Indonesian stepfather in Jakarta, till he was sent back to be raised by his white grandparents in Hawaii when he was 10). She in turn was astonished that he had a part-white parentage, and listened with fascinated interest to stories of his exotic Indonesian boyhood.
Relenting at last
They would of course meet every day in the office, though Michelle resisted several suggestions to date as she considered it “improper”, being his advisor. She went with him to the office parties, tactfully overlooking his rather limited wardrobe. Till she finally relented to go on their first date. And first kiss.
Soon he was visiting her family in their cheerful household, always overflowing with cousins and friends dropping in. Her brother Craig remembers saying “Nice guy. Too bad he won’t last”.
Michelle’s reputation of being quickly bored with men who didn’t measure up to her impossibly high standards had made the family witness quite a few break-ups. But Craig had yet to submit him to the family basketball test…
As they continued to date, Barack was stirred by the racial issues Michelle’s parents had overcome, the hard work behind the cheery and comfortable home. Their stable family life touched him; just as Michelle saw in Barack, adventure, risk and travel to exotic lands. With things starting to look serious, Michelle’s brother decided to ‘test’ Barack by inviting him to a game of basketball. Barack didn’t play too bad a game of basketball himself; but Craig’s observation was that he wasn’t selfish in his approach to the game and cleared him as a man of sound character for his sister!
Though there is no narrative of how and when Obama proposed in his book, Michelle has chatted freely about this in her TV interviews. There were two years of whirling around on dates in his much loved, much used car, a rusted jalopy, where she could even see the ground beneath as they drove! A visit to Hawaii acquainted her with his beloved grandmother who had raised him with much love and grounding, while his mother had gone to and fro between Hawaii and Jakarta in his teen years.
And then Michelle recounts a particularly argumentative date, when Barack held forth with much scepticism on relationships, with a tirade against marriage…
Meanwhile, the waiter arrived with the dessert.
In a clichéd scenario that no woman on earth can have enough of, the waiter dramatically revealed a tiny box with a ring inside.
It was very easy saying yes to the grinning romantic before her called Barack Obama.
7 months ago