Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama had been dating for a couple of years, and she was tired of his endless debates about whether marriage still meant anything as an institution.
So when President Obama launched into one of those discussions yet again over dinner at a fancy restaurant in 1991, Robinson lit into her boyfriend, lecturing him on the need to get serious in their relationship.
Then dessert came. On the plate was a box. Inside was an engagement ring.
“He said, ‘That kind of shuts you up, doesn’t it?’ ” Michelle recounted years later.
The couple married the following year.
The marriage might never have happened. They met in 1989 when Obama spent his summer as a first-year law student at the Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin, and Michelle Robinson was the lawyer assigned to be his adviser.
Everybody at the firm had been buzzing about the smart, first-year Harvard Law School student, so she was expecting him to be “nerdy, strange, off-putting.”
“But I was charmed,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised by who he turned out to be.”
Still, because of their professional relationship, Michelle Robinson tried to fix Obama up with her friends. Then, halfway through the summer, Obama asked her out.
On their first date, they went to the Art Institute, strolled down Michigan Avenue and caught Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.”
“It was fantastic,” Michelle Obama said in 2004. “He was definitely putting on the charm. … It worked. He swept me off my feet.”
Two years later came the proposal dinner at Gordon’s on Clark Street. And what was the dessert next to that engagement ring?
“I don’t even remember,” Michelle Obama conceded in 2004. “I don’t think I even ate it. I was so shocked and sort of a little embarrassed because he did sort of shut me up.”