Michelle Obama thought that she and Barack Obama were going to enjoy a celebratory meal following his bar exam on the night of July 31, 1991. But, what began as a sweet meal at their favorite Chicago restaurant, ended up being a roller coaster evening of emotions and surprises.
According to the former first lady’s account in her new memoir, Becoming, the couple was nearing the end of their meal when Barack smiled at her and “raised the subject of marriage.”
“He reached for my hand and said that as much as he loved me with his whole being, he still didn’t really see the point [of marriage],” she writes. “Instantly, I felt the blood rise in my cheeks. It was like pushing a button in me—the kind of big blinking red button you might find in some sort of nuclear facility surrounded by warning signs and evacuation maps. Really? We were going to do this now?”
Michelle then implemented her best attorney tactics and pushed back against her boyfriend at the time. In Becoming, she explained that she was a traditionalist, and wanted to one day get married and have children, and so she let Barack know so.
She writes, “‘If we’re committed, why wouldn’t we formalize that commitment? What part of your dignity would be sacrificed by that?'”
The pair “took up the topic with hot gusto,” to the point where a riled up Michelle didn’t fully register what was happening when a waiter finally popped by their table to serve the final course.
“Eventually, our waiter came around holding a dessert plate, covered by a silver lid,” she recalls. “He slid it in front of me and lifted the cover. I was almost too miffed to even look down, but when I did, I saw a dark velvet box where the chocolate cake was supposed to be. Inside was a diamond ring.”
“Barack looked at my playfully. He’d baited me. It had all been a ruse,” she continues. “It took me a second to dismantle my anger and slide into joyful shock. He’d riled me up because this was the very last time he would invoke his inane marriage argument, ever again, as long as we both should live.”
Barack then dropped to one knee and “with an emotional hitch in his voice asked sincerely if I’d please do him the honor of marrying him.” Unsurprisingly, she said yes. And the rest, as they say, is history.
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