It all began in 1989, when Michelle Robinson was an associate at Sidley & Austin–the sixth-largest corporate law firm based in the United States. Michelle had just completed her first year in the firm as an intern when the buzz started. The word around the office was that there was a promising first-year law student who was—at the time—enrolled at Harvard, who would be joining the firm.1 Even though the office was buzzing with this hot news, Michelle kept in mind that first-year law students hardly ever get this type of opportunity, considering the size and degree of the firm. So she assumed he was some sort of super geeky nerd. She also assumed, because of their similarities—such as the law school they attended, and their alike characteristic of being a minority—that they would be paired to work together, with Michelle as his adviser.2
When Michelle first heard about Barack, she said she “probably did what a lot of people do when they hear about Barack Obama.”3 She explained that she had been taken back by the name, unique in its entirety, and she wondered where he was from. As she read more into his biography, she learned a lot about him, including the fact that he grew up in Hawaii, and that he was biracial.
Barack was in fact placed under her wing a few days later, and Michelle took him out to lunch on his first day as a way to establish a professional relationship.4 Little did anybody know that one day they would be much more than just co-workers. Since she had already made the assumption that he was a weird nerd, Michelle was prepared for a geek to walk through the door. However, what happened was her future husband walked through the door, and out to lunch they went.
Even though the lunch outing on Barack’s first day at the firm went extremely well, and she was completely intrigued by his humorous, down-to-earth personality, one couldn’t smell the romance beginning just yet because Michelle was not open to dating anyone at this stage in her life.5
Even though she was positively surprised by the much cuter man that walked in—not the nerd she expected—and completely intrigued by him at their lunch outing, she knew she needed to be focused solely on her career.6 Besides the fact that they were co-workers, she was his adviser, and Michelle took that very seriously. Since she knew it would be wrong to pursue anything romantically in the office, she settled for a mere friendship with Barack.
But Barack wanted more than that. He insisted time after time on her letting him take her out on a date, and she told him, time and time again, no—because it wouldn’t be right. Barack’s persistence eventually led Michelle to agree on going out with him, under the circumstances that it would not be called a date.7The “non-date” was an all-day affair. Barack took Michelle to the Art Institute in Chicago, and he wooed her with his knowledge of art. Following the wooing at the museum was a lunch at one of the outdoor cafes at the Institute. “They were playing jazz so that was really sweet,” Michelle says in an interview for CNN. They then walked up and down Michigan Avenue on a beautiful summer day. They concluded the “non-date” with a movie by Spike Lee titled Do the Right Thing and a drink on the 99th floor of the John Hancock building overlooking a breathtaking view of the city.8
After the negotiated “non-date” that anyone else in the world would consider a date—including them at the end of it—Michelle was completely head over heels for this man. And well, the rest is history—literally.9