How the Cocoas Came to Be Hot for Each Other

He was a high school junior, campaigning to head the nation's largest student-run political organization. She was a nerdy, overly earnest sophomore who thought that was kind of cool. He asked her to paint his campaign signs. She swooned . . . .

[Geek Romance, circa 1993]

Mr. Then-Lukewarm Cocoa (TLC) and I met when we were 16 and 15, respectively. We were -- how to phrase this delicately for Mr. TLC's ego? -- big dorks. Don't get me wrong, we weren't the kids who got wedgied by the football team or who had poor social skills or bad hygiene (as far as we could tell anyway). We even had friends. Yes, I was on the debate team. And Mr. TLC had Robert's Rules of Order memorized. But did I mention that we had friends -- like of the non-imaginary variety?!

Although we went to different high schools, we met as members of the Junior State of America (JSA), a nationwide, non-partisan organization that works to increase political engagement among high school students. JSA is a student-run organization that's loosely structured like the US government. There are local chapters at high schools. There are also regions (or "states"), each with their own elected and appointed leadership composed of high school students. These elected and appointed student leaders then organize state-wide conventions in which thousands of high school students gather for debates, simulations, talks by elected officials and policy wonks, and other civically oriented activities. Rumor has it that nerd hookups and other non-civically oriented activities also take place at these overnight gatherings (at hotels largely free of adult supervision). But I'm sure that's just a rumor.

[JSA Convention, circa 1994]

Anyway, after Mr. TLC was elected Governor of the Southern California Junior State and chair of the National Council of JSA Governors, he appointed a very capable, charming, and HOT young lady to his cabinet. We spent a lot of time together organizing conventions -- many hours planning activities at the Olive Garden (which we, of course, thought was a super grown-up place to hang out), many more hours putting together convention programs and other materials at Kinkos, and many many more hours flirting with each other. It was all very "The West Wing," high school edition.

[Assembling convention programs, circa 1993]

Sure, Mr. TLC often showed up to meetings carrying a briefcase and wearing a fedora, his dad's old button-down shirt, gray shorts, and white sneakers. Nonetheless, I thought he was adorable. I had a thing for men in positions of power (these, after all, were the Clinton years). Mr. TLC thought I was out of his league (which I clearly was -- I mean, do you see how I'm working that pink suit in the first photo?). I told mutual friends of my crush. But he said he couldn't have the distraction of a girlfriend; he, after all, had his college apps to think about.


Eventually, Mr. TLC came to his senses and realized that as distractions go, I'm not such a bad one. And in October 1993, he asked me out. I played coy and said I'd think about it; I had gubernatorial ambitions of my own to think about and couldn't be "distracted" by some tawdry executive branch romance. Maybe we could "date," I replied.

We dated.

On and off.

Across states and sometimes continents.

For 14 years.
[Newly hot Cocoas, circa 1993]

And that's how the Cocoas, lukewarm alone, became Hot.

Are you marrying your long-time paramour, or is your relationship of a comparatively more recent vintage? Do you have an endearingly embarrassing how-we-met story to share? Come on, I told you ours! I even illustrated it with pics of my ill-fitting pink suit and Mr. HC's jewfro. Don't leave us hanging!

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