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A couple kisses one another with beers in hand after their wedding ceremony.

Love Story: From an Unrequited Love to an Unbreakable Bond

She liked him from afar for three years. Then he fell in love on date three.

November 16, 2020

Paula Ann Solis

Chelsee [Cox] Alcantara (Dallas-Fort Worth ’12) and Gabe Alcantara (Dallas-Fort Worth ’10) were married on November, 3, 2018 in Dallas, where they live. Currently, Chelsee writes social studies curriculum for IDEA Public Schools and Gabe is a consultant and senior manager of bilingual education with TNTP. This is their love story.

I understand this love story started off as an unrequited one. Who was dragging their feet here?

Chelsee: I’m gonna let you tell your version of this story.

Gabe: Oh man. I mean, there’s a lot of background here. I met a friend at a bar one night, but he paid because I had $20 to my name. You know, poor education worker. Chelsee showed up later because her friend from college was there.

Chelsee: We’d known each other more than three years at this point. We’d see each other at TFA events.

Gabe: And she’d always hit on me, but I’m really bad at these types of things. I didn’t realize.

Chelsee: I definitely spent three and half years hitting on him. But anyway, back to the story.

Gabe: Her college friend decided to play matchmaker.

Chelsee: Her exact words when I told her who I liked were: “Oh, you mean Brandon’s roommate who never comes out of his room and plays video games all the time? Bet.” Gabe promised me a date that night, but…

Gabe: Now mind you, I said I had $20 to my name at that point!

Chelsee: A week later I texted him a GIF of Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons waving “Hi!” I said, “You owe me a date.”

Gabe: And I said, “Yes! I got paid today. I can actually take you on a date now.”

Rough start Gabe, missing all those signs from Chelsee. How long did it take you to realize you wanted to spend forever with her?

Gabe: Third date.

Chelsee: Three months for me.

Gabe: Wow, for me it was third date, but yeah (laughs).

Chelsee: I was a little late on the uptake. I was absolutely mortified. It happened so fast. We got engaged in nine months.

What was one clue that signaled you two were made for each other?

Gabe: One time in my car, without any sort of explanation or conversation, “International Players Anthem (I Choose You)” by UGK came on the radio. We both just rapped the whole song from start to end. That was a moment for me.

Chelsee: We actually had this planned first dance for our wedding that went out the door. We ended up just grabbing mics and rapping every single lyric to this song for our first dance. Us rapping, that’s our first dance.

And at home, what’s it like? Have either of you noticed quirks in each other you didn’t see before getting married?

Chelsee: I mean, I am one giant quirk.

Gabe: Yeah, you are. I didn’t know someone could be so obsessed with Harry Potter. And you sing to your cats constantly.

Chelsee: Your quirks are dad jokes and puns. He has to get them out when he thinks of one. You can see the hurt on his face if he has to hold his jokes and puns in.

Gabe: I wonder sometimes how much more productive I could be, what I could be, if I wasn’t always thinking of the dad jokes.

Is marriage what you thought it would be?

Chelsee: People tell you the first year of marriage is the hardest. That’s a lie. It’s only hard if you want it to be hard. A marriage is not 50/50.

Gabe: Yeah, it depends on the week. Could be 20/80 one week. But marriage advice that’s true? Marry your best friend. You definitely should do that.

Are there hard things you’ve been through together?

Chelsee: Mental health. I quit my job last year because I was struggling really badly, which made Gabe the sole provider. I’ve been in recovery for a while now since my bipolar disorder diagnosis. I went through a lot, and I didn’t know why Gabe stayed.

Gabe: Because I love you.

Chelsee: Thank God. I was not a very good girlfriend, fiancée, or wife because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I’ve tried to atone for that, but he doesn’t want me to feel like it was an issue.

Gabe: Because it wasn’t. There’s an unnecessary negative stigma about mental illness. I grew up having that in my family. It’s not something that I was foreign to.

Chelsee: I would have never been able to do any of this without Gabe.

Does your corps experience show up in your marriage today?

Gabe: The corps teaches you a lot about talking it out and having somewhat deep conversations. You have to be very smart and very flexible in the corps, and vulnerable, because you’re not going to be good at it.

Chelsee: Yes, I don’t care who you are. As a first-year teacher, you’re not going to be very good, and that comes with a lot of vulnerability. After being good at a lot of things—coming from Ivy League schools and having other job offers—then not doing very well at something, there’s a lot of vulnerability you learn. That has factored into our marriage.

Gabe: My favorite thing about marrying a former corps member is having that baseline understanding that we believe there’s an achievement gap and we want to dismantle that as part of our life’s work.

Chelsee: Uh,I was going to say that.

Gabe: Oh, sorry.

Chelsee: It’s OK.

How would you both finish this sentence: You know you’re a TFA couple when…

Gabe: You keep saying, “If not now, when? If not you, who?” to anything, like, Chelsee will say: “Gabe, take out the trash right now. If not you, who?”

Chelsee: And when you get two copies of One Day magazine. 

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