Lehyani said he wonders about the permanence of such couplings in a place that has the heady atmosphere of sleepaway camp. (Or, at least, a sleepaway camp that can be raided by the cops with 24 hours notice.)
“These are the things you are thinking about: What’s holding you together? Is it camp holding you together, or do you just want to be warm at night?” Lehyani said. “In the real world, outside Occupy, do you have anything in common at all?”
Freedom Plaza protesters Mike Sheffer and Leigh Tatum met on a political discussion site on Facebook last year. In the fall, Tatum, 45, a hospice nurse from Alabama, persuaded her new friend to join the Occupy movement with her.
The two first shared a tiny tent as friends for six weeks, sleeping between a blanket barricade that Tatum had constructed. In such cramped quarters, they got on each other’s nerves a lot. Nonetheless, Sheffer, 54, an unemployed contractor from Vermont, began asking her for a good- morning kiss after a few weeks went by.
“I said, ‘I would like to wake up in the morning and not want you dead,’ ” Tatum quipped. But then one day something changed in her heart. Finally, she kissed him.
“The look on your face was priceless!” she giggled, tucking her face in his shoulder as the two, swaddled in fleece and heavy wool, held hands in the camp’s information booth.
“It was so surprising,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
The couple has now moved into a bigger tent. A peek inside Thursday revealed an air mattress, two sleeping bags and a leftist pamphlet titled “How the People Got Their Groove Back.”
Then, over the holidays, Sheffer proposed. Tatum said she’d sleep on it. In the morning she said yes.
“I thought . . . full speed ahead!” she said.
They are the first to tell you they’re not a traditional couple. There’s no ring yet, and they’re not sure where they will live once they wed. But they are happy.
“It was really like a meeting of minds and hearts and souls,” Sheffer said. “It’s a great way to meet someone.”
Staff researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.