Two Plano love stories

Alyssa Matesic, Staff Writer

Tori Roberson and Daniel Duncan

     She was playing percussion in a practice room at Wilson Middle School. He was nervously running lines through his head outside the door. It was March 14, 2008 – a date that has remained significant to seniors Tori Roberson and Daniel Duncan for years.

     He walked in, and she could tell something was off immediately. He was acting too formal. He recited his lines, ending with “Will you be my girlfriend?”

     And so it began.

     The two officially became a couple in eighth grade, but their relationship had been brewing even before then. In sixth grade, Roberson admitted to developing a crush on the boy she had five classes with. In seventh grade, a few classes still kept them close, but she was reluctant to pursue a middle school relationship.

     “In eighth grade, I was, like, ‘Screw the whole no dating in middle school thing. I like this kid,’” Roberson said.

     Since Roberson wasn’t allowed to go out on dates until she was 15, she and Duncan just had dinner with each other’s families and went to church together. Neither of their parents minded the fling.

     Their first outing was with the Wilson Middle School band at Medieval Times, where Duncan bought Roberson a light-up rose. For his birthday shortly after, Roberson spent her whole savings account, $80, on FC Dallas game tickets so Duncan could see David Beckham from the first row. Since then, however, their middle school relationship has evolved.

     “We pretty much grew up together,” Duncan said. “Some couples grow apart, but we seemed to grow closer together. I was just a kid and now I’m more grown up. I’m more mature. I’m not in eighth grade anymore.”

     Their compatibility, which was partly realized in tenth grade when they both came to the mutual epiphany that sneezing “kind of tickles,” is proven through their opposite strengths and weaknesses.

     “We’re like two puzzle pieces,” Roberson said. “Everything I’m good at, he’s not. Everything that he’s good at, I’m not. We just fit together. We both help improve each other’s grades because we help each other in areas that one of us is more or less strong.”

     The two nearly have an identical sense of humor, and both Roberson and Duncan agree that laughing together is part of why they have connected for so long. For Christmas in eleventh grade, Roberson bought Duncan tickets to see his favorite comedian, Dane Cook. He said that that time with her is one of his favorite memories of their relationship.

     “When he laughs, it’s just so adorable,” Roberson said. “It’s just the cutest thing ever. I like his laugh, and I like his sense of humor – it’s super weird, and no one else understands it. We just laugh together all the time.”

     The couple always tries to make birthdays special for each other, whether that requires Duncan to sit through her choice of flick at Studio Movie Grill or Roberson to bake in frenzy for him.

     “He only likes vanilla cake with no frosting straight out of the oven,” Roberson said. “I made it for him and then put it in an insulated dish thing and ran to his house.”

     As for Valentine’s Day, Roberson is less enthused. Though she thinks the holiday is cute, she and Duncan have never made big plans over it.

     “The whole commercialization of infatuation, I think that’s what it is,” Roberson said. “If you love someone, you are kind to them all year long, and you buy them flowers whenever you want to because you know they like them, not because it’s Valentine’s Day and that’s what you should do.”

     In being together for nearly four years, Roberson and Duncan have integrated themselves into the other’s family; Roberson’s family has embraced Duncan as one of them and vice-versa.

     “I feel like my mom treats him better than me sometimes,” Roberson said. “She’ll come home from shopping and she’ll have bought Daniel something. And his mom does the same thing. Once she came home from the mall and had bought me a scarf. I feel like we’re all a big family.”

     In regards to the future, Roberson isn’t worried that college will separate her and Duncan. They decided to apply to schools completely independently, but both ended up narrowing their choices to UT and Baylor. If they don’t pick the same school, the distance between the two campuses is not far enough to interfere with their relationship. She’s willing to overcome any hardships that may face them because she realizes that love is not always picturesque.

     “[Love] takes a lot of commitment,” Roberson said. “You’re not always going to be happy all of the time. But you know that, overall, this relationship makes you happier. Not only that, but it makes you stronger as a person, better as a person.”

     Roberson believes that everyone has the capability to love. However, they must be content with where they are during the wait, for things must fall into place when they are supposed to.

     “Everyone finds who they’re supposed to be with at a different part of their life,” Roberson said. “Whether you’re 45 and you haven’t found the right person and you finally do, or you’re 14. It all happens to different people at different times. Some people have to find that person when they’re young, that’s just how it happens. I happened to find Daniel, and he is the perfect person for me.”

 

Matt and Tina Cone

     All was tranquil at the picnic. It was just the two of them and the dog.

     Suddenly, she heard violins playing in the distance. The makeshift orchestra came closer.

     American history teacher Matt Cone used his own students to help him propose. And it worked.

     Though both Matt and career technology teacher Tina Cone have roots in the same city, the two were strangers until 15 years ago. Matt followed the PISD ladder up to Plano Senior while Tina ended up at Plano East.

     “It’s crazy that you can live in the same town and never cross paths until way later in your life,” Tina said.

     They each started their career at Plano 15 years ago. The school facilitated their relationship, though it didn’t start until seven years after they had met. They got to know each other for those seven years, and a friendship eventually blossomed into more.

     “You work with somebody, you get to know their personality, and anybody who has ever had Mr. Cone in class knows why I started dating him,” Tina said. “Because he’s just such a nice guy. Why would you not want to be with a nice guy? That’s really where your heart is.”

     One day, when the two were walking into a staff party together, she decided to take the first step.

     “I told him he should ask me out,” Tina said. “He said, ‘I’ll consider that.’”

     The couple broke up once for a week. A fellow staff member concluded that the two were acting ridiculous, however, and the separation quickly faded.

     “That week was hard,” Tina said. “I realized that he was a best friend to me. Losing him as a boyfriend was also like losing him as a best friend. It was weird.”

     They had been dating for less than a year when Matt proposed. They got married six months later, in Dec. 2003, and became the first married couple at Plano.

     “There was no way we were going to have a small wedding,” Tina said. “We had our family at school, our family in the community, and all of our friends. We ended up having about 220 people at our wedding. We even had the Wildcat mascot there. My aunt, who lived in Pennsylvania, was, like, ‘What do you have a bear here for?’”

     Originally, Tina held the ideal of getting married at 25 and having kids by 30. After a few failed relationships, however, she realized that that future would not be attainable, and decided to live for herself solely.

     “I had made that conscious decision to establish my life without a man,” Tina said. “And I think that’s an important part of being a woman. You have to have your own identity. Having the man in your life should complement who you already are and not take it over.”

     At 30, she married Matt, who also had his own identity.

     “It was two lives that were already there merging into one, instead of us establishing a life together,” Tina said. “It wasn’t like we were still trying to discover where we were, we were settled, both of us. Then we came together.”

     What’s kept them strong for eight years, Tina said, is their basis as best friends.

     “If you think about the qualities of your best friend – they’re loyal, they’re always there, they listen,” Tina said. “That’s who you want in a husband, too. And that’s what I have. It’s the best of both worlds. My best friend is my husband. If you don’t have that friendship and you have more of a lustful relationship, then that doesn’t last as long, because that’s all you’ve got. You don’t have that mutual respect between the two of you.”

     With both living and working together, the Cones lack separation from each other. To counteract this, both have taken up individual hobbies. Matt is the front-man of Custer’s Last Band, and Tina runs dog agility. However, working together has its benefits, according to Tina. The two get the same work hours and vacation times, and she takes comfort in her husband being just a few feet away. Tina’s computer classroom faces Matt’s history room.

     “I can hear him when he walks down the hall,” Tina said. “Even if I can’t see him, I can hear his footsteps. I can hear his voice from over there. It’s one of those things where it’s like your baby, you can tune in on the way they cry, I can tune in on his voice. If anything were to happen, I know he’s right there. That’s always a nice kind of comfort.”

     However, the two must actively work to stay professional at school, despite their closeness personally.

     “It’s important that, if we ever have work problems, we keep them at work,” Matt said. “I have to make sure that I don’t overstep my boundaries and speak for her as a professional at work when I’m actually speaking as her husband.”

     With their home and their lives being so closely tied to Plano and the district, the Cones must stay aware of possible financial challenges.

     “When things go badly for PISD, they go twice as badly in our house,” Matt said. “We both have to deal with issues like salary and budget cuts, changes in benefits and stuff like that. It’s actually surprising how much of our lives, from the value of our resumes to the value of our house, is tied to how things go at Plano.”

     Matt and Tina Cone have two boys – Marshall, 4, and Grayson, 13 months. Coming up with names was difficult, Tina said, as they had to avoid using names of students that they previously had to eliminate the possibility of comparing the two. They ended up choosing two names linked back to Texas – Marshall is a city and Grayson is a county. The Cones live two blocks from Plano, and chose the area specifically so their boys can go through Plano.

     “I look forward to them coming to a great school, but I know it’s going to present some challenges for us,” Matt said. “We are going to have to work extra hard to make sure that our boys get to be their own people and not just ‘our kids.’ We want them to make their own choices about what they do in school.”

     Tina explained that having children has been one of the most rewarding moments with her husband, but that they’ve both had to make sacrifices in return.

     “Having the kids makes us stronger because we’re a unified parent group,” Tina said. “We have to think for not only ourselves but for the kids, what’s best for the kids. I think that the downside of it is that we’re exhausted all the time. We don’t go on dates – which we should probably plan more of. We don’t do a lot of that stuff that a typical couple would do because everything is centered around making sure the kids are fed and everything is done for them.”

          Tina didn’t find love in someone she would instinctively pursue, but she believes that has been for the better. Her life, with the husband she found and the family they’ve created, was supposed to take this course.  

     “Mr. Cone is not my ideal man,” Tina said. “If I were to describe to you tall, dark, handsome, muscular, he doesn’t fit, but he is 10 times better than that person I put in my head. He’s a good dad, he’s a good husband, he’s loyal, he’s always going to be there for me, he takes care of our family and takes care of me. That means a lot more than the outside physique of what somebody might look like. If I were in a bar, I wouldn’t have given him a second look when I was dating. But that’s why you meet people where you do. That’s how they come into your life.”