Similar experience here. When I met my wife over a dozen years back she was driving an Audi A4 with CVT trans. It was a very nice car. She really had no interest in the stick shifting, or a roadster. But she got interested in the fun she watched me and our team having with racing the Miatas, started putting her time in with the stick, started racing and winning (pic below), and now over a decade later she daily drives a Miata with the stick and loves working the gears.My wife had a hard time learning a manual, but when her car's brake lines blew and my 2012 Cruze Eco 6-speed manual was the only car available to drive, she learned out of necessity. She's grown to enjoy it, and feels awkward driving automatic cars. She had an absolute blast test driving the 124 Spider, so we got ours in a manual.
It's a shame not to get this car in a manual, not only because of the driving experience it offers that an automatic won't, but because the manual is just SO GOOD. The shifts are mechanical, firm, and deliberate. The gates are easily identified and tight, and the throw is short. It is a deeply satisfying experience to row those gears, and one you won't have with an automatic.