Friday, December 23, 2011

It's a date: Aug. 26, 2007

Back in my single days, I never dated in the conventional 'I'll-pick-you-up-at-8' sense. Dates are kind of awful, aren't they? Kind of fraught and tense and artificial -- and how are you supposed to get to know anybody who's that nervous, anyway? I'd rather go hiking or biking or running. Anything, really, that isn't dinner and a movie.

So the married people version of 'date night' never stood a chance with me. 

We don’t get out much — and now I remember why
    My husband and I don’t do 'date night.' Our courtship was built mostly on mountain biking, camping trips and home renovation. Our married life has been the usual whirlwind of babies and jobs, joys and crises. After more than 11 years together, we’ve just never gotten into the habit of actual dates.

    But my mother recently had a Saturday night free and offered to baby-sit our two sons, and I’m always hearing from my married-with-children friends how much they enjoy their date nights. So we decided to go eat at a restaurant we’d heard was quite good and catch a movie we’d been told was a must-see.

    I dusted off my makeup (literally — it’s been that long since I wore any) and put on earrings. My husband and I got into the car, both fighting the urge to stop and buckle kids into the back seat.

    The novelty of date night wore off fast at the restaurant, where the food was OK at best. There was a crying baby at the table behind us. There were grade-schoolers kicking the table next to us. My husband’s red wine was served chilled, which is kind of icky. He ran out of water, and the server never reappeared to bring him more. The salad had exactly two kalamata olives in it. The bill was $60.

    I could have eaten average food and listened to a baby cry at home for free. I would have gone to the fridge and grabbed myself a few extra olives. And there, at least, I’m allowed to tell the gradeschooler to STOP KICKING THE DANG TABLE.

    OK. We’ll go see the movie. That will improve the situation.

    But, in fact, the movie we wanted to see wasn’t playing because the schedule in the newspaper was wrong (oh, cruel irony). So we saw another movie, one that we’d also heard was good but hadn’t actually planned on seeing because we rarely plan on seeing anything.

    The movie was pretty good. But the movie theater was VERY cold — too cold even for my husband — and the family behind us ate and talked and wandered about the whole time, including one memorable interlude when one of the kids tried to hack up a piece of popcorn that had apparently gotten stuck in his throat. We moved down a few seats to escape the din and huddled together for warmth.

    That experience cost us $16.50.

    We were home by 9 p.m., $76.50 poorer, but at least we didn’t have to pay a baby sitter. (Thanks, Mom.)

    It was, admittedly, nice to get out and be together away from the kids. But you know what we talked about (in between critiquing the mediocre food and griping about the mistaken movie schedule). We talked about the kids. We really like our kids.

    And when it’s all said and done, I’d rather have that $76.50 back and have spent the evening on a sticky lounge chair watching them jump off the side of the neighborhood pool until it gets dark enough for the lightning bugs to come out.

    This summer, since our new house has a deck and a yard full of tall trees, we have taken the boys out at night several times to watch the lightning bugs twinkling in the dark canopy over the backyard. It’s kind of spectacular. We call it lightning bug Christmas.

    Sometimes we get bitten by mosquitoes while we’re standing out there. But the show always starts on time, the admission is free, and the company is fantastic.

    Which, as far as I’m concerned, is the recipe for a pretty terrific date night.

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