Parents: Get out while you can!

>> Wednesday, August 22, 2007

By some crazy turn of events, Michael and I found ourselves on a date... on a Saturday night... without a curfew! The girls spent the night at their grandparents house and Michael and I were turned lose.

But as it sometimes happens, we found ourselves going, “OK, now what?”

Last year my parents moved to San Diego, so we’re still getting used to the luxury of having alone time. We didn’t get any during the first three years of parenting and it’s a little like we’ve been given a yacht -- it’s a great gift but we’re not sure what to do once we get the boat in the water.

The few times this has happened, we salivate like dogs, yip and bark for joy, and chase our tales until, inevitably, we falter under the pressure. That’s because when we get a night out, we are compelled to make it the best night ever. This one night has to make up for years of dating neglect. We can’t just stay in the burbs, we have to go downtown. We can’t make dinner, we have to eat at a nice restaurant. We can’t play Scrabble, we have to see a movie, and it better be a great, sure-thing movie -- nothing risky.

Any failure on date night is unacceptable -- which means that every special night is doomed from the start. Over the course of our marriage these attempts at creating special nights have almost always failed. They crack under the weight of our expectations and vivid imaginations. Reality can not possibly compete with the fabulous night of our dreams.

And dreams don’t come cheap. So we spend money. Apparently, someone years ago (probably Hallmark) made a “special night” rule where you have to dress in uncomfortable clothes and spend too much money or it’s not special enough. Donning a pair of jeans and going to the IHOP just doesn’t cut it.

So on Saturday we did what we were supposed to do. We went downtown and had a pleasant (but uncomfortably expensive) dinner and contemplated how we could spend more money. Perhaps see a movie? Maybe catch a show at the Casbah? How about some late night shopping?

As we reviewed our options, we snuggled next to each other while we ate, enjoying the warm summer breeze and people-watching. Afterwards, we walked past cigar shops and nightclubs, spied girls in ass-length skirts and 5-inch heels, and listened to bits of conversation that floated from Mustangs and pickup trucks parked at the intersections. We snagged a free chocolate from Girardelli’s.

I remember a time, long ago, when we walked home in the rain without an umbrella. I remember listening to the Velvet Underground as snow fell outside our window. I remember eating HyVee cookies and boiling spaghetti and doing nothing but enjoy each other’s company. That’s when we knew how to date -- when dating wasn’t a “special night out”, it was just special.

And then we went home.

Maybe next time we’ll skip the expensive dinner and uncomfortable clothes all together, save our money, and stay home. Perhaps we’ll rent a movie. I’ll make a nice roast. Maybe we’ll play a game of Scrabble... naked.

(But we’d better not plan on it, ‘cause if we do we’ll probably try to make it the best sex night ever, and we all know where that’s headed...)

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