In defense of date night
The concept of date night once eluded me.
When you’re in a committed relationship, isn’t every night “date night”? Why proclaim a particular evening to be different from any other night you might, say, go out for dinner and a movie? What makes it so special that it needs its own label — a mundane activity familiar to everyone? Well. It’s true that every night was date night when my husband and I were young, flush with cash and responsible for no one. So: before children.
Now with busy work schedules, a mortgage and a rambunctious toddler sucking the romance out of our cold dinners of leftover lasagna, date nights seem less unusual and more necessary. Time to focus, reconnect, relax. Time to have a conversation without “The Muppets” or “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” on blast. A good opportunity to remember why we decided to do this whole marriage-and-kids thing in the first place.
We’re fortunate to have family close by to take Oliver for an evening, but we try not to ask that too often. Given Spencer and I both work away from home, our evenings with Oliver are family time. And anyway, I was voted Most Likely to Fall Asleep by 9 P.M. in several leading polls.
But Friday was different. I’d purchased tickets for a Cirque du Soleil show for Spencer’s birthday — in May. Surely we’d be ready for a break by August and could find babysitters for a night.
My brother-in-law kindly arrived early, followed by my sister, so we could get Oliver set before heading out. I resisted the urge to be “that parent” writing out instructions, helpful hints and emergency numbers. Watching Oliver isn’t rocket science, but we do have our routines.
“The number for 911 is 9-1-1. Got it,” Eric said, saluting with military precision before shoving us out the door.
Apprehension first coursed through my body: a cocktail of parental fear similar to wondering if you remembered to lock the front door or turn off the coffee pot. But then the excitement kicked in. We were free! While I love my son dearly, becoming a parent means sacrificing certain levels of freedom and spontaneity. Gone are the random day trips, relaxed meals out and impulsive activities with friends. It’s certainly possible to still do those things, but they require planning.
I’m a listmaker to my core, so scheduling doesn’t bother me . . . though it’s not just “fun” activities that require coordination. Everything is trickier with a toddler. Grocery store runs, post office drop-offs, shopping for new pants — I mean, these aren’t difficult tasks, but having a baby in tow means your usual five-minute errands might take an hour. Your options are to accept that or arrange the timing with someone else to allow you to shop for potato chips and yogurt in peace.
I love eating out (and have the waistline to prove it). Who doesn’t? Choosing anything you feel like eating and walking away without having to scrub a single dish: total luxury. It used to be relaxing.
Dining out now just means wrestling a baby with an audience — and paying for the privilege to do so. That $40 goes a long way toward weekly groceries, and we don’t have to take turns eating because our squirrelly son can’t be trusted not to upend the table from his high chair or disturb everyone around us.
In short, it’s less stressful to stay home.
Given we were dining out alone Friday in Tysons Corner, Va., land of expensive handbags and beautiful people, we decided to live it up. Cirque du Soleil’s “KURIOS” was the main attraction, but let’s get serious: I was most excited about enjoying an unhurried dinner — with an appetizer! — with my husband.
Because we don’t get out much (see: this entire column), we agreed to splurge on seafood. With our disheveled hair and sneakers, I’m sure the server didn’t expect to hear “lobster” leave Spencer’s mouth — but when we go for it, we really go for it.
Only . . . we didn’t know how to go for it.
I opted for salmon, a safe and standard choice. But when Spencer’s lobster arrived in all its glory, we exchanged baffled expressions. Neither of us knew what to do. In addition to being outside our normal budget, lobsters are intimidating. There are just so many . . . claws.
We laughed as Spencer squared off with his dinner, and I used my smartphone to surreptitiously search for guidance on what parts of the lobster can be eaten and which would make our fellow diners snicker at us. I found clear instructions and read them quietly to Spencer, who followed along successfully. Modern technology comes through again.
In all, the evening was a hit — and I didn’t nod off during “KURIOS,” a realistic fear. It’s true that I snored most of the ride home, but that was close to midnight. Practically a new day, and at the end of date night.
That can’t be held against me. Right?