It was early afternoon on a Friday, our only day “off” during the busyness of our schedules of school co-ops, teaching, shooting and Vinnie working 12-hour overnight shifts at the homeless shelter. I was on the treadmill, trying to sweat my way out of this cold I’ve been nursing for a week now, when I thought, you know what would be better than working out? Going out. Fresh air. No kids. Nice food.
You should take me on a date. I texted Vinnie.
Four hours later, we were resigned to ordering in and snuggling on the couch after the kids went to bed, when a friend responded back to a text I’d sent a couple hours earlier: Sure, I can watch your kids!
I don’t know that I can remember the last time we all moved so quickly. Jackets and boots on over pajamas for the kids, outfits chosen for Vinnie and I, car started – we were out in fifteen minutes, flat.
You’d think that we were starved for a date, that we hadn’t been out alone with one another for months. In reality, it’d been *maybe* two weeks. Possibly not even that long. When I posted my girlish excitement of a date on Facebook, most (all?) of the replies were laughing how two weeks was nothing – try two months – six months – two years – between dates.
I was flabbergasted. Surprised, quite honestly, because I feel as though I remember my parents going on dates rather frequently growing up, and because, it’s just such a fun thing to do – why wouldn’t you?
Of course, I know that logistically, dating after you have children is tough. I know we didn’t date often when our kids were younger – financially it was harder, babysitting-wise, too.
But, I know that where we are now, I need dates. I need time to be heard – and I need time to be able to listen to him, without distraction.
I like that our relationship takes precedence over all the hubbub in our chaotic little lives.
I like that after fifteen years and four children together, I still get as excited to be with him, as I did when I would walk into my dorm room and see a blinking light on my phone and hoped it was a message from him.
I like that he stands at the closet and asks, every time – even in the rush that was us on Friday night – what shirt I’d like to see him in, when I know he couldn’t otherwise care less. But, because he likes me, he asks.
Of course, most of the time, his Taco Cat is Taco Cat Backwards t-shirt would do just fine. We don’t do upscale often.
Fancy dinners or brunches are a once in a while occasion.
Mostly, we have favorite haunts that are inexpensive. Two-for-one pizzas on Tuesdays at a place that’s both delicious and serves a nice cocktail. Other nights, we like to sneak out after the kids are in bed, if it’s okay with our neighbors, and we talk over appetizers or pancakes at a 24 hour greasy spoon diner.
We don’t date because we’re overly concerned with the atmosphere. We date, because we like each other, but also, as a couple, it’s a pulse-check.
Here’s the thing, the real truth of it: the conversations that happen on dates are not the conversations that happen when we’re in our own home- surrounded by the distractions of our lives – the dishes in the sink, the kids beds squeaking as they stir, the never-ending DVR of television, the laptop, calling me to work.
On our couches, eating homemade pizzas or take-out Thai, we have lighthearted dates-in. We talk about home things. We talk about kids, bills, what we should do with the attic or how we need to get a new dresser for the boys bedroom. Or, we don’t talk much at all, we lay on the couch and binge watch Supernatural.
On Friday night, we ate fresh rolls and salmon at a restaurant where we’d been gifted a dinner. We talked about our families, what it was like growing up, what it might be like now as we have loved ones who are aging. We talked about our histories, we talked about our futures, we talked about ourselves, how we feel about x, y, or z. We praised one another. We welled up, encouraging and listening to one another.
And…we had hard conversations. We had the sort of conversations that don’t just slip out over the pause between episodes of The Black List, when you’re grabbing a bag of tortilla chips or pouring a soda.
I’m scared, I told him, frankly, honestly, (possibly too) bluntly.
I don’t know that I’d even realized that I WAS scared, until that moment. But, there, in all of the intimacy of a Japanese steakhouse, the dam opened and it all came rushing out. I’m scared. I’m worried. I need… and in the end, I’m sorry.
We both were.
I slept the best I have in, well, probably the dozen nights before…since our last date night.
Real date nights are the best nights. Period.