Date night

“I’ve booked a baby sitter for the night of your birthday. What would you like to do?”

I suppose the fact that my initial reaction to this was disbelief, followed by pre-emptive disappointment, mild dread and common-or-garden fear suggests that we’re out of practice at hanging out with each other outside of the well-formed rituals of post-dinner Scrabble or Buffy and Angel DVDs. It has, in fact, been about a year since we last tried “going out” as a couple when I dragged supermum off to see the Hold Steady. It wasn’t a successful night. Crowded, deafeningly loud and I spent of most of the evening worrying about whether supermum was enjoying herself. She wasn’t.

“Please,” she said, “No more gigs. Unless I get to sit down.”

We’ve fallen out of practice because of the baby-sitting problem. Even if I’m at home, little elf, who’s nearly four, goes completely doollally if supermum leaves the house in the evening. Leaving her with a stranger has been out of the question. We’ve tried exchanging baby sitting with friends but once they’ve done it for us, it’s literally very difficult to return the favour. “It’s okay, my mother’s doing it.” Or their sister. Or Aunt. We’ve tried begging (“No! Please! Use us! We need to get you back in our debt!”) but to no avail.

We do go out. Just not with each other. Supermum has evening life drawing and yoga classes she attends religiously, week-in, week-out. I also do a yoga class I manage most weeks. She periodically heads off on ‘mums’ nights out’ and she’s off doing a drawing class this afternoon. I’ll go and see bands (Wolves In The Throne Room next week!), sometimes even with other people. But I think we’ve both come to view time spent in a structured ‘date’ environment with each other with a certain amount of trepidation.

But now she’s found a babysitter who little elf (apparently) won’t attack on sight and we’re supposed to go out. We’ve talked about re-establishing a social life with each other and other people as a couple for ages but I suppose I’d kind of got used to the idea that we probably wouldn’t have to deal with this sort of thing for a while to come.

And I really don’t know what to do. Supermum isn’t working any more and she actually met me for lunch the other day. We spent most of it walking around whilst she vetoed every every cafe, restaurant or sandwich shop* within half a mile of my workplace (in Bloomsbury – that’s a lot of catering to dismiss) and we finished up mostly talking about how we didn’t really like the food we’d finally ended up with. Then we talked about vasectomies.

So, somehow, we’ve got to work out how to spend two hours ‘conversing’. It’s seems really silly, considering that we normally talk a lot, to splash out all this time and effort to put ourselves in an artificial situation where talking is actually more difficult. But there you go. It’s my birthday and we’re going to have ‘fun’. As a ‘couple’.

I want to go out together. We love each other, dammit! But just I’m too tired to get through the emotional labour involved in ‘fun’ at the moment.

* Supermum would put this very differently, viz “You only picked out places that you should have known I wouldn’t like.”**

** It’s possible she’d also put that differently too.

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About Dad Who Writes (Gabriel)

Writing, reading, listening, parenting... On Twitter as @dadwhowrites. View all posts by Dad Who Writes (Gabriel)

8 responses to “Date night

  • P

    This made me smile coz I see it from the other side maybe. I’ve copied ‘said comment’ to a holding pen until I can see straight (my human parents are staying and I’ve been helping france with its wine exports!). But on the joy front this weighs a good 8 ” x 6 ” invisible stone with a pink translucent ruler on purple scales and on very red shiny ones … .well only you can tell me that.

  • Noble Savage

    Either ‘P’ is drunk, or I am, because I didn’t understand a word of that. lol

    When my husband and I have a night out planned and I’m feeling a bit trepidatious about conversation because we haven’t been connecting lately, I try to think of three topics I’d like to discuss with him: a current affair/news item, something about our lives before we met, and something we dream of doing when we’re older/richer/wiser. It covers the past, present and future quite nicely and leaves little room for getting stuck in a conversational rut. With any of those things, we can’t argue about the kids, money, our sex life, who gets more sleep or who works harder.

    The main thing is to keep carving out that time. The more you hang out, the more you’ll have to talk about. It seems illogical, but it’s true. It’s good to have separate interests and to be happy in your own company but it’s also important to learn how to spend meaningful time in one another’s presence, and for it to be fun.

    Is there a game or hobby that you both enjoy, something that will get you laughing?

    • Dad Who Writes (Gabriel)

      Hey. I’ve used the ‘make a list of things to talk about’ the first time we went through this after dudelet was born and before little elf. As I mentioned, we actually spend a LOT of time talking. But dates? Wholly artificial, takes a lot of work. Plus I’m useless at ‘fun’ which doesn’t have some sort of capacity to challenge or improve or expand one. (Yes, Buffy counts!!!!)

    • Dad Who Writes (Gabriel)

      Oh, and P is never drunk. She’s just kindly and wise and requires attentiveness, like most demigoddesses.

  • J

    Yay Buffy! Anyway, come to California. There’s a winery not far away that has concerts, so you can sit down, enjoy a nice meal, and hear music. Yes, it may be Styx or something similarly out of date, but it’s lovely for those of us in our mid 40s. I’ll watch the kids for you. If you’re paying for tickets all the way out here, plus dinner and music, it’s the least I can do.

  • P

    It’s your birthday?

    Why not ask Supermum to select a place for you both thinking about your date as a ‘birthday gift date’ rather than a ‘date’. In my experience they are different. On a normal date hopefully both partners wish to gain something, we want to give and take. A birthday date differs as one person gives the gift of sharing an experience with the other whilst remaining kind to themselves.

    For a birthday date I may select a venue/activity I would never select (or accept) for an ordinary date experience. However it will be an activity I know I can handle (rather than hate, feel uncomfortable or fear) and one I know my partner will really enjoy (and if in doubt I’d ask before I booked it to avoid your * scenario above). It will meet my ‘comfort and essential needs’ if not my preferences. There will be enough about the environment for me to potentially have an ok (if not good) time. Birthday dates are about giving an experience to another whilst you experience and share their joy and delight.

    As for dates in general I know a chap who admits he can’t organise a date (well what I call a date) and as for date talk, he’s a bit quiet (even in the pub until the alcohol has kicked in), it’s silence and ‘ok then?’ prompts until subjects to discuss have been found by someone else (but he’s a lovely chap, a little left of centre and shy until he knows you well). Anyway I asked if he needed to date to impress how he’d go about dealing with these issues. I was quite amazed by his genius!

    He’d select from the places he’d been with others, or heard others talk about as good and look out too for activities that offered some form of mini safe adventure, learning opportunity or semi focused activity.

    All activities must provided pre-made chat options so he or she don’t have to search for ‘date talk’ eg pottery painting, tea tasting, guided ghost or history walks etc, tourist attractions, indoor crazy golf, open top bus tour followed by a luxury afternoon tea etc.

    His favourite he thought would be RWA (Bristol) on a guided talk day, the experts gives you the info and you look at the pictures and the café there is excellent, so you’ve chat opportunities afterwards too.

    This made me think about my favourite activity dates ever. My top three: a night on a roof terrace being shown the stars; being taught to fly a stunt kite; and a hot air balloon ride.

    I know it’s long and probably useless and I hope it makes sense, I may still be infected following helping the French with their wine exports and the government’s purse with tax duties. xx

  • Writer

    I so know what you mean! Tomcat likes Italian and I like Thai. He likes meat and I like vegetables. He can’t have spicy food and I love it. When we finally settle for a place that wouldn’t completely upset us either one of us we have nothing much to talk about and end up checking FB on our BB 🙂

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