Memory Lane: Date Night, Past and Future

My parents went on dates. Every week. I have very clear memories of Friday night babysitters coming over, and watching my parents walk out the door together, all gussied up.

Usually gussied up. At one point they were in a bowling league. Probably less gussying going on. But they each had their own bowling ball and bag… and possibly shoes. Can you buy your own bowling shoes?

I also recall them taking disco dancing lessons — hey, it was the ’70s. We kids used to clamor at them to show us the moves they had learned. I have an image in my head of my mother in blue bell-bottomed disco pants with a flowing blue shirt with a vest over top. Her red hair was permed into an afro (or as afro as she could make it, anyway). While I don’t recall my father’s outfit, I clearly remember his mutton chops. They boogied for us before they left for the night.

My parents made time for each other. It’s something I’ve carried with me, the memory of their date nights.

Saturday evening, Dan and I had dinner plans. I was feeding the kids while dressed in a robe. It brought back memories of my own childhood, watching my mom get dressed and put on makeup before she went out with my dad. She would wear a robe, do her hair and makeup, get dressed, and then — and this still amazes me — she would don her coat, and polish her fingernails. Then they were out the door for the night.

She still polishes her nails last thing. It’s a trick of hers I have never mastered. I can’t even get a manicure without feeling like I’m going to mess it up before walking out the salon door. Let alone get dressed for an evening on the town with my spouse and polish my nails immediately before leaving.

But Date Night is a tradition Dan and I are working on creating for ourselves. Like my parents, we are partners first, parents second. It’s tricky to remember in the crush of kid-stuff and schedules that are divergent (to say the least). We are looking into playing darts weekly, wine tastings, and dancing lessons. (Not all at the same time.)

I may never manage to polish my nails for date night immediately before leaving the house, but my parents taught me a vital lesson as I grew up. They did it without ever making us feel like we came second, but it was clear they stood united. The fact that their marriage was so very important to them — important enough for them to spend special time together on a regular basis — made me feel safe. It’s something I’d like to pass onto my own children: that as much as I love them, my relationship with their father is something special and (to a certain extent) inviolate. That as much time as I am willing to give them, I also have to give time to Dan (and he to me). And I hope that in doing so, in showing them our commitment, they will learn about marriage and love, and that they will feel safe.

What did you learn from your parents about love and marriage? What do you do on date night?

Public Service Announcement III: Be Nice to Each Other

Sunday night, for the first time ever in my entire life, I cooked a steak.

It was not for me, but for my husband. (For the record, I still think preparing chicken is the most disgusting thing in the world.) It is part of my strategy for getting DearDR to eat better food and learn portion control. He also had a lovely salad of Italian baby lettuce, strawberries, celery, and carrots. (No cheese, no nuts, not for DearDR for a while.)

See, DearDR needs to lose weight. Also, his triglycerides have to come down (to quote his doctor, they are “exceedingly high”), and quickly. If he can’t get them in line — and keep them in line — through diet and exercise, he’ll have to start taking medication.

DearDR is only 40 years old. And I plan on keeping him around a long time. I’m going to help him be a better eater and lose some weight.

A while back, Heather Armstrong at Dooce was reflecting on whether marriage or child-rearing was more difficult. (For her, the latter.) There are days that for me, the two run neck and neck, but part of that is due, to my discredit, to my poor attitude. A kind of “leave me alone” attitude. There are days that I seriously question whether I am cut out for this wife-and-mother gig I’ve gotten myself into. (Newsflash RPM: Too late!) Some days I just feel my household is out of my control, the budget is out of my control, my children are out of my control, and so-help-me if DearDR asks me to make him a sandwich, I’m going to lose it.

But then I get a good night’s sleep, and my children do something amazing, and my husband makes me laugh, and everything is all right again. A glass of wine and some quiet time at the end of a day do wonders, too.

I was having one of those cranky days last Wednesday (note to RPM: adjust the attitude in time for Lost night), and DearDR and I sniped at each other. And then he got his numbers from the doctor on Friday, and I got some perspective.

Remember a few years ago when those “Tips for a Good Wife” were making the rounds of the Internet? I’m not going to say that those are a good idea or anything (I am feminist, hear me roar), but something can be said for being nice to each other.

When your spouse comes home, stop what you are doing (unless this involves leaving a child undiapered or in danger) and hug and kiss him or her. You may not feel like doing it, I know. Do it anyway.

Pick up the occasional treat for your spouse — you do it for the kids when you’re out and about. Just a little something that says, “I thought of you today.” A book, a DVD, some (inexpensive) flowers, a nice beverage or chocolate. I think we all do this early in our courtships, and then it goes by the wayside, especially as other things take precedence. Bring back the treats! DearDR has given me bookmarks, and I’ve been thrilled to know that I am on his mind.

Prepare a meal for your honey — or simply provide one. Whichever spouse does more meal planning and prep needs a break. Give him/her one. It can be as simple as bringing home a Costco pizza to bake at home, or suggesting the family go out — even Eat ‘n’ Park can be a relief.

Cuddle. Watch a movie together. Spend special time on a regular basis with your significant other. I know for DearDR and me, this is challenging because of the children and our schedules. We are trying to bring it back. (I’m not talking about green beans. I’m talking about intimacy.)

I know this is all common sense stuff, but I also know I lose sight of simple things — over and over again. When DearDR and I married and talked about having kids, I told him I wanted us to remember that we were married first. And then I forgot — or, more likely, I get so frustrated with what I perceive is my bad job on the spousal and/or parenting front, and I want to chuck the whole thing and go away for a week.

Some day, it will be just DearDR and me again. I don’t want us to have to try to reconnect when the kids leave home. I want us to take the little steps we need to take to stay connected. Now and forever.

Couples Quiz

I picked this up over at ClumberKim’s place. It’s standing me in good stead since I’m still in the woods.

What are your middle names?
My middle name, which used to be Marie, is now my “maiden” name. (I hate that term, maiden.) I tend to use it professionally. His middle name is Reed, after his maternal great-grandfather.

How long have you been together?

Our first date was October 1, 1999. We got married September 1, 2001. Coming up on 10 years!

How long did you know each other before you started dating?

We were acquaintances from college, so we probably first met in 1990 or so? We never really hung out, but we knew each other to say hi or have little conversations.

Who asked whom out?

DearDR asked me to have dinner with him. I had to email him about a month later to see if he meant it, though. I didn’t actually give him my phone number the night he asked me — I told him I was in the book. Unfortunately, DearDR didn’t have a current phone book at the time.

How old are each of you?

DearDR is 40; I am 38.

Whose siblings do you see the most?

We see his sister a little more often than my brother, even though we all live in and around Pittsburgh. My sister we usually only see two-three times a year. We live next door to my in-laws. It’s actually pretty even, though, between holidays, birthdays, and random family events.

Which situation is hardest on you as a couple?

Our biggest source of conflict is the household duties. I feel that he doesn’t help out enough; he feels that since he works such long hours (and he does) and makes most of the money, that the household should be my duty. Unfortunately, since I also work and take on the majority of the kid stuff, the state of our house suffers. We both hate it, but until I can hire someone to help me out, it’s the way it’s going to be. It causes a lot of friction, because when he complains, I get very defensive.

Did you go to the same school?

We both went to Duquesne University. Technically speaking, I finished before he did, because I graduated in 1992 (is that right??) with a bachelor’s degree, and he didn’t earn his Ph.D. until 2004, when I was pregnant with Monkey.

Are you from the same home towns?

No. I grew up in Erie and he grew up in Coraopolis.

Who is smarter?

Well, now, that depends. Book smart? School smart? He is, no doubt. But I have more common sense, and a lot more pop culture savvy.

Who is the most sensitive?

He is, hands down. I am clueless.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?

Most often when we’re on our own, we really enjoy Bocktown Beer & Grill.

Where is the furthest the two of you have traveled as a couple?

We went to Italy on our honeymoon — landed in Rome on Sept. 10, 2001.

Who has the craziest exes?

I’m going to go with him. Because, let’s face it, he dated women, and women are crazier.

Who has the worst temper?

He says he does. I asked. I think I get angry more often, but when he gets angry, he gets angrier.

Who does the cooking?

Me, me, me. Unless it’s pancakes and eggs on Sunday.

Who is the neat freak?

Sigh. We both want our house to be much, much neater. I clean more, but he cleans better (when he cleans).

Who is more stubborn?

I am.

Who hogs the bed?

Neither of us. I do hog the covers, though. When a kid ends up in bed with us, she hogs the bed.

Who wakes up earlier?

Me. Every single day.

Where was your first date?

Kaya in the Strip District. The next night, we went to a Pens game together. The day after that, we ran into each other at a Steelers’ tailgate party. You can see we were meant to be together.

Who is more jealous?

He is. And why shouldn’t he be? I’m hot (hahahahahaha!).

How long did it take to get serious?

I knew in the first month of dating him that we were going to get married. It panicked me a little bit, but I rode it out. Eleven months later, we got engaged. Since my dad reads this blog, I think that’s all I’ll say about that.

Who eats more?

He does. I eat better.

Who does the laundry?

All me, again.

Who’s better with the computer?

Hmm. That’s an interesting question. We each know how to do different things on our respective computers — he’s a PC and I’m a Mac — but all-in-all, he is probably a little more tech savvy.

Who drives when you are together?

Usually he does. This is fine with me. I drive enough as it is. Besides, we’re usually running late, so I can do my makeup in the car.