It's Saturday night. My parents are watching the kid. My hubby has the night off. I am a nervous wreck.
Because the problem with date night is that it's still, you know, a date. A date that I was hoping never to have to go through again after getting married. I was so done with the messy, unpredictable world of dating and I was so ready for the comfortable, lukewarm certainty of marriage. Before we had a kid we didn't need date nights to have an adult conversation or a meal that lasted more than five minutes. But now, date nights have become a necessity and suddenly, we are back to the pressure of having to carry on a witty conversation, to put on cute underwear, to make small talk over dinner and then at the end of the evening, to have sex.
The pressure is different than when we were really just dating, but it's pressure all the same. This time, instead of wanting to impress or seduce, I always find myself wanting to prove that we are still a hip and happening couple and not exhausted parents who go to bed at 9 p.m. I still remember the excitement of our first dates -- the butterflies, the sparks, the giggling. I know it's still in us somewhere, buried under 12 years of marriage. Can we bring it back? Can we recapture what brought us together in the first place? Is that even something we should do?
Our super hot dates usually go down like this: I drop Sam off and come home to meet up with my hubby. We quickly balance the checkbook, do dishes or finish the laundry. We change out of our yoga pants and gym shorts. I put on makeup; he puts on cologne. We drive to a nice restaurant. We work really hard at not talking about the following topics: our son, what needs to get done in the house, our jobs, our parents and related conflicts, finances. (I am pretty sure that leaves the weather and sports.) We drive home. Fall into bed. It's usually way past our bedtime so we attempt to paw at each other -- maybe -- but mostly we both just want to go to sleep. So we do.
In the morning, we usually do end up having sex -- the quick and sleepy kind -- and then we talk about who is going to do the shopping, who is going to clean the bathroom and what to cook for dinner.
I suppose as far as dates go, this is not bad. But is it like the hot, giggling dates we used to have? Definitely not. In the mornings after I feel a bit disappointed -- like the night was an opportunity wasted. We should have stayed out until 2 a.m. and done something crazy. We should have stayed in bed for the entire time and done something crazy there. We should have gone dancing. We should have talked more, kissed more, drank more... No matter how mild our date, I am always reluctant to return to our even milder routine.
I was talking to a friend about this recently and something she said struck me: "Well, at least you still want to date your husband."
I guess she is right. The pressure I put on myself and on the situation to be "perfect" and the way it used to be, is because of the awesome memories we have together and the promise that there is still more to come. Date night might not be all champagne and fireworks anymore, but whatever we do end up doing is enough to jolt us out of the shallow end of our relationship for just a bit.
I do want to have amazing, intoxicating, unforgettable nights like we used to -- but I also still want to balance the checkbook with this particular man, and I still want to fold his clothes and figure out how to divide up the housework. These things might not be sexy, but all of the small things we do together make up the big picture of our lives.
It's all imperfect and boring, but it's ours.
Zsofi McMullin lives in Connecticut and blogs at http://zsofiwrites.com