Dish Rag Date

Tired Dating promises to give you the honest unadulterated dish on all our dates.  We pledge honesty, and we edit it accordingly, mainly for our own children, two of which have already replied “gross” or “I’m never reading that again.”  Maybe it was “The ‘N’ Word” or any mild reference I have made to marital dalliance.  Hey, no apologies here, maybe some of the marital dysfunction in our system today is because too few practitioners of the art and craft of marriage talk about the journey with honesty and reality.  This is hard work.

And so is being committed to dating each other in tired middle age.   We willingly and daily give our best efforts and energy to our children, but that often translates to a scarcity remaining for each other.  Too often all we have left are the few drops wrung from the already dehydrated cloth of life.   That is probably a bad analogy, but let’s go with it: If your marriage was a kitchen rag, what would it be like?  A new Williams Sonoma with embroidered Rooster?  (Why is Kitchen Rooster décor so popular nowadays?  I think someone should bring back the “Kitchen Monkey” or the “Kitchen Snap-on Tools Calendar.”)  Or, is your marriage, more akin to that wadded up rag in the far corner of the counter that begs to be laundered, the one while being completely dry smells like wet tennis shoes and mayonnaise pot pourri?

Both examples are extreme.  If you have dragged multiple offspring into your third decade of marriage like we have, one glance in the mirror or bank account probably leaves you with several conclusions.  One, plastic surgery or hair plugs might not be bad ideas.  Two, maybe you should have stayed in that crappy job just for the money.  Or, hopefully, the third conclusion fits best:  No journey that doesn’t leave its mark on the traveler is worth much.

Take our March date for example.  We made it to date night with no plans other than using a gift certificate to Solstice Kitchen.  One hundred bucks, so it was a good meal, but because of our poor planning, the remaining reservation was 9 o’clock.  The only people I know who eat that late are Skinny Girl Bethany Frankel and the Amish during harvest season.

But we needed it, that late dinner.  And it was one of the best I can remember.  Halfway through, already past ten, we were laughing about my recent cost saving propensity for digging food out of our trashcan.  I realized how naturally our conversation was flowing.  We didn’t need a double date wing couple to aid the flow.  We were genuinely engaged in the moment, and Alyson ALMOST bought my logic about how it is completely okay to retrieve the night’s chicken carcass from the trashcan to make our own chicken stock.  “You boil it anyway, like three times, it’ll be fine.”

We got home about eleven I think, or maybe a tad after.  Grace Ann was home for spring break, and all three kids were still up.  They had made some cookies and were watching a movie.  And what they thought they knew was their parents had just been out for dinner.

What I hope they will learn is their parents are doing the best they can. And, if there will ever be a success story they can tell their children about us, it will be this one:  they washed their kitchen rags regularly, and a few are still in use.


A Date by any other name…

What constitutes a date anyway?  I don’t think Kev and I discussed the rules about what would distinguish a date from, let’s say, a trip to the cleaners.  Is volunteering at a cycling race together a date?  What about seeing a high school play with the kids?  Is that a date?  Could watching a documentary and eating scrambled eggs at home while the kids are away be a date?

Well, I don’t know about the first two, but I would have to say last Sunday morning the stars aligned and Kev and I wound up home together, without kids!  You might be asking right about now, “How did this happen?” Or “How did they get so lucky?” And, although I can assure you we did not “plan” it, it kind of took us by surprise and we had the wherewithal to enjoy and not ask too many questions.

Jake was in a cycling race at 8:30 in the morning.  Being the intrepid parents that we are we got up, splashed water on our faces, and put hats on the bed head and made the trek to Blythewood, just a few minutes up the interstate.  While we were gone our two daughters, ages 12 and 17 got themselves up, dressed, and left for church!  I know, I know – you’re not believing me right now, but believe it.

Upon returning home it hit us – we are alone!  Jake had to stay and work the race the rest of the day and the girls wouldn’t be home for 2 hours or more.  What to do? What to do?  It didn’t take us long to decide we didn’t want to waste our precious “alone time” by going back to sleep.  Soooo….we decided to check out the latest documentaries on Netflix. Ok men, I know what you’re thinking, but we really did watch a documentary and ate scrambled eggs and hashbrowns. I served Kev his breakfast as he sat in his La-z-Boy.  What could be better than that?  Men, don’t answer!

I highly recommend the documentary Eames: The Architect and the Painter.  Kev and I sat together in the quiet house, eating and discussing the incredible life of Charles and Ray Eames.  Quite inspiring. As we finished the movie with precious few minutes of alone time left, Kevin reached over to me and expressed how thankful he was for this time together.  Not only was our rare “alone” Sunday morning a date, it was church.  The morning filled us spiritually, emotionally and relationally.

So as we look toward our “official” March date, I am not sure we can top our impromptu Sunday morning one, but don’t worry, we are sure going to try.

Because…

While pondering our March date, which has yet to be determined, I asked myself this question:   Why am I dating my wife, especially when she is soooo tired all the time?

Because if I dated another woman it would be extremely hard to explain.

Because dating her allows for minimal rejection – she won’t tell me she has other plans.

Because there is no other woman on the planet who deserves my full attention. Period.

Because it feels good to get in our car and back out of the driveway knowing wherever we go there will be no arguments erupting from the backseat about the ipad/pod.  (there’s a thought…maybe for our March date we should just drive around peacefully for hours.)

Because if, and when, our children get married, I want to have earned the privilege of sitting on the second row of the church while holding her hand during the wedding.

Because Family Systems is more than a Theory, and most likely, how Aly and I treat one another will be a key ingredient to the interaction between our children and their spouses.

Because when her eyes smile at me some of my insecurity is defeated.

Because she is curvy and smells nice.

Because “quality versus quantity” is bologna, and hours invested with each other make more difference than minutes.

Because when it came time to say “I do” twenty three years ago, I did.  And the vows said nothing conditional about receding hair or expanding waist (mine.  all mine.)

Because she tolerates my jokes.  And laughs every now and then.

Because everyone we know who has an empty nest tells us the view from the top of that mountain is worth the climb together.  Dating each other is part of that climb.

Because sitting in church on the same pew the Sunday morning after a Saturday night date is better than sex.  (In one sense.)

Because Merlot, cornmeal encrusted oysters on fried green tomatoes, and Crab stuffed Sea Bass are pre-requisites to conversations that CANNOT be had at home.

Because God said I should. Well, maybe not explicitly, but The Song of Solomon said something about walking across the Hills of Bether, and I think that is kinda about dating my wife.

Because sometimes there are problems in life that CAN be solved by dinner and a movie.

Because staying in love means playing the part, not just assuming the character.

Because our lives are too stressful to have no rewards.

Missing Church

attendance not required

February’s date is a memory and March’s date has yet to take shape, but in just two months of tired dating, I have already come to some conclusions.

Conclusion number one:  I am solidly middle aged. I am not sure of the “how” or the “when,” but nevertheless, middle age is upon me, and there is nothing I can do about it but cry just a little.  Take our last date for example.  We paid $98 to go to a French cooking class, something I would have NEVER done in my early years of marriage.  But aside from dropping a Benjamin for a Lobster recipe I will never use, I actually had a conversation with a man in the class about herb butter.

Herb butter.

Let that sink in.  Herb butter.

Dates in my earlier years always concentrated on the final outcome, the waning moments before sleep.  At least that is what I was always concerned with, and if you are a man, and an honest one, you will admit the same.  But in my middle age, enter holistic conversations about…herb butter.

In my twenties or thirties I would have told you I would rather dig lent from my toenails than have an intelligent conversation about the subsequent bouquet that is created when herbs are mixed with butter and lobster.  But not now.  Now, in middle age, I talk about herbs and butter.  And lobster. It’s depressing, and, or, maybe illuminatingly refreshing.  I’ll tell you in my fifties.  Oh God!

Conclusion number two:  when you aren’t so focused on the end result of the date, the end result is better.  Duh. Or, Dang!  Took me twenty three years to figure that out.

Conclusion number three:  we missed a church event last month for our date…and we lamented it.  And THAT felt good.  For those who know us well, you know that as former professional religious people, for the past twenty years you could count on one hand the number of times we missed a church function.  We went to all of them, didn’t miss a one.  At times, our kids were the totality of the children’s department and youth group.  In a word: sucked.

But we have fallen in love again with a church home.  We have learned much from the Canterbury trail we now trod, and when we realized our date would coincide with Shrove Tuesday, we actually gave pause and almost cancelled Fleur de Lys.

But we didn’t, and I am glad.  I think God is pleased with perseverance.  I have had a front row seat for dramas of marriage and faith where people I know and love decided for one reason or another to throw in the towel on one or both.  For Alyson and me, our struggles with the ordained life have been public, and while we have never been close to throwing away our wedding vows, some days have not brought out one another’s best.

But we stuck to it, these relationships of faith and family.  Could have walked away.  At times maybe even considered it.  But like I said, God is pleased with perseverance in all our relationships.

And missing church sometimes is more than okay.