After 11 years, two children, and every rerun of Law and Order, it had come to this: Date Night. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s supposed to make our marriage better, stronger, more romantic. Chasing that illusion, I painted my eyes like an Arabian princess and lured my husband away from familiar platters of cow-and-tater with a wink and a promise. We hit the highway—away from PTA, soccer and the backyard BBQs of our tidy subdivision.
I tasted youth. It tasted a lot like lip gloss.
In the university district, a trendy bistro beckoned. A blue neon ‘Jazz’ sign lit up the window. Even better: convenient parking.
As we waited for our table, I admired our reflections behind the bartender: totally still hot. The hostess led us past the beautiful people with their tiny bowls of pasta to a small stairway. Ooh, what now? A lower level? Not only had we found the hippest spot in town, we were now being escorted into its inner sanctum. Date Night rocked.
The grotto had a different vibe—retro, with booths, hula-dancer lamps and pop-art. Very Bradys-go-to-Vegas.
“Good choice, gorgeous,” my husband said. But as I waited an unreasonable amount of time for my Chardonnay, I longed for the candlelight upstairs. How soon would all the eye makeup settle into my not-so-fine lines? Once the wine arrived, I tried to pretend it didn’t taste like yesterday’s tea. The soup had to be better—cream of asparagus and crab could be nothing less than divine.
“Do you notice anything about the people down here?” I asked.
“No,” my husband lied. But everyone around us sported thicker waists and thinner hair.
“I think this is the Old People section,” I whispered. “Nah.”
As I forced myself through cold, starchy soup, springs dug into my motherly rear. I poked at mediocre shrimp and soggy salad. Date Night evaporated like a mirage. Not having spent 30 minutes on make-up, my husband was less vexed.
“This place might not last long,” he said.
“It’s a dump,” I said. The whole place looked like a yard sale that had been plowed over by a wood-paneled station wagon. This basement sucked.
Just then, a cowboy and his girl moseyed in. Neither old nor beautiful, and worlds away from cool, they cleared things up. We had been banished—not to be seen by the real clientele. Hidden away like a cousin with herpes at the church picnic.
And me with my best mascara.
I knew complaints wouldn’t earn me a place upstairs, but such severe humiliation required a resolution. I needed chocolate.
At our usual steakhouse, a friendly waitress promptly served us a fudgy cake/frosting/chocolate sauce concoction, which delivered more than it promised. As our cheeks blushed under the light of a Budweiser sign, we found the satisfaction that had eluded us all evening.
So maybe we should have started at the steakhouse? Nah. After all, dating is all about the chase.