“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” Chapter 21 “Married Dates”
By Bruce Williams
When you have two kids and a dog, there’s not a lot of opportunities to get away with your significant other for an adult vacation…you know—without a Nickelodeon-themed anything or cheese pizzas for every meal, let alone a date if you don’t have a trusted babysitter or reliable (and available) family member. So that forces you to go on what I refer to as “married dates”—they take place during the day with the meat of the dating sandwich being something like Thai food, some light shopping, or a movie (I do so miss theaters), surrounded by the date’s bread—errands and to-dos essentially—to complete the repast. The godforsaken places adulthood will take you during these modern forays mean you better have a partner you really like to help you shoot the rapids of mundanity.
Before face masks, we were on one of these daytime sojourns that led us to the DMV for upgrades to the new enhanced driver’s licenses for our impending flights to New York and later San Francisco (both vacations now long since cancelled). There we sat in the stiff chairs as a hard-complexioned fellow reeking of liquor flopped down right next to me, his secondary b.o. being but an afterthought to his wafting, noonish, ethanol bender. Michelle, on my left, subtly sniffed the air with recognition and looked up from her phone to locate its emanator. Just then, the person behind me who’d been speaking in a difficult to decipher Slavic dialect, open-mouth coughed on the back of my neck, the surprising virility of the spewed droplets slapping the skin with their weighted projection. I rubbed my nape plaintively, then searched for the bathroom to go wash my hands—only to wait outside for ten minutes before a disheveled gentleman in head-to-toe denim tottered out after his daily constitutional—right here at the motor vehicles department, as it were.
Temporary IDs secured in hand, we headed next to IKEA to look for a kid’s desk and a bookshelf (which would both also require an afternoon of patient assembly by yours truly). IKEA should supply a relationship counselor on hand, available for all the varying degrees of disintegrating co-joinings occurring there. The couple that’s no longer talking (“Do whatever you want just like you always do,” their last words being spoken for the afternoon). The registering bridal couple where the guy does not care what kind of plates she picks as long as he gets those dozen beer mugs he wants for the man-cave that he doesn’t know will never materialize. The lesbian couple that’ve been arguing ever since Carol was caught unendingly staring at that blond girl’s apple-bottomed red stretch pants. All the Jareds and Ashleys on their last days together—their pairings surviving only on fumes. I reach over and clandestinely squeeze my unsuspecting wife’s bottom, grateful for her easy repartee and warm companionship.
Then, the much ballyhooed Thai food—enough courses to have leftovers to stink up the car while we’re in Costco. Pad Thai and combo fried rice (just two-star so Michelle isn’t left panting and frantically gesticulating for another glass of water), and maybe some crab wontons? Then off to the warehouse to fill one last cart as we navigate the foggied seniors and wandering kids lining up for just one more free-sampled cupcake liner full of rice crackers or microwaved chow mein, there amongst the emotionless trolley fillers. I grab some Advil PM near the checkout for the anticipated blood blisters caused by the requisite finger-pinching bound to occur during the furniture assembly.
Office Depot, Home Depot, HomeGoods, Goodwill drop off…she can get me to go to almost any horrible place as long as she promises me some food and my choice of music in the car (hard and heavy classic rock). I’m nice enough to keep the metal to just the ballads because I’m romantic like that. Frankly, I’ll go anywhere with her—she gets my jokes and endlessly tedious observations, and offers me the kind of feedback that keeps my fire of curiosity fueled. The perfect bounce back and soft land for ideas that sometimes plop with a thud. My married date muse.
So if you happen to see us out, and I’m wearing a pressed shirt and she’s got makeup on—that’s probably a date…even if we are at a Target on a Thursday afternoon and there’s Roma tomatoes, cotton balls and a new hose nozzle in our cart. We’ll grab a coffee at Starbucks while we mill about, and later lock eyes when the stranger in our aisle bends over and unwittingly shows us four inches of horrifying crack—recounting it later in the car with a chorus of snickers and chortles. Good times.