Friday, April 01, 2005

A Fine Romance.

The place: a romantic, intimate restaurant. Consort and I are sitting at a small table. I reach over and grab his hand, looking deeply into his eyes.

QUINN: Tell me you scooped the headless bird carcass up off the front step before we left.

CONSORT: I looked. It wasn’t there.

QUINN: Great, that means the cat hid it someplace else.

CONSORT: I hope she didn’t put it in the shower again: I can still feel it on my instep. Speaking of things that are dead, I figured out where the smell in the garage was coming from.

QUINN: Behind the lawn mower?

CONSORT: Nope. In the wall.

QUINN: There’s a guarantee we’ll have a heat wave this week.

(Silence as we study the menu. A moment later, Consort shuts the menu decisively)

CONSORT: I know what I’m having.

QUINN: Please order something besides pizza.

CONSORT: (A little wounded) I’m getting the tuna steak. (A beat) You want to split a pizza?

QUINN: No, thank you.


CONSORT: Did the insurance guy ever call back?

QUINN: Yeah, I left the information on the back of an envelope somewhere on your desk. (Glancing down, I notice a red stain on my sock) Would you look at that? I have been shaving my legs for over two decades and I don’t think I’ve ever not nicked my ankle bone. How can I keep being surprised by my own skeleton?

CONSORT: I cut myself shaving yesterday.

Let’s leave these people comparing scabs, shall we? I shudder to admit, the conversation went downhill from there. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present PARENT DATE NIGHT.

All magazines geared towards the parents of small children advocate taking time off as a couple to refresh and reinvigorate our relationships. They get quite insistent about this. If you can’t afford a dinner date, go for a walk in the park. If you can’t afford a baby-sitter and have no relatives or friends who will help, create a babysitting co-op. This is serious. Either schedule a parental date night or put a divorce lawyer on retainer. Parenting experts are unanimously adamant about getting us out of the house.

I respect the intention behind the date. Being a parent, especially in the first two years, is the most emotionally-consuming, mentally-consuming and time-consuming thing I have ever done. It eats up all available brain cells even when the child isn’t in the room. Please note the following conversation. Consort and I were attempting to not discuss our then-infant Daughter, one night after she’d fallen asleep:

CONSORT: This is nice, just the two of us.

QUINN: Yes, this is nice.

(Pause while we both think we hear her squeak, but don’t want to mention it. She doesn’t wake up)

CONSORT: So…reading anything interesting lately?

QUINN: No. But I did cut What to Expect When You are Expecting into tiny pieces and lined the cat box with it. That felt good.

(We stare at one another)

QUINN: Do you think she hiccups more than she should?

CONSORT: Is there a norm? But, remember, we’re not talking about her.

QUINN: Right. Did you get the car washed today?

CONSORT: Yeah, and the detailer found five random socks under the car seat. When she tries to suck her thumb, she usually sticks her thumb in her eye. How does she have the fine-motor skills to remove a sock every half-hour?

(Consort pulls a handful of socks out of his pocket. We stare at them in awe)

QUINN: Can you believe how tiny her feet are?

CONSORT: Let’s go watch her sleep.

And there went the rest of the evening.

Even four years later, it’s frighteningly easy for me to get lost in Mom-ness. I put her to bed with a firm “Now! Time for Quinn” and then skim a parenting magazine and a catalogue of age-appropriate toys without noticing the contradiction. And if I am losing a sense of myself, you just know I am losing a sense of the other adult as well. Some days I do need reminding that Consort was here before Daughter and -- with any luck – he will be here after she moves out. I actually liked this man well enough to buy large furniture with him. If I thought Date Night would strengthen that part of the Familial Triad, I would be the first one making reservations.

But the fallacy in this idea is that romance craves predictability. Guinea pigs crave predictability. We who don’t fear the vacuum cleaner get a certain pleasure from novelty. I’m not saying I require endless surprises in the relationship every day -- there’s a partner who is crying out for lithium. But, at least for me, I am not wooed and won over some candlelit dinner where I am squinting at the under-lit menu while estimating what this evening is going to cost us in babysitting fees and lost sleep. I am charmed by the murmured, funny aside in the faucet aisle at Home Depot; by the quick sideways look we share when someone we know does that thing they always do and have never seemed to notice they do; when I make a snarky comment about something Consort did, and he has the total style to laugh loudly. These moments are less ceremonial than a dinner date, but they are worth more to me than all the bread baskets and oversized pepper mills in the world.


Anonymous Lisa Rau said...

Quinn, I devoured your book and have begun reading your posts from the beginning. This one struck a familiar chord with me, having moved in with my boyfriend/best friend/comparable Consort last year. No, no kids, I'm barely in my mid twenties! Yikes. But thanks for sharing the small, special parts of your relationship! I'll be on here regularly looking for more clumsy laughs and brilliant syntax. :)

5:04 PM  

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