Date night

Pick a card. Any card. My husband looks apprehensive as I fan out the pack in front of him. What will it be this week? Cocktails? Watching the moon rise? Painting each other with chocolate spread? I pray silently that whatever it is won’t be too complicated or messy.


We’re trying out the latest craze for tired, middle-aged parents: date night cards. I bought my husband a pack as a Valentines Day present, with the idea that we should be spending more quality time with each other. Each week we draw a card that outlines what we should do on Saturday night, in the vanishingly small gap between when the kids fall asleep and when we crawl into bed with exhaustion.


The experience has, so far, been mixed.


My husband regards them as a slightly annoying prelude to sex. But at least they generally lead to sex so he is putting up with them for the time being. I am going with it because I would do literally anything – even stand outside in the cold waiting for the fricking moon to come up – to avoid more evenings where we end up talking about scheduling and house insurance.  


My friend F does an almost professional job with her set of cards. She posts super cute pictures of herself and hubby mixing tequila sunrises and cooking candlelit dinners, making the rest of us jealous. Another friend hasn’t got as far as cracking open the cards yet, as her terrified husband – who has clearly been tipped off about this by someone – has hidden them on top of the spare room wardrobe.


We’re somewhere in the middle. The cards feel like they have been written for a much younger, childless couple, with unlimited time and energy. And no sense of cynicism. Take this suggestion:


“Sunset-o-rama: Make a plan to watch a sunset from a scenic location you have never visited before. You could turn this into an ongoing project, seeking out sunsets in interesting places. Start a scrapbook of your conquests.”


Are you kidding me? A scrapbook? Of interesting locations? Never mind the fact that the date has to take place IN OUR HOUSE while the children are asleep and in winter the sun sets at around 5pm. You want us to make a collage various sunsets we have seen? I haven’t even managed to get my youngest child’s baby pictures into a photo album, and she’s now seven. The last thing we need is another ongoing project.


And this was one of the more realistic ones. Other suggestions have included renting a tandem bike, trying a trapeze class and renting a convertible sports car.


We’ve tried to adapt the suggestions into things that can be done, quietly, in the living room. To be honest, they mostly involve sitting on the sofa having a vaguely themed drink. For the sunset one we put grenadine in a vodka and orange and called it a “Vodka Sunset”. For the boating date we drank rum. For the camping date we put our wine in travel mugs. I am not sure it is exactly getting us out of our comfort zone, but at least these dates don’t require paying for a babysitter. Or a convertible.


This is kind of the problem in a nutshell. I can think of half a dozen ways of being super romantic with my other half, without the help of cards, but they mostly involve magicking the children out of the picture for the day, and not being so frazzled by things like scraping slime off the rug and helping the children construct a scale model of Tenochtitlan out of cereal boxes for a school project.


Mind you, a couple dates have been not too bad. Hand massage night was good, although my husband was disappointed when it turned out to involve actually massaging each other’s palms with scented oil, not the thing he first assumed. He was happier with strip poker night, which worked out well for him as I’m not very good at card games. Note to self: turn up the central heating a notch before doing that one again.   


We could write our own cards of course. One friend did this with her husband. She got a jar and a stack of blank cards and each of them wrote date ideas on them. Except it turns out he’s written “blow job” on every one of his. They are still negotiating that one out.


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