Actually, to be absolutely honest, I was never much of a "dater" growing up or even during my early adult years. Sure I had girlfriends, but it always seemed to go from zero to serious in a very short period of time. There really wasn't much in the way of real Hollywood style dating that went on.
Even with my wife, whom I met at work, I think I followed a somewhat similar path. Although, I do have a recollection of an epic early date with Laura involving a very formal gala, me wearing a suit with tails, a seedy dive bar and meeting her parents for the first time very early the following morning, we got serious very quickly.
Perhaps it's my interpretation, but when I think about dating, it involves planning, is a bit formal and requires at least some effort. The ironic thing is while I dated little as a single man, since getting married and subsequently having kids, I now date more than I ever did in the past.
As a dad with three young kids, a full time job, a running habit, not to mention my wife's photography business and all of her interests, it's easy to start to take one another for granted. As a result, ever since having kids, we've tried to make time at least once a month to have a date night.
Based on my own experience and firm anecdotal evidence, I firmly believe there are common dating rituals within the married suburban parental habitat:
Once untethered, it tends to take about 30-40 minutes and at least one drink to unwind and get over the shock of not having someone tugging at your pant leg, or asking for food or wanting a drink or needing to go to the park or (insert typical child request).
Once sufficiently relaxed, a fantastic conversation between the married couple follows, where there is actually an opportunity catch up on what's going on in each other's lives without resorting to checking Facebook.
Please note: While parental dating rituals normally occur in the suburbs, any interaction with other children is strictly frowned upon. The suburban parent reserves his best dirty look for any family that has the misfortune of being seated within his vicinity at the restaurant. Despite the fact that he was there last week and his kid had an epic meltdown.
Standard suburban date post dinner activities include a combination of: Going to the movies, a trip to the shopping mall or local Costco, or, in rare instances, a meet up with other suburban parents to compare stories and have a few drinks.
Please note: It is 100% guaranteed the yawning will occur at, or shortly after dinner. Yawning will increase at an exponential rate unless counteracted by alcohol consumption. Consequences include: A mandatory child illness, dog escape or (insert minor crisis) for the hungover suburban parent to resolve within the following 24 hour period.
Six times out of ten, common sense or perhaps parental survival instincts kick in and the date is terminated at a reasonable time to avoid Suburban Karmic Kickback. Reasonable is defined as late enough that the kids have been bathed and put to bed, but early enough for some lounging in pajamas on the couch.
But yesterday, Laura and I took it to a new level. We had an appointment at the bank and used this as an opportunity to have an "afternoon date." Our date was a meeting with our financial advisor, then lunch in an empty Pho Fusion place, a wander through a couple of shops and followed by a 4:40pm movie. We were home before 7:00pm.
Perhaps we have stumbled onto a new, previously uncharted habitat for the suburban parent? Whether urban, suburban or rural, I'd love to hear more dating rituals for the married parent because I'm starting to think there's a coffee table book in the making here. That, or a Sociology PhD thesis.