My husband and I go out to dinner—just the two of us—once a year. It’s a big occasion. With the sitter in the living room, high heels on my feet, and no macaroni and cheese on the stove, I count the minutes until I have a pinot noir in my hands.
I get a text: “on conf call come out.” I go out to the car, quietly open the door and slide in. We exchange greetings with a head nod, and off we go. As I listen to the numbing corporate chatter, I look down at my feet, wondering if heels are too much, cloying like over-sprayed cheap perfume.
We pull up to the cute Euro bistro. When I obsessively researched it online, the pretty photos of the place were free of baby strollers and moms in clogs chasing after toddlers who are throwing bread sticks at each other. All clear to proceed.
The hostess walks us through the busy frenzy of diners and seats us at a quaint table for two perched up in a bay window. We are on display like a couple of little birds in a cage.
My online research had one benefit—after studying the overwhelming number of menu selections at home, I knew I was going to order mussels in a white garlic broth. This should have freed me up for actual conversation, if my husband’s phone hadn’t been blowing up with work calls.
Figuring I might as well use the downtime for a trip to the restroom, I unsteadily make my way across the room in my tippy heels. I am out of practice, the whole situation feeling clumsy and foreign. The restroom doors are too chic to be obviously labeled with silhouettes of pants and skirts, adding to my uncertainty. From the stall, I text: “pinot noir please.”
I get back to the table and the wine is there. Ah, serenity. I lean back into my seat and there we are, face to face, looking at each other. This feels clumsy too. I fish around for something to talk about, settling upon our 96-year-old neighbor.
“Polly asked me to buy her new underwear,” I say. “She was very specific and demanding. They had to be extra high-waisted briefs, white, 100% cotton, size 10. I searched everywhere. Target, Marshalls, Nordstrom, Walgreens, Kmart, Walmart, and when I finally found some, they were white with a small floral print. I decided to go for it. I happily delivered her goods and she yelled at me for buying the floral design and had me return them. I’m exhausted. How about you?”
He places his iPhone on the table like a piece of delicate china.
“Work gave me a new phone.”
I admire it without touching. I know not to get my fingerprints on it.
“Oh, wow. It’s fancy.”
“It’s bigger than my old one, I need to get used to it.”
“I’m sure it won’t be a problem.”
A table of 20 gets seated next to us and half of the guests are children under the age of five. Goddamit, I think. Hopefully they can’t reach me up here on my perch. The kids start running circles around their table, I grit my teeth before taking another sip of wine.
The mussels arrive. They look like everything I expected and more, but as I lift my fork an uncivilized little human hurls a half-eaten French fry in my direction. The soggy bit lands on my shoe. I knew these were too fancy for tonight.
“Do you have Instagram?” I ask.
“No, do you?”
“I don’t either but I really feel like I want to Instagram my mussels. I mean, look at them!”
I create an Instagram account while he reads the news on his gigantic new screen.
I take a photo, but unsure what to do next, I put the phone down and dig in.
“Oh my God.”
“Do you want to try?”
We get in the car to go home and the phone rings. It’s a FaceTime call from my mother in law. I kick my heels off and close my eyes. We pull into the driveway and I motion for money for the sitter.
Our daughter is asleep—nothing short of a miracle. I’m not sure what to do with myself in this window of quiet while the sitter gets dropped off. I head to the bathroom, but before I wash my face, I check my Instagram account. I have 100 new followers and 61 likes on my mussel photo. I watch the numbers rise.
Hearing the car pull in, I text “Shhhh.” I guess I could join him in bed and have sex with him but I’m distracted by the food approval porn. 85 likes!
I text, “Don’t wait up.”
He texts back “GNITE.”
The bedroom goes dark.
The perfect ending to date night—I can’t wait to do it again next year.