#3 First Date

There is a dispute over our first date.

Not what movie we saw (The Secret of Roan Inish), or where (the two-dollar theater). Nor what movie came next (Crimson Tide, although she will always answer The Hunt for the Red October, and then concede that “Oh, yeah, it was that other submarine one”) or the flick after that (While You Were Sleeping). There is also no question that if she hadn’t said yes, I would have married Sandra Bullock. But I digress.

The controversy doesn’t come from those details, but from the very question – were we dating? I thought I was doing pretty well – three dates in a row, each including a stop at Dairy Queen so we could share a basket of coupon-discount chicken fingers for dinner.

At the same time, she didn’t realize we were dating.

When pushed by Karen – who kept telling me that she was a babe – I’d push back. “I’ve taken her out three times in the past week. What more do you want from me?”

When pushed by Karen – who kept telling her that I was a babe – she’d push back, “We haven’t gone on any dates. He’s just new in town and doesn’t have any other friends.”

Man, I sound pathetic in this story. Let’s skip ahead.

Eventually she figured out we were in fact dating – and by her choice, I might add. Mostly because I gave up when I realized that our communication skills were so low that couldn’t agree on whether we had a relationship. We settled into friendship enough for her to confide in me about her last boyfriend hurt. I made it clear that he was an idiot for not seeing what he had.

I have been friend-zoned enough to know that giving boyfriend advice is a clear sign, so I backed off. She suddenly saw how I saw her – and stepped up.

And that was that.

Splitting a basket of chicken fingers and a two-dollar movie – I’m clearly a big spender. We’ve since gotten to a point where such cheap dates aren’t a fiscal requirement. But we’ve never outgrown our love of the cheap date.

Don’t get me wrong, the Ruth Chris steak dinner was a great birthday treat; and any time I get to see her in a fancy dress is guaranteed to get a waiter an extra tip. But the dates we talk about most weren’t about being fancy.

Walk throughs of the big box office supply store – not a joke, those were dates. What can I say, color coded post-its and pens with just the right amount of heft turn us on. Choosing the flavors to go into our concrete mixers, as if we were perusing the wine menu (what pairs best with cheese curds?). Her 40th buying the kids Birthday Party Pack at the mini-golf/arcade place (skeeball always means a great date). The picnic lunch brought to listen to the concert. Puppy chow, folding chairs, and fireworks. (Looking at you, Nancy). Following up a theater show with breakfast for dinner at a diner.

Okay, the show makes it more of a splurge than the two-dollar presentation, but discussing the plot over eggs and bacon puts the emphasis on the company, not the ambience. Or makes the company the ambience – am I right?

So much is elevated by going out with the right ambience at your side.

Squeezed into a pub two tables over from the booth the band took over for the improvised concert beats a Michelin rating any day (right, Wayne?). The nosebleed seats to hear the Phil play along to Looney Tunes (and watch the Bowl crumble around Bugs and the tenor while at the Bowl); the anniversary spent in line for the ten dollar lottery tickets to Wicked – and the chicken and waffle dinner once we won the lottery; the missed opportunity to get the groundling spots at the Globe (I was wrong about the show time!), so instead the self-guided tour of the National; the community theater production of that Agatha Christie play where the lack of raked seating or raised stage meant we could only see the actors from their hairline up (I’m looking at you Timothy and Elizabeth); pizza and a dollar movie rental before Netflix taught us how to chill.

I’ve got twenty-five years of ‘em.

Man, I love typing those words.

I’ve got twenty-five years of ‘em.

Hold on while I scrounge up four bucks and a Dairy Queen coupon – let’s start the next twenty-five years more!

{originally posted as part of the countdown to our silver anniversary}

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