This Date Sucks…And Rules.

Checking my Twitter feed on our date.

Wifey and I love food. Or to be more accurate, we love good food. We consider ourselves to be “foodies” and so our nicest dates take us to restaurants with Michelin stars and James Beard Award winning chefs. Unfortunately, budget constraints don’t allow Wifey and I to go out very often, certainly not to such high-priced locales. And with four kids under 8, the cost of a babysitter who is brave enough to take the job pretty much zaps our entire date budget. So, despite our yearning for fancy food, most of our dates end up taking us to places that totally suck.

Take last night for example. My parents graciously agreed to keep our offspring for us and we decided to go out for something slightly fancy. We received our tax return this week and decided to use a small portion of it to treat ourselves before spending the rest on things we actually need. We tried to get reservations at two of our favorite restaurants but both were completely booked up. I did manage to score us a reservation at a well-reviewed restaurant but could only get in at 9:00 and we were both too hungry to wait that long and needed to get back by 11 to relieve my parents anyway, so we cancelled and decided on a popular, if slightly less fancy, dinner option.

It was awful. Absolutely disgusting. And expensive to boot. I kept looking around at the other patrons who all seemed to be having the dining experience of their lives and judging them for their lack of sophistication and taste (rude, I know, but it’s true). The restaurant was one of those Brazilian meat-on-a-spear places where they have a salad bar of sides and then constantly bring around a variety of proteins in unholy amounts for you to enjoy. What were we thinking? As people who eat very limited amounts of meat as it is, and as complete and total food snobs, we should have known better. Not only were we disgusted by the clearly canned and ill-prepared veggies, but all of the meats were tough, flavorless, and unevenly prepared. There was hardly anything that I enjoyed about it. And to add insult to injury, both Wifey and I got sick afterward from bad-meat overload. By all accounts, this should have been one of the worst dates ever.

Except that it was awesome. Instead of having our evening ruined by a series of unfortunate events, we relished the opportunity to laugh about it. As we sampled each revolting new addition to our plates, we talked about all of the really GOOD food that we have had, and about how and why this fell short. We discussed, and in some cases mocked (I never claimed to be nice), the people who surrounded us: the manager who clearly loathed her job and was on a mission to make everyone hate their lives just as much as she did; the family sitting next to us who ate without stopping from before we came in until after we left; the man who kept falling asleep at his table, only to wake when a new meat-on-a-stick appeared before him. We took pictures of ourselves eating the disgusting fare, flirted both in person and via Twitter (nauseating our followers, I’m sure), talked about the ways that we are awesome, talked about the ways we want to change and improve, laughed, laughed, and laughed some more.

Maybe our date wasn’t the most romantic one that we’ve ever shared; maybe it didn’t go exactly according to plan; but we managed to make it into just what we needed: some time alone that allowed us to reconnect and remember all of the reasons that we fell in love to begin with (cue the violins). If we had managed to get in to one of the fancy restaurants, we would have spent the evening oohing and aahing over the food and the dining experience itself would have dominated our evening. Instead, we were able to focus on each other.

So the next time your romantic evening doesn’t go exactly as planned, shake it off and relish spending time with your wonderful partner. Because that’s really the point anyway, isn’t it?

Do you have a great “bad date” story? Feel free to tell us about it in the comments section. Praise (and criticism) is also welcome. Have a great week!

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Living The Li-ife I Wa-ant…

…with herpes!  Ok, so I don’t have herpes (though if I did, I would definitely opt for this treatment), but I always thought it was funny that “Living the life that I want” was the slogan for Valtrex.  I’ve gotta say, I would much prefer not to have herpes over managing it with Valtrex.  But I digress.

On Saturday, Wifey and I loaded the kids into the van and went for an exploratory drive of Dallas.  You see, we hate living in the suburbs.  As I have written of previously, the ‘burbs are just not our bag for a host of reasons and we have been longing to relocate into a more urban setting.  I have a pretty nice gig teaching theatre here in town that I’m not ready to leave at present, so we thought that we would check out the option of living in Dallas and just commuting to work.  That way, I can keep my job but we can live in an environment that is better to our liking.  Wifey downloaded a geolocating realtor app on her phone and we took off to start our tour.  We came across several nice houses in our price range, but unfortunately we discovered that the entire Dallas urban area is basically the same as the suburbs: strip malls, major retail outlets, and chain restaurants.  Everything we would need or want to do would still require us to drive, as Dallas is incredibly sprawling.  And the areas that are more localized have demolished all of the historical buildings and houses in favor of more suburban, expensive models.  It was incredibly disheartening.  After having wracked our brains for months to try to come up with a solution to our suburban woes, we had convinced ourselves that this would be the answer only to have reality crash into us head on.

On Saturday night I was incredibly short and ill-tempered, feeling discouraged and just a little bit sorry for myself.  Wifey tried to console me by saying that we would just make our home into what we wanted it to be, that we didn’t have to be defined by our surroundings.  We would make the best of our situation.  So I snapped at her that her idea wasn’t good enough and was just settling in a place that we hated while trying to put a smile on it.  A proud moment for me, I must say (note the sarcasm).  I went to bed feeling frustrated.

But when I awoke on Sunday morning I started to think about what Wifey had said the night before.  The truth is we can find another place to live with more of the external perks that we prefer, but our day-to-day lives will be pretty much the same anywhere, so why NOT start there?  We should begin by making our home the place we want to live and not relying on our house to make us happy.  After all, isn’t the preoccupation with the physical and material trappings of life what we really dislike about the suburbs anyway?  And even if my own preoccupation is on the other end of that spectrum, isn’t it still along the same line?

So I started to list in my head some ways to make our home life more awesome, habits and routines that make me happy, make me feel like I am living the life that I want.  And we are starting to integrate them as time and money will allow.  Yes I still have to drive to the mega-supermarket to buy all of our groceries, and yes many a date night will take place at a crappy chain restaurant, but the company I keep on those dates can’t be beat and the home that I bring those groceries home to will be the simple, loving haven that I desire.  I’m going to live the life that I want…without herpes.

Inked, or How My Tattoo Makes Me a Better Father

For my Christmas/Birthday gift this year, Wifey gave me something that can I can never lose or return: a tattoo (plus a legitimate excuse to never, ever have to give blood…”home tattoo” is way more manly than “cries at the thought of needles”).  I’ve wanted to get one for a long time but hadn’t been able to come up with a design that I would want to carry on my body from now until the day I die.  I was also held up by the fact that I really wanted to tattoo my forearm, a very visible location.

I had this idea that I would never be taken seriously as a professional and as a father if I had large, visible ink, an idea that was only reinforced by the frequent responses of “really?” when I would tell coworkers and other acquaintances about my intentions.  Nobody ever said to me “you’ll never be taken seriously as a professional and as a father if you have large, visible ink,” but their inflection and sideways glances coupled with my own paranoia sure made it seem like that is exactly what they were saying.  As a compromise of sorts, I had decided to get a simple, fairly small cross in the crook of my arm…something that would be acceptable due to its religious nature and small enough to cover for work without having to wear full long-sleeved shirts all the time (my district has a “strict” no-visible-tattoos policy…unless you are female and have one on your calf or ankle, apparently…but that’s a topic for another time).  I’d decided on the artist I wanted to do it (Jeremy Shawn…he’s amazing) and was just waiting to have a little bit of extra cash to get the job done.

The time had come.  Wifey was going to use my Christmas gift as the opportunity to get me to finally do it.  And as the day approached, I was feeling unsure about my cross.  Was it really what I wanted?  I mean REALLY?  Forever?  And the answer was “no.”  So Wifey suggested to me that I get…what I got.  And I listened because she is wise.

By this point I had already come my personal epiphany about being who I wanted to be without concern for the opinions of people I don’t really care about, but I hadn’t connected this epiphany to my tattoo dreams.  So when I made the final decision to go with a giant elm on my left forearm, I did so without fear or doubt.  It’s what I wanted, so I got it.

I tell this story to illustrate my decision to change my life.  I have one life to live.  It can be guided by the opinions of a panel of outside observers who ultimately don’t care about what happens to me one way or another, or it can be guided by me in the way that I want it to go.  Will some people doubt my professional abilities if they happen to catch a peek of my tat under my shirt cuff?  Maybe.  Will some people automatically assume that I am an amoral father because I am carrying my baby in an arm forever decorated in ink? Could be.  Are their assumptions correct?  Absolutely not.  In fact, I would argue that I am actually a better father and teacher BECAUSE I have a tattoo, because I feel more empowered and in control of my life.  For too long I’ve allowed myself to make decisions based on the perceptions of others.  And what has it gotten me?  A significant case of depression and self-doubt.  And those things suck.

30-Something Dad, Round 2

My blog is much neglected over the last 9 months. And I don’t care, stuff happens.

I’ve actually started about 10 different posts that never got published, one for every month I’ve been “silent” I suppose. I would be struck by random inspiration and start to type, and then lose interest and abandon the effort. The story of my life for the last little bit.

You see, I started this blog as a way to jump-start my life. I thought that if I embraced who and where I was whole-heartedly and energetically, I might actually convince myself that my life was just as good as I thought it should be. That was a fail. In order to blog successfully, you have to be pretty narcissistic. You have to believe that your life is interesting enough for people to want to read about it. And I haven’t found myself to be particularly interesting for a while, therefore developing a major case of blogger’s block.

But lately I’ve been doing some self-reflection and I’ve come to realize something: when your life sucks, change it. Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I’ve been caught in the trap of suburbia: fit in, fit in, fit in. Well I don’t fit, no matter how hard I try. I’m not suburban. I don’t care about buying shit. I don’t care about the latest, greatest new chain restaurant. I don’t care about having lots of money. I don’t care about being fashionable, etc., etc., etc. I’ve known this for a long time on an intellectual level, but somehow my inner psyche didn’t connect with that and so subconsciously I’ve been stressing about the fact that I just can’t make it work. I’m done with that now. My psyche has seen the light.

So, welcome to 30-Something Dad, Round 2 where, for better or for worse, I’m just going to let loose to say whatever I want, shoot from the hip, and document my ongoing journey back to just being who I am. If you are enjoying yourself, continue to follow my blog. And if not, then shut it…’cuz I do what I want.