To keep our romance alive, my wife, Laura, and I attempted to initiate a ritual we’d heard about from friends who knew friends who knew someone who did this.
I’m speaking, of course, about the mythical date night.
According to legend, date night will transform spouses into the starry-eyed lovers they were at 20, except with less hair. And for three glorious hours a week, it will turn your children into obedient, respectful little people who resemble those depicted on a 1950s sitcom.
In theory, it’s a wonderful idea. Practically, however, it is difficult to coordinate — which might be the reason we can’t find anyone who has maintained the ritual.
The key component is the babysitter.
This person must be a master of diplomacy and possess the skills of a crime scene cleanup crew. After your night out, he or she will tell you so confidently that everything went well that you’ll dismiss the yellow danger tape blocking access to several areas of your home.
Laura requires a list of the potential sitter’s SAT scores, college choices and his or her parents’ IQ test results. My only requirement is to have Laura call to schedule the babysitter. I have a phobia about calling and having the father answer to hear me say, “Hi, this is Sean calling to see if your 14-year-old daughter is free on Saturday night.”
I’m in charge of payment. I am a big believer in overpaying because, a) We need to get out, and b) I want to be on top of the babysitter’s list. If the sitter has to choose between jobs on the same night, I hope my combat pay is the deciding factor. Unfortunately, other families pay well, too, and when Laura recently called to schedule a sitter, the teenager’s agent advised that the sitter’s services were being auctioned on eBay.
On a recent attempt at date night, we found that after the stress of arranging the sitter, babyproofing the neighborhood and alerting the police and fire departments, we were ready . . . to collapse. Yes, it’s exhausting to recapture romance.
But this was date night, so we kissed the kids, posted our 95 theses governing the house and got in the car. Then I realized we didn’t have any plans. I needed to come up with something quick.
“We can go to a movie at the Farmingdale multiplex, or that new Irish pub in Amityville or we can visit that big duck in Flanders,” I said.
There was a pause. Laura replied, “Whatever you want to do,” to which I responded, “No, whatever you want to do.”
We repeated this cycle for five minutes and finally decided to pull back into the driveway and go inside, which is where we both secretly wanted to go anyway.
Then we needed to figure out how much to pay the sitter for 8½ minutes. We paid $60 hush money so she wouldn’t gossip about the Ellis’ 10-minute date. And in the spirit of date night, I asked whether she would be available the next week.
She took the cash and asked whether we had relatives who might need a sitter. I offered to drive her home, but the teenager declined with a polite, “No thanks. The Millers next door have date night tonight, and I’m sitting from 7:30 to 7:45 p.m.”
Reader Sean Ellis lives in Amityville.