Anniversary Dates have so much pressure on them to be incredibly, stupendously romantic they often implode. A girlfriend told me recently, “I have cried more on anniversary dates than I have kissed!”. Usually, she said, out of sheer disappointment because she built up expectations so high no one human being could possibly fulfill them.
Yet, sometimes the thought of having to create the best date in the galaxy makes me want to stay home. Too hard. But then I fret that if we stay home on special occasions we will never do anything together and then when the children move out we’ll be near strangers with me farting in one room and the Dimple snoring in another and it will be way harder than if we had just got off the couch occasionally.
Which is why I decided we had to go out on our recent wedding anniversary. The Dimple was doing a course 85 miles away so instead of coming home, I planned to meet him half way at a New York style Steak House complete with bossy waitresses whose hair is piled higher than the shrimp cocktails. With no cell phone the Dimple suggested we rendezvous old school style – which is way more romantic – at 7.30 at the bar.
It would be just like our days in New York. We would talk. We would laugh. We would marvel at each other’s perfectly cooked steaks. We would melt into each other’s carnivorous smiles.
Two dear friends were set to babysit, due at ours at 6pm. At 5.30pm our water disappeared. Argh. You can’t leave babysitters with no water for washing popcorn faces or flushing the loo. I called the Other Camp Dad and he brought his children over to mine, and then raced off to figure out why.
By 6.30pm, no babysitters. The dear friends rang to say a tree had fallen over at the start of our eight mile driveway. No way around or over the bugger.
I called the Steak House and explained that a tall man with twinkly eyes who spoke funny would be waiting for me but I could not get there. The surly waitress asked me to repeat my message, “A Big Tree Is Down. He’ll Know What I Mean!”
Unfortunately the Dimple had other things on his mind and instead of going into the bar, he decided to wait for me in the car-park. For an hour.
Meanwhile, back at home, the Other Camp Dad had returned after finally fixing the water problem, but I had to send him out again with a chainsaw to chop up the tree so the Dimple could eventually get through when he finally got the message to stop waiting for me.
So there I was, watching the Berenstain Bears with four children under five, fish-net stockings on under my dressing gown, thinking Happy Fucken Anniversary.
Man. Did we try too hard? Was Mother Nature having a joke – no trees had fallen on the road all winter so why on that day, right when the babysitters needed to get through, did it happen? Or did we need to remember to have more dates – research says DO IT – instead of piling pressure on that auspicious day once a year?
By the time the Dimple got home I had two glasses of wine in me. We ate the meal I made for the babysitters, finished off the bottle and then we laughed. And laughed. And laughed. It was, without a doubt, the most disastrous non-date. Ever.
Yet, there had been something accidentally romantic about not being able to connect: me hoping he got the message from the waitress, him fretting I had run off the road but had no means to find out. That does not happen very often because everyone is aware of what everyone is doing all the time. There is an app for tracking family members’ whereabouts every second. The few hours of not knowing sparked something in us. Appreciation. Gratitude. And dare I say it, ardor.
We are constantly being forced into learning a truth here. Stop Trying To Control Everything. As a small, Chinese man (Lao Tzu) said 2413 years ago, ‘When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.’
And that, ladies and gentlemen, turned our non-date-at-the-steak-house into one of our best nights we have had, at home, in the forest.