The relationship controversy everybody is talking about lately has a lot more to do with the Supreme Court than methods of courtship, but I am a little horrified about something slightly less earth-shattering than whatever that pink equal sign thinks it's fixing. My boss just teased me about the fact that tonight is my Date Night. He says only married couples have date night. When did this become true?
My attitudes towards dating are hardly conventional. Have an awesome monogamous partner? I'm proud of you. Want to be non-exclusive? Go for it. Want to organize sex parties and tell me all about your wild shenanigans? I'll give you a high five and remind you to use protection. Want to write a whiny article about how your pink bedroom scares off the men-folk? Okay, my leniency ends there.
But regardless of having an open mind towards the many styles of coupling, I've always been under the impression that dating involves actual dates. Maybe the name fooled me; I am a huge proponent of direct language. To my mind, dating somebody means you go on actual dates. If you don't have some sporadic public activities, how can you learn and grow from new experiences with your beloved partner? At the very least, orchestrate a communal meal every once in awhile and actually look at and talk to one another at the table sans smartphones. It will be romantic, like it is when you get to spend one on one time with somebody you love. This philosophy extends to platonic partners too. I have date nights with my best friend on a near-weekly basis, and they are magical. We eat giant sandwiches, watch Drag Race, and talk shit. It is essential to our unbreakable bond to have this dedicated time.
The same is true of my romantic partner. We've been dating nearly three years--we count our anniversary as the night we first went out to dinner together one on one. And even though we've been sharing an apartment for about a year, that doesn't mean that we are exempt from needing that dedicated one on one time that dates provide. When we're around the house, we're working on our personal projects most of the time. We both write, and after we get home from our day jobs, most of our time goes to towards generating new drafts and revising completed work for publication. On nights when words don't take priority, there are poetry readings, drinks with friends, and plenty of social engagements that we attend both together and separately. A busy week leaves little time for us to nestle into the couch and watch a marathon of The Wire. Scheduling the occasional date night into the calendar of events is the best way to ensure we'll be fully present and engaged with one another for a chunk of time that no one else can touch.
Have you ever noticed that you have a different kind of conversation with a person when you are sitting across a table from them? I don't know what it is about restaurants, but I am able to talk meaningfully about my goals there in a way I am completely incapable of on my couch. I feel equally at home going off on tangents about Van Gogh's letters, whether or not I want an MFA (it changes daily) and what kinds of wild things I want to try cooking in the near future. Sharing time with my somebody in a setting that honors that person's important role in my life is essential to maintaining affection, friendship, and a sense of closeness.
Who in a dating relationship doesn't want those things? Who says married people are the only ones who need to do some preventive maintenance when it comes to their relationship? It's not a sign that we need to reignite a spark; I think of dates as a kind of Olympic torch situation. If you make sure your torch is carried in dedicated and determined hands, the flame won't go out in the first place.
To put it another way: my grandmother once countered my claim that I had a relationship with God in spite of avoiding mass with, "You can't have a relationship with somebody you never make time for." She was right. I'd be doing my partner and the three years we've spent supporting one another a disservice if I just expected past experience and momentum to bear us forward indefinitely. And, duh, date night is an excuse to regularly make an appointment for fun. You do believe in FUN don't you? So how can you say you don't believe in date night?