I remember my parents going out on dates regularly when we were kids. When I was younger we had sitters, when we were older we WERE the sitters. We did a great job too, I can tell you. One time, my sister and I in a frenzy of fighting, chasing, yelling and screaming slammed a door so hard that the mirror on the back of it fell to the ground and shattered in approximately 4.3 billion pieces. We bawled, apologized to one another and cleaned up the mess. The whole rest of the time my sister and I lived under the same roof, my parents weren't able to keep a door- hanging mirror more than a year or two--each one of them broke at the slightest bump. The point is, that regardless of what was going on at home, my parents took the time to regularly go out.
My sharpest memories of the going out are those that involve my mom getting "gussied up" to leave the house. My parents very seldom veered from two or three restaraunt picks, and their dates were nearly always either going to the temple or going out to dinner. Still, Mom always took pains to dress up. After putting on her prettiest clothes, she sprayed her neck with Beautiful by Estee Lauder--my dad's favorite scent and the one he gives her nearly every year for Christmas. She would spend time on her hair and make-up and clothes. Going out meant going all out.
When I was a little bit older, my parents occasionally took us out with them. This was a great treat. We usually went to Maddox steak house in Brigham City after especially good report cards. It was a huge event for us; my sister and always always followed Mom's cue in getting decked out to go out, primping right up until the moment that dad was growling for us to get in the car. During the winter of my junior year in high school I spent a week and a half in London. I was shocked to go to the theatre and find people in jeans and tee shirts. I was more shocked when some of our group, after a week of theatre-going deteriorated into the same sloppy dress. I had not come that many thousand miles to wear trainers and a parka to Miss Saigon, thank you very much.
I don't really consider myself a high maintenance person. Many days, "combing my hair" consists of putting it in a ponytail without the benefit of a brush. Make-up manages to catch me every third or fourth day. Jeans and tee shirts are the clothing choice as soon as I remember to switch from flannel pants some time in the mid-morning. But when it is time to go out . . . .
Friday we went to Outback. I'm not a big fan of paying $25 for a plate of meat and vegetables werein "vegetables" consist of onions. (I also think Outback is entirely ridiculous as there isn't a single actual Australian thing on the menu other than Foster's Beer. But that is beside the point.) Still, we had a gift card and a volunteer babysitter so we would have been crazy to pass up the chance. I did wear jeans, but I also wore heels, an awesome orange jacket (partly awesome because it was a steal at $4 from the Goodwill), and a scarf. I actually curled my hair and wore eyeliner.
As we waited for a table, I noticed several families with children. The kids all looked so sloppy! One girl had on over-sized pink sweatpants and (just-shoot-me-now) Ugg boots take-offs that looked like sloppy slippers. Her hair was in a half pulled-through pony and she wore a ratty hoody and starlet sunglasses. Did she think she was J-Lo? Atrocious. Another kid was wearing ill-fitting gym clothes with long white socks and sandals. This unfortunate social butterfly also brought a 500 page fantasy novel with him. Apparently he had no plans for talking with his parents, or going out for expensive dinners is such a regular experience for him that he was completely indifferent to being "treated." Mom jeans and Hawaiian tee shirts seem to have made a comeback among the Friday-night-Outback-Steakhouse crowd.
It is true that there were a few groups of people who looked like they had taken pains to look their best; there was even a group of high school kids at one table who were probably on a Homecoming date. Either that or the girls had all just come from the lingerie store and run into a a group of friends leaving the Men's Wearhouse. (Don't get me started on THAT unfortunate spelling.)
The next mistake is my own. To be seated a few minutes faster we agreed to sit in the bar, where there were actually "tables." I use the term loosely because it was too small for all of our food and drinks at the same time. The chairs were so high that my feet couldn't quite reach the top rung. Of course, as soon as we sat, I realized there were four enormous televisions in the bar area. One in each corner. Plantboy knows how I feel about non-stop sports at restaurants, or anywhere else, and graciously volunteered to sit with his back to one, though it just meant he was full-on facing another. *sigh* Plantboy laughed at the situation, "You know this place is packed because of the meat-fest and the football. It might be the only way to get men out of the house."
But there were other annoyances, besides college football and sloppy clothes, that occupied my thoughts Friday night: the sound on the TV was entirely down, but between the motion and the scroll bar, there was plenty to keep the eyes busy. The radio was playing in the background, causing people at each table to raise their voices quite high. My meal was excellent, but the headache I took with my Chocolate Thunder From Down Under nearly ruined my meal.
Why is it so hard to find a nice, quiet, affordable place to go out? All of the chain restaurants are a cacophony of visual and auditory over-stimulation. In the past 18 months I've only been to two places that were a peaceful dining experience with unique food and a relaxed non-TV atmosphere. The bill at each spot nearly caused a gag reflex. Maybe it is worth it if we only go out every few months instead of trying to do something more regularly?
But I do know this: The most pleasant part of the entire evening was in the quiet of our car ride home. Plantboy and I held hands. We talked about covenants and sacrifice. We expressed with joy some of the love-lessons we've learned in the past decade. Maybe getting dressed up to go out is worth it after all.