How Awkward: A Date Night Tale

I have not felt like a teenager in some time. I’m a man of a certain age and while I may carry around my own personal supply of self-doubt and self-consciousness, they both fit in a perfectly normal sized backpack that does not in any way draw attention to me. It is the standard teen drama we all carry around, hidden safely, strapped to us to inform our sense of self.

So, as I stood there, cheeks reddening and heart racing, I was once again that same teenager who would walk to school, past the buses lined up dropping off all my peers. Dreading being seen and fearing not being noticed. Worried the eyes I could feel boring into my skin and my psyche were because a pimple or a stray booger had sprung forth unbeknownst to me. All this while not noticing I was completely naked from the waist down. Sure, this was a dream. I never in fact walked to school while naked down there. But I dreamed this a lot.

You can imagine how jarring it was to be feeling these feelings after not feeling them for so long. All because I was once again making a fool of myself, a thing done with such startling regularity when I was a teenager that it was a nightly job to process embarrassment in dreamland.

What can cause a 45 year old man, fully self aware and fairly unselfconscious to find himself once again blushing? Could it be a physical reaction? In this case that couldn’t be ruled out. That said I have a sneaking suspicion that it was much the same thing as caused me to feel so unabashedly and unavoidably awkward those many many years ago. In this case it was in fact the presence of a teenage girl.

Please know that she is, by all accounts, a perfectly kind, warm, thoughtful person whom I would have been embarrassed in front of in the same way were she a 45 year old man like me. I simply note her ‘teen girlness’ for the remarkable symmetry it provides with my earlier embarrassments.

This young woman was here to do her first of hopefully many future nights and days of babysitting for our kids. She had been here for a half hour before to meet the kids, but this was still squarely in the ‘first impression’ stage of our relationship. So, as so many parents do, we had spent the day cleaning. To put our best foot forward. For our high school babysitter. I mean, we worked for hours. Okay, maybe I’m not entirely unselfconscious.

pretty much how I’m feelin’ right before I injected myself…

Anyway there we were in our date night best. We hadn’t done date night in a while, so for our standards we were looking sharp. All that was left was to show our young employee the where’s and what’s and the whatnot’s. It was exhilarating.

Then, right before we were to leave, I stood in front of her and jabbed myself with an Epi-Pen. Right there. In our kitchen.

Sure, I was blushing. Yes, my wife and the teenager were laughing pretty hard. Yes, I did think, ‘Oh, no! What have I done!’. I quickly realized I was in the clear. The needle barely touched my leg. I didn’t get injected with anything. I was safe. But the laughs became more nervous. More giddy. They even belied a fair bit of actual concern.

Why were my cheeks getting so hot? Why the heart racing? Why did I want to crawl into a ball and hide under the table?

Because I’m the knob that just played the cool guy and jabbed himself in the leg with an Epi-Pen. In front of his wife, who could only be half surprised at best at such jack-assery and our new babysitter.

‘We’ll be texting to check in and please please please don’t hesitate to text us. We would love to know how it’s going.’, my wife said as I hustled us out the door awash in shame and certain I was getting pimples, urging Karen to hurry it up in the clenched teeth, hushed tones of teen boys for millennia as I waved Karen to the door.

‘Please text, we’ll definitely be checking in to see how you’re doing.’, I added, trying to regain my composed adulthood.

‘Perhaps I will have to be checking in to see how you are doing after that.’, she added with a smirk.

It was funny. All of it. We were able to have a good laugh about it.

Then, for the first time in maybe 25 years, I dreamed I was walking to school again. I never looked down. Didn’t have to. I knew.

The Couple Date, Toddler Edition

To be fair, you really should do this more often.

It’s your semi-annual date night with people similarly afflicted with children in the ‘rugrat’ stage of development. You will only go out with couples in the same stage as you as there’s just a hair more acceptance of your general dishevelment and lack of understanding of anything that has happened in the past 3 years that took place outside of your own home.

You start the night having properly timed everything, painstakingly, to be as together as you can be at the moment you are to arrive. And it’s wonderful. You are 0nce again putting your best foot forward and demonstrating at least a modicum of pride in your appearance. It’s such a foreign feeling that it gets you a little heady. Your hosts are in the same boat and the laughs and understanding of a person who gets what you’re going through is intoxicating. You aren’t crazy. Or you are, but it turns out you are supposed to be.

Before long you are on your second glass of wine and you are now well on your way to drinking like a college freshman again, ready to get sloppy and emotional and ready to call a taxi later to get you home. You’re getting your drink on tonight. Having put more effort into this night than has been put into anything you’ve done for yourself in forever you determine that you just have to get going to that new ‘high end’ pizza joint downtown. There’s no way you’re getting this dressed up and not getting out, no matter how much fun you are having here.

Once there you see the line. Are you kidding me? You have a vague memory of a time when a line was a small challenge, a mere hiccup. A good one. One that spoke to something desirable at the end of it. This is purely a memory. There is not even a tiny residue of that feeling left, but none of you want to let the others down by being a drag on what’s so clearly going to be an…

‘To be honest, I don’t even think there pizza’s that good. I had it with some guys from work. It’s not that much better than the place around the corner. No wait there.’ you all dance around the idea for a minute before the ‘thank god someone said something’ moment happens and you all walk gloriously down the street.

You ask for the bar menu after being seated and noticing a disturbingly high number of families with kids there. It’s alright. They ain’t yours. You do miss them though and make a note that someday, when bathrooms aren’t as urgent a need as they can be with little ones that seem not to understand the feeling of something coming, only recognizing it’s arrival, it might be a nice place to come for lunch with the kids.

No. Bar. You can bring your own though. The men head out and find a store and return wine in hand. Rather, wine in box in hand.

You’re such a jackass.

Don’t be silly. It’s not the giant fridge box. We can put it on the floor. There’s three bottles in here!

Turns out it’s okay. You even see some presently-parenting-parents looking longingly. You offer, they demure. These are your people and lines are for suckers.

By the time you’ve sufficiently made it impossible to shove any more carbs in you realize you should be getting home. The kids are going to be up early and you need to get some Gatorade and aspirin down before getting to bed. These little ones make no distinction between weekday and weekend and six in the morning is extra early for a morning after.

So you all agree that you are tempting fate and should get home. You hug and shake and do the manly combo thing and tell each other you’ll definitely do this again next week. Well, not next week, but certainly in the next month. If not certainly sometime around the holidays. Or maybe just after, once all the travel is done. It’s the kind of on the fly planning you do with friends when you are drunk. You are totally drunk, but you’re a grown up now and that just means you have to hold it together.

Your cab comes and you give them your address and you laugh and flirt in the back and it’s awesome. You’re totally gonna have sex when you get home. But first you have to be dropped on the corner so you can chew some gum and eat some old Altoids so as not to smell like vagrants for the babysitter. You see them through the window, all adorable and in their jammies so you decide to hang out for a little. But they don’t go down. Looks like they’re waiting for you. You promise that once they are down you can meet up in the bedroom and ‘finish’ your date. You mean it this time. Seriously.

Your arrival is greeted with such excitement that you decide at least one half of a Curious George is probably a good idea. One or two. Before long you are bringing slightly calmed kids to their rooms and laying with them for a bit looking at the ceiling of green stars shone from the timed light on the dresser. You eventually notice that your eyes are closed and you haven’t heard anything in minutes. You open and see the stars have timed out and he didn’t even notice. His back is to you so you wait and listen. Breaths aren’t deep enough yet to risk it. So you close your eyes and wait.

Finally you drift to sleep. It’s okay. Same thing happened in the other room. It’s not how you’d have scripted the date ending, but you’ll take it. Every time.

We really should do this more often.




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