Are We Having Fun Yet?
This column first appeared February 2004.
Later this month Barnes and Noble will be bustling. Valentine’s Day is coming, so it will be filled with couples determined to have some fun, because they have baby-sitters, and they are going to have a night out if it kills them.
Last year, my husband and I dutifully hired a sitter, left the house at 6:00 and went to a lovely restaurant, where we proceeded to have a lovely dinner and a lovely conversation. But we were finished by 7:30, even with the dessert and the coffee. So then what should we do? It was way too early to go home, so we headed, like many other desperate couples, to Barnes and Noble. There we sipped another coffee and leafed through magazines, trying to pretend we were having a romantic time while surreptitiously checking our watches to see when it would be okay to go home.
The alternative to the bookstore chain is a movie. I hesitate to even suggest it, because last year there was little worth seeing. At least 2002 offered us My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was marriage-affirming, family-affirming, and side-splittingly funny. We saw it eight months after it had first been released, and the movie theatre was still so packed we had to sit in the second row, giving our necks a major kink. It put that line in the movie "the husband is the head of the house, and the wife is the neck that turns him" in an entirely different perspective.
For whatever reason, Hollywood insists on making movies as if every moviegoer was a hormonally charged 17-year-old, who thinks flatulence is an art form. I find this curious, since the most profitable movies tend to be ones that deal with relationships. My Big Fat Greek Wedding, for instance, cost only $5 million to make, and grossed over $200 million at the theatres. Most movies put out by the regular studios, though, actually lose money because real people don’t want to watch them.
Yet the lack of selection isn’t the only reason we steer away from movies. We arrive at the theatres, and what is the first thing we parents look at? It isn’t the titles of the movies; it’s the time they start. We know that if we’re up too late we’ll pay for it tomorrow, because our little ones will still insist on crying periodically throughout the night, or jumping on us at six in the morning. We’re so chronically tired that everything revolves around the clock.
Last year, my husband and I didn’t go to a movie, and Barnes and Noble eventually closed. We decided to drive down to a local park and just talk before setting the sitter free. Unfortunately, other people in that vicinity had other plans for the night. Soon after arriving in the parking lot, another car joined us, and a portly man, about 60, stared into our van. At first we were wondering if it was some sort of drug deal. Then he climbed out of his car and walked around to ours, staring at my husband a little funny. We roared off in reverse and, defeated, headed home. A while later the police department announced that they had arrested several men for soliciting (and performing) sex acts in that particular park.