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Coupling

Table for two

It's our first date after the baby. Do I remember how to talk to my husband?

By Kara Baskin
March 20, 2011

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Diapers are stacked next to the changing table. Scrubbed bottles stand at attention. I charge through my house like a museum docent, fluffing and plumping and making sure everything’s just so. Any minute, the doorbell will ring and my parents will arrive to baby-sit. And then my husband will come home from work and we’ll go out to dinner. Alone.

After 11 years with Brian, I never thought I’d feel pre-date jitters again. Then came our son, Andrew. A few months into parenthood, we’ve yet to leave the baby in someone else’s care. Our personal time involves falling asleep on the couch bathed in the blue glow of our laptops. If one of us is feeling frisky, there might be a “liked” status on Facebook. When we go out, it’s typically with Andy in tow. We visit friends, but one of us is inevitably busy feeding, bouncing, or changing while the other holds court. We know all the best early bird specials and where you can take a baby without getting hostile stares, and we scarf our food fast enough to cause permanent indigestion.

Yes, relaxing over dinner while forming full sentences seems decadent. It’s also petrifying. What if we’re having a fabulous time and my parents call to report that Andy won’t stop howling? Worse, what if we don’t have anything to say to each other?

When Mom and Dad arrive, I explain to my father the complexities of our remote control and assure my mother that Andy’s sniffle isn’t pneumonia. And then my date arrives. He looks the same as he did when he left this morning, but I’m different. The combination of nausea and headiness feels exceptionally pre-prom. Walking to the car, I’m nervous. I pull at my skirt and teeter on my heels. He opens the door for me. My heels are so high that I actually tumble into the car. Brian chortles. OK, maybe we have a future, after all.

Cruising through town with an unoccupied car seat and a Disney sun shade is strange. I feel as if I stole someone’s car. No, I feel as if I stole someone’s life. The scent of my perfume – unearthed for the occasion – hangs heavy in the air. When, exactly, did we become adults? So many carefree years had been spent with Brian at the wheel, streets and perfumes and lifetimes ago. We would chatter incessantly about the day’s inanities. Now each word is purposeful and measured. Conversation needs to count, because this quiet won’t last. I’m untethered, giddy. Somewhere out there, there’s a child related to me, yet I don’t even have a spit-up-stained shirt to prove it.

Sitting across from Brian in the luscious cacophony of a restaurant dining room, I almost bring up the textural puzzlements of Andy’s latest bowel movement. I bite my tongue: only adult conversation tonight. I try to contemplate him with fresh eyes. This man is the father of my child, as familiar to me as myself. Yet he’s strange, too. In the hubbub of diaper changing and milk mopping, I’ve forgotten I need to absorb him as a person, not just as another pair of hands.

The newness is tempered by remembered chemistry. Conversation flows easily, spurred by the emotional shorthand of comfort. In this moment, we have so much history and at the same time absolutely none; I imagine I’m hearing his words without any baggage. His career is foreign to me, fascinating. I tell him about the book I’m reading, punctuated by luxurious pauses. Maybe it’s the wine or maybe it’s the lighting, but for the first time in a long time, I see my husband again.

We’ve been here a few hours, and I don’t want Mom and Dad to be out too late. Like any good promgoer, I’d hate for them to wait up. We pay the bill and point our car in the direction of our lives. As we approach the house, I brace myself for firetrucks or wailing. But, no! Dad’s suavely operating the remote, and Mom’s doing a crossword. Andrew’s snoozing.

My parents flee. Brian and I go our separate ways: he to the television, I to my book. We might not have another meaningful conversation for a week, but that’s OK, now that I know we still have plenty to say. On our second date, though, I’m going to wear flats.

Kara Baskin is a freelance writer in Arlington. Send comments to coupling@globe.com.

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  • March 20, 2011 cover
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