Tonight was a funny night at work. I was working at my primary job, Jury's. Toward the end of the night, there was a couple who I figured out was on a first date.
I'm good at figuring out some ages-- kids, for instance. I can tell by subject of conversation, demeanor, etc. what age kids are, especially if they're around the same ages of my kids. It gets murkier as people get into their twenties and thirties. My guess was that this couple were late twenties/early thirties.
It was funny to watch. She talked more than he did. She'd never been there, but I'm pretty sure he had. She took my recommendation on food and wine (the Reuben and Big House Red). She talked a lot more than he did. Sometimes that indicates nervousness. In this case, I don't think it did-- I though it indicated confidence.
They stayed and talked for some time. I was complimented on my recommendations. Sometimes this indicates what we servers call "the verbal tip." This means that they compliment you on your service and your ability to read them and their preferences, and that makes it okay to leave a tip that is under ten percent. I could tell that she and her date, who was paying and tipping, would not do that.
And what I could also tell was that the date was not, in the end, the right one. I felt a little bad for them.
It did, though, make me think of another first date, back in 2004. I was in the middle of a bunch of first (and usually last) dates. Two years after splitting from my wife Cynthia, I had decided it was time to start dating again. I'd decided it was also time to be a little more systematic about it; rather than the luck of the draw of whoever landed in my life, I thought I'd try the Matches section of the Chicago Reader. I discovered that it was now mostly electronic.
After a few horrendous dates, I found myself in an Argentinian restaurant a couple of blocks from where I'd lived with two of the closest friends I've ever made made in my life, Dan and Mark, in the late eighties. I could tell from the moment I laid eyes on her that she was trouble-- good trouble.
I was the one who talked too much; if you know both she and I, you know that this is not an easy feat.
About a half hour into the date, I stole (or actually paraphrased) a line from Alvy Singer, Woody Allen's character in Annie Hall. There's a scene where they're on their first date. He stops her at some random point and says "Kiss me." And he explains; otherwise, all night, we'll both be worried about "when do we have that first kiss." If they just do it, get that first kiss out of the way, they can actually enjoy the rest of the evening.
I didn't say that (though we did have our first kiss that night, while we sat having a beer at the Hopleaf). I stopped and said "Hey-- we're going to have a second date, aren't we?"
We did have a second date. And a third, and fourth.
A few weeks later, at a party at our friends Greg and Christina's home, I knew that I was going to marry her. And we ended up getting married there, in that place, on December 30, 2005. It was our second anniversary a few days ago. We have never had dinner or a drink even together for our anniversary. The reason for this is that we've never been together on our anniversary. The reason for this is that we always take our kids to visit their grandparents right after Christmas. Our kids are the most important thing in our lives.
Kim took Mel up to Minnesota. I didn't take Adam to Tennessee-- we didn't have the money. He understood, but it was not easy. I hope he understands that it was so that I could stay in school and finish what I'm doing, and allow him to go wherever he wants in college and do whatever he wants in life. My goal since he was born has been to make sure that he can go to college wherever he wants. It's first on the list of life goals that I have and that I've referred to on this blog. And he also knows that we can go visit them in March. I think he also, like me, wishes that we could go see my mother before her hip replacement surgery next month.
I think that both of our kids had trepidations about our marriage, for various reasons. In the end, though, I think that both our kids are okay with our marriage. They're mature enough to want their parents to be happy. They actually appreciate one another as siblings. And they are, I think, appreciating their step-parents.
I've had it easy. I love being a parent-- especially after being a badass for much of my adult life. I'm also, usually, the Good Cop. I'm the one who plays baseball, catch or Frisbee with my son until it hurts. I'm the one who picks my stepdaughter up early at afterschool and goes to Trader Joes and lets her get the free samples and talks to her about music or whatever else she wants to talk about. I also take them both for bike rides, no matter the fact that I am always exhausted and that I'm much older than any of the parents or step-parents involved (I'm much closer to fifty than any of them).
But a little over two years ago, in a beautiful apartment owned by our beautiful friends Gregg and Christina, with a beautiful view of Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan, with our other beautiful friends (two of my closest friends, Larry and Jim, and Kim's friends Elefteria and Jesse and Sheb and Zach, who are now my friends, were there), with our two beautiful children, Adam and Mel, got married on the date we chose, December 30, the birthday of one of the most beautiful people who ever walked this planet, punk poetess Patti Smith. Two years later, we're still married. I guess all that beauty worked, didn't it, my beautiful wife?