The Internet is a beautiful place, is it not? Whatever it is you are searching for, you can find it with your handy-dandy web browser. You can find a recipe or a place to buy new tires or even a date. But, mostly, you're just going to find lists. Go ahead, try to prove me wrong. Google-search some list statistics. But if you type something into Google, what's the first thing you see? A list of the most visited sites that fit into the category of what you just searched. Much of the humor in today's media, including Conan and Jimmy Kimmel (just to name a few), is centered around lists of things, in order of least-funny to funniest. A few of the lists I found this week: The Top 15 Ugliest Celebrity Feet. Or another, 20 Valentines Too Awesome To Exist. Even more recently (in the last hour or so): 30 Ideas for a Date Night at Home.
The article about the feet was sub-par. I expected to see some gruesome, gnarly toes but mostly I just witnessed women wearing strappy stilettos a few sizes too small. The Valentines, on the other hand, were thoroughly hilarious and definitely "too awesome to exist." Some were simply disgusting. However, the 30 Date Ideas was initially very promising and instead sent me down a dark hole of cynicism.
It's not that I view "at home" dates as stupid, or even unromantic. As a matter of fact, I enjoy them. I prefer them. I am a homebody (and my social butterfly husband is very obliging) so we spend most weekends at home on the couch watching movies, or playing Scrabble, or playing Dutch Blitz. (an excellent card game that is worth the time/effort/money to find and purchase it.) We also take naps together, and walk the dog together, and play video games together. We read together. Big, long, adventurous books. But, you see, the beauty of those "dates" is that they are natural things that we enjoy doing in each other's company. They happen effortlessly, most days.
For Valentine's Day this year we didn't go out. It's only our second Valentine's Day together (literally, ever, because when we dated we were on opposite sides of the country) but we didn't feel like making reservations anywhere. So after a long nap to make up for the previous night (we stayed up late frosting Valentine cookies!) we had a nice dinner at home, rented a movie from RedBox, had homemade strawberry shortcake, and it was a lovely evening. It was relaxing. We didn't have to drive anywhere. I didn't have to impress anyone but my husband. I didn't fret about being out late or spending too much. My point is: I value at-home dates.
BUT. But. after running across that one little list, I decided to look at a few others, and I am appalled at the ideas they ladies are putting out there under the guise of a "date." Disclaimer: For the record, I have nothing against these bloggers, but some of these "date" ideas are horrendous. I am critiquing date ideas, not people.
Example 1, from One Motley Crew.
"List Date." No joke, they actually suggested that as a DATE you and your spouse make LISTS of things. And not funny things, not even mushy things. The first examples are things like "stuff that needs to be done around the house" and "gifts for the kids." Come on. It's a date. One important element of marriage is taking time to focus on your spouse. Don't take a date (which SHOULD be that time) and focus on other things. Focus on each other.
This Six Sisters blog also had some creative ideas, anything from fondue night to blanket forts. However, many of the dates were less-than-natural. There's a difference between being spontaneous and being complicated. Number 8 suggests a "karaoke night", which includes YouTube videos with lyrics. My husband and I love to sing together, but if I told him to come sit at the computer and sing along to a YouTube video, he would probably take my temperature and send me to the ER.
The other complication is that some of these ideas take a lot of effort. For a special occasion I can understand putting a lot of effort into a stay-at-home date. For an anniversary, sure, I might put on nylons and curl my hair, even if I was staying at home. But the Six Sisters blog and The Mom Crowd's lists suggest that you have a theme night--i.e., eat food, dress up, and watch a movie all from the same era or within the same idea in mind. Like a Western night, or a French night. And you know what that reminds me of? High school dances. Think, "Evening in Paris" or "Under the sea." It's a great idea, in theory, if you're sixteen years old. But if I'm staying at home, I don't want to try to dress up like a cowgirl, or an astronaut, or anything else themed, because I'm at home. I spend the whole week presenting myself to other people and needing to look professional and polished. If I'm on a date at home, I want to relax. I don't want to put on a bunch of unnecessary layers and then also cook whilst wearing those layers. This rule about relaxation also applies to ideas like dressing up as a character from a movie. It's just too much strain and requires too much thought for something that is all about relaxing.
But since I don't want to be all about the negatives, here is a prime example of an "at home" date idea list that doesn't make me want to vomit or tear my hair out. This list was compiled by the National Healthy Marriage Institute. I mention it not because the list is amazing (because it definitely is NOT) but because before they give you all the suggestions that others have submitted, they give you something else that is imperative: Ground rules.
1. No fighting.
2. No talking about problems.
3. Have fun.
Sounds legitimate, right? Basically they're saying: RELAX. Fighting = not relaxing. Talking about problems = not relaxing. 3. Not having fun = not relaxing. And the only reason their silly, silly list is acceptable is because it's submissions are from anonymous people, people who have their own marriages, people who do things naturally together.
So if you and your spouse really like to scrapbook together, go for it. If you both enjoy gardening, sure, go ahead, plant some seeds and give the sprouts to your neighbors. If your neighbors are not like mine, then definitely make them cookies as well. And if you really want to dress up like Batman or Prince Humperdink or Lumiere the talking candlestick, then be my guest. Just remember: at-home date night is not the time to balance your check book or argue about who left the toilet seat up or get an oil-change. Be with the one you love, doing something you love.