I’ve been told that some couples go on dates. At least I’ve heard rumors about a weekly date night ritual. I guess making time for each other is supposed to be good for a marriage, helps you bond or something. To be honest, Dave and I have never really excelled at standardized dating. I mean, if we haven’t bonded by now, after cleaning out the chicken coop and planting the garden together, what hope is there for us anyway? We’re so unfun, it usually takes an outside event to pry us out the door and off the farm. Someone has to get married or graduate or die.
We are a little better at vacations. About every other year, one of us will gift the other a real nice vacation. We’ve given each other trips to New York, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and I don’t know what all. We are quite generous in that department. We never actually go on any of the trips, but we are absolutely sincere in thinking that we might.
Our children certainly don’t expect great things from us in the date department. If we tell them we’re going out for a night on the town, they’ll say, “You headed to Costco?” And they’re right. Nine times out of 10, that’s exactly where we are headed, cruising the aisles with other middle-aged couples on a Friday night. I like Dave to go shopping with me so he can lift the 60-pound bags of water softening salt into the cart. Dave likes to go with me so he can throw snacks in the cart – the kind he likes that I will never, ever buy if left to my own discretion. If that’s not romantic love, I don’t know what is.
One thing Dave really likes to do is go out to eat; I will give him credit for that. I’m actually the one who has had to come around to the idea of spending money at restaurants. I consciously have to turn off the budgeting lobe of my brain to stop it from calculating how many bags of groceries are equal to what is sitting on my plate. I’ve also had to let go of what I call the great steak question. The great steak question has been central to our marriage for a very long time. To explain, every occupation has its perks, and one big perk of raising beef cattle is having a freezer full of southern Idaho’s finest. Two freezers full some years. Not only do I have access to every cut of beef on a beef, I also have Dave, and he cooks two things really well. He makes a mean pancake-and-egg breakfast, and he grills meat like a demon. Steak is his specialty. He’s so good, I make him cook his own steak on Father’s Day.
Fast-forward to when Dave and I go out to eat. We have a little ritual we always follow. Dave will accept a menu from the wait staff, just as if he needs one. He’ll hum and haw and turn the pages back and forth, like he’s having a hard time deciding what to do. He’ll ask me what I’m going to get. Then he’ll sigh in frustration, “Everything just looks so darn good.” More hums and haws – and if we are with other diners, he’ll ask them their opinions. We’ll all banter back and forth at length about what sounds good, or looks interesting, or what experiences we’ve had with entrees we’ve ordered in the past. Dave might even ask our server for recommendations. Then he’ll close his menu, sigh with satisfaction and say, “I think I’ll have the cap steak. I’m just in the mood for steak tonight.”
Now back in the early days of our marriage, when we went out so seldom that I tended to forget myself, this was the moment when I’d succumb to temptation and ask the great steak question. “Dave, we have a whole freezer full of steak. Don’t you want to try something different?”
He’d look back at me in shock like I had just walked straight off of Venus, “I didn’t get cap steak last time. I had the filet (or prime rib or T-bone).” He would honestly have no idea what I was talking about. Once I tried to explain to him that when I asked the great steak question, I wasn’t actually questioning the cut he had chosen. I simply meant to suggest that maybe, perhaps, just once or twice, he should order something besides beef. “I don’t understand why you want to buy steak at 30 dollars a plate or more when you can have steak any time.”
The trouble was with me, I know it now. I didn’t understand the commitment, the passion, the in-depth devotion of the true beef-producing connoisseur. If we made wine, would I find it strange if Dave wanted to test everyone else’s product? If we grew chocolate, would I be surprised if he had fine-tuned his senses to identify all the varieties of beans and depths of flavor grown? “Michele,” he told me once, “I just want to see if their steak is as good as mine.” How can I argue with that? It’s a simple question of Dave’s priorities: “If I’m going to spend money, I want it to be on something that’s worth it.” I guess I’m not going to grumble about a man who is doing his level best to support his own industry.
Of course, time and cholesterol change us all, and over the past few years David has actually ordered salmon a time or two. And he hardly even complains when I serve him chicken at home, though he certainly has never ordered it on purpose. Believe it or not, he no longer even orders the largest steak on the menu. Just the most expensive one.