Everyone is quite familiar with the universal concept of the
“dinner-and-a-movie” kind of date. Guy picks up gal in cool car, drives
to trendy restaurant that offers both steak and veggie dishes. After a
chat over dinner and maybe a drink, it’s off to the cinema with popcorn
and Milk Duds to sit through anything this side of Kill Bill 2. It’s
easy. It’s popular. It’s safe.
There are variations to this
routine, of course: dinner and a play, dinner and the symphony, dinner
and a ballgame, dinner and the opera (note: not quite as safe). You can
also invert this sequence in order to take in the show first and then
discuss its merits or shortcomings over repast, perhaps with an eye
toward learning a bit more about the person’s tastes and appreciations,
dislikes and aversions. Even so, what you’re likely to learn will
almost certainly remain in the realm of the superficial. He doesn’t
like chick flicks. She likes Puccini, not Wagner. He, uh, chews with
his mouth open. She, er, has a strange habit of looking over your
shoulder when she speaks to you.
Obviously, many couples have
found their way out of the beginner’s date template, having discovered
the grand el camino into the cockles of the other’s heart. Then again,
others never figure it out – or at least have not a little difficulty
in doing so.
Consider, then, what I call the ‘daring date,’ a
kind of supplement to all that wining and dining stuff. (Remember, I
said ‘supplement’.) Here’s the premise: rather than approaching the
date as another path to leisure, put yourself into a challenging,
potentially aggravating, situation together – a situation in which you
will invariably learn how your date responds in difficult or at least
challenging circumstances. I don’t suggest doing anything disingenuous,
such as arranging to meet at an appointed place and time only to spy on
how your date reacts when you don’t show. I’m not suggesting you do
anything too dangerous: don’t drive out into the middle of the Mojave
dessert with a quarter tank of gas – at Midnight, without food, water
or your mobile phones. I suggest something daring, not stupid. Choose a
dose of real life.
OK. Here are a few examples I’ve run across over the years.
first one I call ‘the babysitting gig.’ Whether you’re a man or a woman
— in this case it doesn’t matter — offer to baby sit your nieces or
nephews, or some other suitable children that know you (and like you)
well. Now, invite your date along (assuming it’s OK with the kids’
parents) to a night of amusing your charges, changing diapers,
preparing snacks, cleaning up after them, putting them to bed, and all
the rest. Make sure you mind at least two kids at once, and preferably
one or two more. I’ve heard that four is optimal. And don’t cheat:
you’re not allowed to plug the kids into a DVD to watch Strawberry
Shortcake’s Adventures on Ice Cream Island.
This is a fantastic
opportunity to see what your other half really thinks about children,
and how he or she interacts with them. Sure, he says he likes kids, but
what really happens when the rubber meets the road? Does he look at the
kids with a creased face and wrinkled brow, unsure if he really wants
to pick up that toddler? Does she head for the door when little Missy
musses her diaper or when Tiny Tony wants to play Hungry Hungry Hippos?
The possibilities are endless here. Anything can happen, and that’s
exactly the point. (Tip: if the kids start throwing telephone books at
her or can’t stop jumping onto his back, things are looking good).
up: ‘the handyman’s gig’. OK. You’ve decided to become a fitness nut.
In a fit of impetuosity you’ve ordered one of those exercise machines
from some supplier on eBay. You’re happy to have bought it for a song,
but it arrives in a box the size of your sofa – and in 458 different
pieces. Some assembly required. Get on that phone and ring him (or her)
up. You need some help. If you can get him to agree to stop over in the
next 24 hours, you’re on your way. I think you can imagine much of the
rest. Does he follow directions (or even read directions)? Does he know
how to handle the miniature tools that came with the parts? Or does he
arrive with his own toolbox? Does he break any of the parts, either on
accident or in a fit of temper? Most importantly: does the job get done
right? At the end of the day, does the thing work? And, are you still
on speaking terms?
You don’t necessarily need to purchase some
complex piece of equipment; there are plenty alternative scenarios
based on the handyman gig idea: maybe your toilet won’t flush, your
garbage disposal is clogged, or your doorbell won’t ding. Perhaps you
need help building a deck, buffing your hardwood floors, re-grouting
your bathtub, or repaving your patio. You get the idea, I’m sure.
some significant distance can sometimes be just as much of a challenge
as babysitting or handiwork. Here’s an idea on that score: plan a day
trip to a place as far as you can comfortably travel to and from in a
day’s time – together, with no third wheels. We’re still talking about
a date here. This is best undertaken during summertime, on a
particularly hot and humid day. Don’t worry so much about your
destination. It could be somewhere relatively mundane – even just to
pick up a piece of furniture – but figure out a way to make the trip
worthwhile for your other half. Not only will you both be in the tight
confines of an automobile for many, many hours at a time, and
consequently have to figure out a way to pass the day other than
staring out the windscreen, you will also need to cooperate in
unexpected ways. If you go through with this one, you’ll see what I
mean. Sure, you get along fine over dinner-and-a-movie, but how ‘bout
over a steering wheel on the open road?
Here’s another travel
idea, and this one could be the most enjoyable of all. It does,
however, require some time and a wee bit of money. Depending on how it
turns out, you might even be able to call it a vacation. Choose a city
of some interest to you both that neither has before visited. Make your
travel arrangements and accommodation plans independently of one
another. Don’t travel by the same mode of transport (not in the same
car, not on the same train, and not on the same flight, as the case may
be) and don’t stay at the same hotel. Don’t even let your other half
know where you’ll be staying. Your mission then is to find one another
– oh, and you’re not allow to call, email, fax, or telegraph your date.
If you choose a mega-metropolis like New York – or even Boston or San
Francisco, agree on staying in one general area or neighborhood, else
you’ll have too little chance of success. Of course, before you leave
you’ll have to get to know your date well enough to have a set of clues
to follow once you arrive at your destination. No matter what happens,
you’ll find this sort of thing unmitigated fun.
Each of these
‘daring dates’ is as much a compatibility test for you and your other
half as it is a way to get to know a whole lot more about the everyday
habits, attitudes, concerns and interests of that certain someone who
might one day be a certain something more. After all, when a couple
gets married, it’s not all dinner-and-a-movie fare anymore.