I'VE discovered that the date, an ancient ritual involving two well-dressed people going out together for romantic purposes, is the Holy Grail for married couples with children.
For those of you who have not yet experienced marriage and parenthood, let me explain. Marriage is about love and togetherness and all the other stuff they obsess about on the Disney Channel. But in real life, marriage is about compromise. Sometimes you get to do what you really enjoy. And sometimes you get to do, um, other stuff.
Right now some single person is saying, "Oh my God, his wife is going to kill him for writing that!" Married people? They're simply smiling, nodding and saying "Amen."
How do I know? Because single people, bless their hearts, are still getting their way. The special person in their life isn't requiring compromise. Once the wedding happens, though, the mask will come off. Not necessarily because that new spouse is evil - well, sometimes it's because they're evil. But mostly, it's because genuine relationships require give and take.
Maybe you liked to sleep on the right side of the bed, but now that you're married, you've discovered that your spouse likes that side, too. No biggie. You switch sides because you love them. About a month in, you discover another major difference: Your spouse is a morning person, while you are a night owl. Again, no problem. You're both willing to quiet down during your most productive hours because, well, your spouse is your Snookums, and you love them just that much.
Inside that first year, you discover that one of you is a little more, um, frisky than the other. One of you compromises, and that, boys and girls, is how children are born.
Fast-forward five years. The two of you have been tired since the day your first child arrived. Now you've got several of the little buggers. Your sleep pattern is wrecked, you're grouchy more often than not, and for half a decade you've been compromising not only for your spouse, but also for the children. This, boys and girls, is how divorces are born.
How do you avoid that fate? You go on dates. Lots of them. Because dates help you remember why you were willing to compromise in the first place. They remind you of what made you love Snookums enough to sign papers. They help you to hold on to your sanity.
So why do married couples neglect their duty to date? I can answer that in one word: kids.
A few years ago, when Eve was old enough to realize what LaVeta and I were about to do when we dressed up in the evening, she began trying to sabotage our dates. It's not that she didn't want us to go anywhere. She didn't want us to go anywhere without her.
The first time Eve faked a sniffle LaVeta fell for it hook, line and sinker, because LaVeta's a mom, and moms cancel dates for sick kids. The second time, we went out anyway, because I was able to convince LaVeta that Eve would be OK. By the third time, even Little Solomon was starting to become part of the scheme. We saw the pattern, and that's when we knew. We could no longer give our kids advance warning about our dates.
In a fit of desperation, I began to date my wife like I was Austin Powers - a poor man's parody of Bond . . . James Bond.
I'd send her secret text messages: "Do I make you randy baby? Yeah, baby, yeah!"
I'd swear restaurant personnel to secrecy: "No one must know we have reservations here tonight. Our children might find out! The big one's Dr. Evil, and the little one? He's Mini-Me."
I was so convinced that secret-agent dating was the way to go that I'd pick up LaVeta wearing a bob haircut, a Nehru jacket and love beads, praying all the while that the kids wouldn't recognize me and start that infernal sniffling.
OK, maybe I didn't wear the bob haircut - primarily because I don't have hair. But make no mistake: I would've done it if it meant going out on a date with my Snookums.
Unfortunately, I became less careful over the years. I fooled myself into believing that our children had accepted our need to date. This Saturday, while preparing to go to a high-school class reunion barbecue, I learned that that wasn't the case.
"Haven't you gone on enough dates?" Little Solomon asked when we told him of our plans.
He was alluding to the four days I recently spent with LaVeta while he and Eve stayed with relatives.
"Well when should we be allowed to go on another date?" I asked with a chuckle.
"When we're old enough to stay home by ourselves at night," Eve said.
"Oh, I see."
LaVeta, get me my bob wig and my Nehru jacket. It's time to go Austin Powers.
Solomon Jones' column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.