So my weekly column in the Irish Independent shifted from current affairs/pop culture – about which I know nothing – to a column about family life – about which I know very little. Enjoy!
There comes a point in every parent’s life when you have to accept that you are too old for nights out. It usually comes at about the exact second that you become a parent – suddenly you have a deep and profound understanding of why sleep deprivation is used as torture, and how the mind fragments under the pressure of only have a few hours sleep a night. Of course, after a while you just get used to three-to-six hours sleep a night, and you spend your days in a state of casual psychosis. So while a night out sounds like fun, in reality you are going through the motions, trying very very hard to stay awake and engaged, as all you can think about is how this time away from the kids would really be better spent by pulling into a layby and sleeping for four hours, rather than spending a hundred euro on a meal that you can’t enjoy because a decade of frantic, panicked dinners means you have forgotten how to chew.
Thank the stars then for the day date. Yes, it is shameful to admit that you can no longer muster up the energy for any kind of human interaction after 8pm, but there is a freedom in doing so – freedom to wallow in your middle-classness, for the day date offers so many more options than its nocturnal equivalent. The night date has dinner, movie, or booze. Maybe bowling, but after a couple of decades of marriage it feels almost sarcastic in its first-date-ness. Hey, maybe at the bowling alley we could spice things up with some role play, pretend we are on a first date? No. I got married so I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else, so let’s not do that. In fact, let’s just angrily fling those balls into the gutter as we complain about the estate grass-cutting committee and their constant demands for money, as we chug overpriced beer whilst wearing moist clown shoes. I say to hell with the night date.
The day date has wonderful possibilities, like brunch, furniture stores, a half empty cinema, and not being out in a pub surrounded by people who are the same age as your kids. Brunch itself is a whole new adventure – as it has been six years since you were in the city centre, strolling through the streets really feels more like a weekend mini break in an unfamiliar European capital. I bought Nevermind on vinyl in this shop, you think, standing outside what is now either a Spar, vape shop or Starbucks. I’m glad Kurt isn’t here to see this, you muse.
When you do finally decide on a place for brunch there is that excitement of not really knowing what brunch is, apart from the vague sense that it can only be consumed between 9am and 11am, and only by the middle classes. Revelations abound as you realise that your life partner does not in fact like black pudding, which had you known this two decades before would have been what the kids call a deal breaker. Your west Cork ancestors would be spinning in their graves – they lived exclusively on a diet of black pud, and it never did them any harm, apart from the hardened arteries and gastric distress they died with, aged 65.
After brunch there is the bracing ramble through a furniture shop so you can argue about couches you can never afford. What about that one? It’s suede, just picture it with a bowl of Coco Pops trickling down it. What about that red leather chesterfield? Honestly, you have your mother’s taste, you think you live in Brideshead, not a semi-d in a vaguely reanimated ghost estate. How dare you say that about my mother, what would you know about taste, you grew up in a bungalow, you didn’t even know what bannisters were until you met me. Look, let’s just go to the bedding section and try to figure out which pillow absorbs tears the best.
And so then on to the cinema, where your vast chasm of difference between is thrown into the sharpest focus imaginable. Why don’t we go to see The Nun, I’m adopted and I quite like the sound of it. No, we aren’t going to that, what about Crazy Rich Asians, it’s a rom-com, you remember what laughter and romance are don’t you? I will meet you halfway – let’s go see Black 47, or Crazy Poor Irish as it is also known. It’s basically the same as Crazy Rich Asians, as everyone is skinny and desperately searching for happiness. No, it’s either two tickets to Crazy Rich Asians or we just go back to the multistorey so we can spend 15 minutes trying to back out of a space whilst shouting ‘pivot’ without irony.
Crazy Rich Asians is where we end up, and it is enjoyable, and we laughed and she cried, and all was right with the world. We had our little bubble of peace, to have a conversation, to talk about us, and to muse about what ugly furniture our kids would soil if we won the Lotto. Then we came home, and the bubble goes pop, as our babysitting daughter gave us an earful about the indentured servitude that we forced her into with promises of a festive iPhone and a dog that never seems to materialise. Every child has a tale to tattle, and we are back to being King Solomon, threatening to destroy PS4s, iPads and the WiFi router if they don’t all learn to get along. After a few hours rest, the vocal chords are cranked up to 11, but those hours, free from alcohol to muddy the memory, can carry you through another month or two of hustle and bustle, as you regale friends with tales of the great little brunch spot you discovered, which has been open since 2015 and everyone in western Europe has eaten there. So here’s to brunch, cheap cinema tickets, bickering about chairs, holding hands, time apart, time together, and the day date.