Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Literary Date Night In

With a couple of kids and no date night budget to speak of, actual dates that involve leaving the house are few and far between around here. So that usually leaves us every Friday evening scrounging around for good and creative stay-at-home date night activities (yes, we have Netflix, and no, that does not count as "date night").

Personally, I enjoy any at-home dates that involve food and cooking together (which is why I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy of this book soon, it sounds fantastic). But while my husband enjoys eating fun and new and creative things, he's not so great at the cooking part of it. So sometimes those date nights devolve into me alone in the kitchen while my husband surfs the web, occasionally calling out the next set of directions from the recipe open in one of his tabs.

Also, the dishes. Not a super romantic way to end a date night.

If my husband had his druthers, we'd spend every date night playing board games. Now, I love me a good board game as much as the next person, but my husband's enthusiasm for the intense, strategic, highly involved board games way outstrips my own (sometimes, when he's telling me about a new game he wants, he starts throwing out jargon like "European style," "worker-placement," "territory-building," "dice mechanic," and my eyes just glaze over). To his credit, he has invested a lot of effort in building up a collection of super fun two-player games that I really do enjoy, but when we spend "date-night" playing board games with just the two of us, and then the next night host our weekly game night with the neighbor friends who also happen to be really into board games, I can get board-gamed out pretty quickly.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, my husband suggested we try something new for date night. He proposed we read a short story out loud to each other, and then discuss it book-club style.

Now, if you're thinking that sounds like just about the most pretentious, nerdiest, lamest date night you could possibly imagine, I'm ashamed to admit that was my first thought too. Read short stories out loud to each other? For DATE NIGHT?

But actually, I think I was just ashamed that this was his idea and not mine. After all, both our families have a culture of reading out loud. Our parents read out loud to us when we were kids, and on long road-trips I used to read out loud to my husband all the time (until I got pregnant, and now cannot handle even looking at printed text in a moving vehicle without getting nauseous, so thank heavens for audio books). We read aloud to our own children every day. Couldn't reading aloud for date night actually be fun? I mean, I'm always game for a good literary-themed date night (especially if involves indie book stores, author readings, and awesome bookish restaurants), and here's one that was not only free and at-home, but awesomely creative and different too.

So, on that Friday night, after getting the kids to bed, we moved out onto the back porch to enjoy the nice spring weather, lit a candle for ambiance (actually, for mosquitoes, but same dif), and passed the ipad back and forth as we took turns reading the story out loud. My husband picked "Eve's Diary" by Mark Twain, which I had never even heard of before, but in typical Twain fashion it was delightfully funny, creative, and thought-provoking. We had a great little discussion afterward about Twain's insights and additions to the Bible story. It was a perfectly lovely way to spend an evening, and also engage with my husband on a more meaningful level than if we had watched a movie or something.

Considering May is Short Story Month, what better time to have your own short story reading date night! I will confess that I'm not very knowledgeable or well-read when it comes to short stories. This is a genre I don't read often, even though I thoroughly enjoy short stories. However, if you are so inclined to have your own short story book club date night, here are a few I recommend for being classic and provoking some good discussion:

  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Need help explaining to your husband why you need to devote more time to reading, blogging, and adult social activity after spending all day with just babies? Here's your story.
  • The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell - Is your husband into big game hunting? Good, I'm glad he's not, but this is still a crazy good story.
  • The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe - This one might be more fitting around October, but, like scary movies, creepy/scary stories are just as good an excuse for cuddling.

I'm freely going to admit here that in order for this type of date night to work, both parties need to be of the literary persuasion and really enjoy a good old nerd-fest type discussion. Otherwise this activity could be nothing short of high school English torture. I truly lucked out that my life partner enjoys the written word as much as I do, but then again, I'm not sure I could've married someone who didn't like to read.

(Long side tangent story: My younger unmarried sister started dating this super cute, successful guy last fall, but a month into their relationship she discovered that he had NEVER SEEN the Lord of the Rings movies!!! Not even one of them! He was only vaguely aware that they were about elves or something. It slowly came out that he didn't read much at all, and wasn't really interested in movies adapted from books. Now, I will stress that this was a super nice kid, but I saw this as a MAJOR red flag. When my older sister and I would get on the phone to discuss our younger sister's relationship, she would say things like, "Well, he has such a great job, she would be financially secure for the rest of her life, this is such a good match!" And I would be like, "But he hasn't read The Lord of the Rings! He doesn't know what a Hobbit is! He doesn't read!" Inevitably, they broke up. End tangent.)

I'm thoroughly looking forward to using some future date nights to explore new short stories. Any suggestions out there? What are your favorites?


  1. This is an awesome idea! I think my husband would totally be on board with it, and it's my turn to plan our dates in June, so he'll have to go along with it regardless. :-) One of my reading goals for the year is to read a short story collection, and so turning it into a date would be a great way to explore this genre.

    Also, in response to your long tangent, I must confess to not reading LOTR (and I haven't watched any of the movies either!). I read The Hobbit in high school, and it was pretty miserable for me. But...my husband loves them, so at least there's one person in our family with good taste! :-)

  2. We studied quite a few short stories in my Creative Writing class last fall semester. I love how they can capture the author's voice and style in such a small amount of time. Some stories that stick out to me include:
    A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (master of magical realism)
    Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin
    A Clean and Well Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway (interesting look at existentialism)
    Shaving by Leslie Norris

    More might come to me, but I remember enjoying these ones.

    1. Thanks, Kyle! We'll definitely check these out on future date nights :)