date /dāt/, v.

Intentional dates are a thing for Candle Boy and me. Ever since we started dating over two years ago, we’ve done our best to arrange one intentional date night/hang out session each week. Finer details aside, this typically involves means good food, long conversations, and many hours.

When we first started seeing each other, our dates were generally Friday nights or Saturday afternoons. In the days leading up to them, we would text each other as we both scoped out well-rated restaurants in Berkeley or Oakland that neither of us had already frequented. (We both prefer trying new places rather than going to our usual haunts each week.) As you might imagine, we went to a lot of different restaurants in the first year of our dating.

Now, after approximately 100 dates (subtracting some weeks in the middle to account for holidays spent home with family, extended traveling, and life), we’ve long since decided we like each other well enough to begin downgrading the fanciness of our dates. Instead of buying snacks, we’ll sneak Ziploc bags of our own popcorn into movie theater. Rather than sit through a restaurant’s dinner rush, we’ll eat dinner early instead of cook. We’ll even accommodate our respective workout schedules by pushing back our date times.

Date day, circa Dec. 2016 | Photo by Courtney Cheng

Our most recent change has been on the long conversation front. In the first year of our dating, we spent much of our time talking about things like social justice issues, family backgrounds, and personal goals. These are important conversations to be had (and to have), but between two people who’ve recently started dating, these types of discussions are often colored with the sort of idealism that only two people in a new relationship might have. In other words, the conversations may not run as deep as they actually could.

Two weeks ago, on Star Wars day (Friday, May the 4th be with you), Candle Boy and my long conversation at date night didn’t involve any of these topics. Instead, it revolved solely around Candle Boy’s kid.

No, Candle Boy (CB) does not have an actual, biological kid. He does, however, mentor a high school student through his friends’ non-profit organization. I’ve known about CB’s mentee for quite some time, but this date night was the first time I’d witnessed firsthand the depth and nature of CB’s worrying about this student. It only made sense to begin calling this mentee, Candle Boy’s kid.

Date day(s) in Chicago circa Apr. 2018 | Photo by Courtney Cheng

During work that Friday, CB rapidly reported to me, his kid just announced that the final draft of his paper was due on Monday. CB and I had already scheduled a mentoring session with his mentee the following day, but we hadn’t expected there would be this little time to help CB’s mentee refine his paper. Neither CB nor I had even read the paper yet, and it was already noon.

Some necessary context: I had wanted to go on a run after work, which would give CB time to grab the ingredients needed for us to make a pizza recipe from Molly Yeh’s cookbook that night. These calculations had not factored in needing to read his kid’s paper before bedtime. Between our respective meetings, we rapidly threw together a new plan for our evening date, managing to sit down with his kid’s essay draft at 9:30 p.m.

At 10:50, the essay review session was still going strong and by that point, both CB and I were deeply invested in his mentee’s paper. Our date night had transformed into a part-time, faux parenting session.

Date day(s) in Seattle circa July 2017 | Photo by Courtney Cheng

And they say romance is dead.

I’m certainly not going to knock your typical movie and dinner date night. Those are great; fantastic, even, when the movie you watch is also really good. (Subtweeting at Avengers: Infinity Wars.)

Before this date night though, CB and I had never worked on nor worried about the same project together in this fashion.Within our relationship, we’ve never had an entirely self-contained issue that was collectively ours to worry about. We don’t work at the same company, learning dance carries much lower stakes, and our respective family worries are kept separate between his family and mine.

Stressing is never fun, but stressing with your partner on the same project is kind of like the stress you share with your classmate-friends about projects and finals, leveled up. It’s all the shared emotions, good and bad, times ten. And somehow you’ll suffer, but…you’ll be happy about it.

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