It might have been 20 months ago that I first met this couple. It was certainly PCE (pre-covid era). They had a budding courtship, one filled with cinema trips, live concerts, comedy clubs, late night dinners and nightcaps. In a word, it was fun. And they were fun because of it.
“We want to try two old fashioneds,” I remember them saying once, or maybe twice. Their excitement about something so ordinary made it fun, not just for them, but for anyone around them. Enthusiasm is often contagious.
The thrill of experiencing new things together is the cornerstone of courtship. And in the beginning, it’s all about the fun stuff. Everything is bright, shiny, and new. The world is filled with possibilities. And for this couple, the future seemed bright indeed.
He was always well dressed, well coifed, his micro beard was specialty razor trimmed perfect. She was easily his equal, fashionable, trendy, not to mention meticulously eyelined and lipsticked.
Then things changed. The couple didn’t change, but the world changed around them. And with that change away went the movies, the concerts, and the comedy clubs. Not to mention the coifing and the lipstick.
Sure, I saw them once or twice through the door over the next year, or sitting in the parking lot while picking up their ToGo food and beverages. But limited hours and no bar seating had really changed our dynamic, as well as theirs. Nothing ends the infatuation period faster than a crisis.
The first reopening brought new life and for a moment, just before last Thanksgiving, new hope. I think sitting at the bar lasted two whole weeks, and I think I saw them three times.
“Old fashioneds?” I asked the first time.
“Do you have anything else?” they asked in unison.
“I thought you liked those?”
“We did, but that is all we have been doing during this lock down,” he said.
“All we do is watch TV, drink, and eat ToGo food,” she added.
They then proceeded to order food, drink, and watch our TV.
Relationships require work, not during the fun part so much, but for every other part that follows. It’s whether people want to put in that work that matters. It’s often called the honeymoon phase, and sometimes people get fooled into thinking the honeymoon is supposed to last forever. Restaurants have their part in this. Over the years I have seen many couples out at dinner and though the two people are sitting together, they are not really together. He’s watching the TV and she’s on her phone, or vice versa. In these situations, it’s not about a shared experience, it’s about two separate experiences going on simultaneously. And that is not the same thing. That’s not to say that people can’t have different wines or different entrees or different cocktails and still share an experience. Or that they can’t have exactly the same things and not. It’s more about how they approach the experience that matters.
“I’ll have an old fashioned,” said the man the next time I saw them.
“I’m tired of those,” replied his date. “I’ll have a skinny margarita.”
“That’s boring,” said the man.
She shrugged, and they split a salad, shared two appetizers and a dessert while sitting on two wobbly tables in the parking lot. Limited capacity indoor seating brought them inside again. But this time it was two different salads, two different appetizers, and two different desserts.
Now, with even more indoor seating and presumably entering the after Covid era (ACE), I have seen both of them even more often. Often but separately.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-A crisis can bring people together or it can drive them apart. It all depends on the people, and the crises.
-Some relationships haven’t made it through Covid, and some relationships have only made it through because of Covid.
-The end of World War II gave us the Baby Boom, when long separated people came back together and did what long separated people do. One wonders what happens when the situation is reversed?
-I don’t know what the first post Covid fad will be. I’m betting it’s not watching TV and eating ToGo food.
– The 1980 Kubrick/King horror masterpiece “The Shining” paints a pretty grim picture of the effects of isolation and the environs of hospitality on relationships. It’s none too kind to bartenders or writers as well. Just saying.