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A Wife’s Ode to the Cocktail Hour

May 20, 2014

Nick and Nora kissingMy husband and I had a lot of fun before we had kids. I mean A LOT. We traveled, we spent money like crack whores, we had nooners for heaven’s sake.

And we also loved going out for cocktails. We probably met at some swanky bar, or curious hell hole, or trendy hipster joint five days a week after work.

It was fun.

And least of all because we got a little loopy. The fact is that most of the time we really didn’t. What we would do is laugh and talk and debrief each other about our days. Sometimes we had pow-wows about our dreams and where we wanted to be in five years. Or maybe we just chattered about where we wanted to go the coming weekend.

Nick and Nora drinking

I always made sure to put some lipstick on and leave whatever bad attitude I had brewing at the door before I walked in to any of these establishments. I wanted my husband to remember why he married me and see a glimpse of the woman he first laid eyes on at a candlelit pub in Prague back in 1994.

It’s like I always tell him, “The last twenty-five year-old woman you had was me.” I don’t say it to depress the man.

When we had kids, we knew our lives would change, and we were ready. We understood that dragging a bunch of kids around the world was not only prohibitively expensive, but no fun. Kids want to go to the beach or Disney World. And they will make you pay if you try to take them to, say, The Louvre. Nor could we lay around naked reading the newspaper anymore. Not unless we wanted to go to jail.

Nick and Nora with kid

But my husband and I are pretty determined people and we were adamant about having a relationship that didn’t exclusively revolve around family activities. We wanted to stay interested in one another and have a way of getting caught up on each other’s soap opera.

So, we instituted a cocktail hour.

Every evening, before we set our sights on making dinner, my husband mixes us a great cocktail and we sit down on our porch or in my husband’s office and get down to the business of making each other laugh, telling a story or sharing a great idea and trying to get the other on board. There are only two rules to our cocktail hour: no children allowed, no talking about children allowed (unless it’s a really great story).

And while the kids complain every once in a while, or try to crash our party, we’re pretty emphatic about it. I once said to my daughter, “Would you prefer to live in a house where your mom and dad don’t want to spend time together?” That was a revelation for her.

Nick and Nora

Over the years, I have to admit that our cocktail hour has caused a little bit of embarrassment in our small town. Our youngest, for instance, was charged at school with painting her daddy’s “favorite things” on a flower pot as a Father’s Day present. She painted nothing but martini glasses, and I’m sure that got a good laugh in the teacher’s lounge. My son once took a message from a caller and said, “Sorry, but it’s cocktail hour and you don’t want to mess with that. My mom will call you back.” The caller was – no kidding – his Sunday School teacher.

Our cocktail hour is worth a few wagging tongues, though.

It’s a little wisp of a vacation at the end of the day. A mini-date that has acted as a daily reminder of how much we enjoy each other’s company when we’re not fixing lunches and feeling confounded by “new” math and watching Young Frankenstein for the 1500th time. It is what has helped keep our relationship a living, breathing thing – even if we’re not carefree young adults anymore with stubbornly thin physiques and the confidence to smoke a cigarette without the fear of impending doom.

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18 Comments
  1. I love this and at some levels identify but as MUCH older parents one Martini and we would be goners .Also now that my son is a teen I steer entertainment not to include Alcohol. That being said 10 years ago in this very neighborhood, I had to be careful not to walk my dog at Ladies glass of wine hour…. I did arrive home a bit too happy once or twice to hear “Wow that was a long walk”.
    I hope you have many more happy hours ahead.

  2. Catalina – I have always been such a lightweight. One martini has always been enough for me, sadly. And with kids, cocktail “hour” is more like cocktail “33 minutes.” My sister-in-law gave up alcohol completely about a year ago and she says she’s never felt better. Not quite ready for that here :)

  3. You have just distilled (ha!) my one regret with having only one child. It’s too hard to exclude one; makes it too personal. I long for cocktail hour or some semblance of it, particularly because I grew up with parents who also adhered strictly to it. They still do! Manhattans and martini’s every night. It’s important for kids to see their parents connecting in a way that doesn’t necessarily include them. You have inspired me to try for it at least a couple times a week. Thanks.

    • Karen, you are not the first parent of one child I’ve heard say this – and it always starts with “the one regret about having one…” My best friend growing up was an only child and it was the three of them all the time. And it was beautiful – they’re such a close family and had so much fun together. I see that in your posts on FB as well. But I can imagine that you and G. actually have to leave the premises to get some alone time. Or give Owen a healthy does of Nyquil PM.

  4. Ah, martinis! Reminds me of the old line: “One martini and I can feel it…two martinis and anyone can feel it!” – What a wonderful ritual to keep joy and mirth part of the marriage regimen! Julie, my lightweight, has just a smidgen of rum for her tall coke – me, one stiff one and I’m finished these days — not at all like the old days! “The Thin Man” was definitely an added attraction! :-) Great post!

    • BR, we’ve become lightweights, too. Especially since leaving the Midwest. I feel like our Midwestern friends can still rock it when they want to. We’re out of practice now that we’ve lived on one coast or the other for 15 years.

  5. Geez, one of these reminders of how provincial my childhood was. Growing up in a small town in the South, I never saw my parents drink alcohol until I was in grad school (they started drinking a little wine after my father was diagnosed with heart disease). I’ll have to see if there’s a “Find A Cocktail Party” website for L.A. because I envy your sophistication and good sense in maintaining that tradition.

  6. Thanks for reading. My mom was and is a teetotaler. She’s my dad’s designated driver :)

  7. Great post and a good reminder to always make an effort and have fun ;-) Thanks for the clip :-)

  8. I love this! Great idea.

  9. This is a great practice, Victoria. It will keep you strong as a couple once the kids are out of the house, too. You won’t be looking at one another and saying, “Who are you and how did I end up here?”

  10. That’s the hope, Patricia – we’ve got to hang on to our mojo for as long as we can.

  11. rob schreck permalink

    Victoria,
    This is my first visit to your blog. My new Scrabble buddy Helen turned me on to your work. I’ve finished chapter 4 of The Bone Church. Your style is quite embracing. You have succeeded in drawing me into the story. It is beautifully written. My wife and I plan a short vacation this weekend. I hope to finish your book.
    Best,
    Rob

    • Rob, thanks so much for your kind words – they mean a lot. I love scrabble, by the way. I’m trying to get my kids interested in it so that we can have some family games. They might be a little too young yet :)

  12. Rob Hyman permalink

    Anytime you want to play Scrabble. You can find me through Eden
    Rob

  13. Today, while I was at work, my cousin stole my
    iPad and tested to see if it can survive a 40 foot
    drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views.
    I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

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