12: The Dating Dad: Passion
My two great passions are mutually exclusive. In fact, enjoyment of one precludes experience of the other. It took me nearly two years as a single dad to find pleasure in this bifurcation of character, though I'm still working on the guilt.
See, I'm passionate about the time I spend with my precocious daughter, and I absolutely love Ketel 1 martinis, up, dirty and the havoc a couple (or more) of them can wreak upon my life. The compressed conflict comes from the fact that, while I'm drinking a salty vodka beverage, I only enjoy it 100 percent if I can avoid thinking about, and missing, my girl too much. And even during some of our greatest father-daughter moments together, the martini calls me, offering an escape from negotiations about bedtime and evenings spent in the suburbs, surfing the offal of Saturday night satellite.
On the other hand
Yet, the pleasures a Ketel, dirty, provide are due, in part, to the recognition that I'm single and off-duty, and the night holds endless promise.
It's been another one of those days -- Simone was anything but pliant in getting ready for preschool, which made me late to work, then I spent several hours fighting with my computer, answered four snotty emails, almost missed deadline, and ate a crappy lunch at my desk. By the time 5:30 rolls around, all I can think about is that first drink. Unconsciously, I wipe at my mouth as I log out of Outlook. Then I'm sitting at the bar, and my drink looks like a freaking fishbowl. The light refracting through the vodka makes it impossible to tell if the cute bartender slipped two or three olives onto the little plastic sword.
And I face the first of many choices -- choices I didn't have the night before, when coaxing my daughter out of the bathtub and into her pajamas: Do I slide the overfull glass across the bar, sloshing droplets of icy clear alcohol over the rim as I take my first sip, or brace myself on the barstool, lean way over, and slurp the nectar? I opt for the second, and my buddy shakes his head at me in mild censure.
The bar starts to hum with conversation, and I don't have to be anywhere. And, sweet! A really pretty professional type just let me buy her a drink. As long as I enjoy my freedom, and don't dwell much on the fact that I'm not with my daughter, the next few hours are rife with possibility.
But for every liquor-soaked evening that has devolved into a bacchanal of spilled drinks and stolen kisses, there are at least five that have me driving home at two in the morning, mostly sober and very tired, regretting another stupid night.
And that's what I tend to remember when it's Friday, and Simone and I are making dinner together. The time spent with her is sweeter, because I'm not out feeling grimy from smoke, drinking too much and spending obscene amounts of money. We're in the kitchen, and she's standing on a stepstool at the sink, washing asparagus (and the counter, and herself, and me) with the sprayer, while I finish up the rest of dinner. Then she'll help me set the table, we'll eat and laugh and talk about our day, and we'll play horsey or hide and seek until bath time. And once she's shiny and sparkling and in her pjs, I'll lay next to her, and read her "just one more chapter" until I can barely keep my eyes open. Then I'll turn off the light, and doze there for a few minutes, sniff her cheek, and sneak out the door.
The dirty kitchen will beckon, the freelance assignments will call. But I'll dig out a DVD I haven't had time to watch, and feel thankful that I don't have to find a way to get my drunk ass home tonight. I'll be sleeping alone while my friends are out whooping it up, but over dinner, my daughter told me "Winter is approaching like a fox... it's sneaking up on the warm weather." And then she made a joke about poo.
It's a conflict of interests, a turmoil of desire, and sometimes I think the intensity of my two passions -- martinis and time with my daughter -- is fueled by the oscillation of my sense of satisfaction. Similar to the way an electron vibrates between two nuclei, I bounce between my two lives, bonding them together in a cloud of probability, attraction and repulsion providing enough impetus to keep me going. The pleasure of one seems predicated on the absence of the other, and maybe I'm as enamored with that dramatic tension as I am with the two divergent experiences that provide me with so much joy.
Or maybe that's just the alcohol talking.