Date Night: You Can't Take Me Anywhere

Most couples have an unspoken contract—we expect that we’ll have each other’s backs, right or wrong. But are there any circumstances in which a spouse should not come to your rescue? Is there ever a good reason  to refuse to tag-in and leave your partner alone in the fighting ring?

My husband and I dove into that fun topic the other night. Check out this tangle of thorns:
We were at the movies, which is always a potentially volatile situation for me. If anything distracts from the screen, I can’t enjoy the movie, no matter how good it is. Had I been seated next to an occasional throat-clearer during Forrest Gump, I would have shrugged my shoulders and said to my date, “Meh. That was okay, I guess,” as the credits rolled.

To avoid this kind of strife, I have some rules: We don’t see anything on opening night because I feel too self-conscious eating my contraband four-layer chocolate cake or hoagie with extra vinaigrette while a stranger is sharing my armrest. We arrive at least a half hour before start time so we can get the middle seats in the top row. We stay away from discount night to avoid being stuck next to a guy doused in Drakkar Noir.

We thought were golden the other evening. We picked a movie that had been out for months. Neither of us was super-psyched about the film, but at least one of my favorite under-rated actors was in it. (I would be more specific, but spoilers lie ahead). Everything was going to my satisfaction. We had the choice seats, and there were two empty chairs between us and the next couple.

But all the careful planning and sacrifice in the world can’t save you from stupid people.

It started out subtly. I figured the guy two seats down had something important to say to his date or wife during the previews. I thought little of it when he spoke during The Rock’s helicopter crash clip, because it’s only the coming attractions after all.

But the guy had a lot on his mind. The talking wasn’t incessant. The people in front of him aren’t even turning around, I thought. If they can deal, so can I. There were long periods when he said nothing. Those gaps were filled with anxiety, with me wondering whether I would snap at the next thing that came out of his mouth.

It soon became clear that he was narrating the movie.

In a normal voice he was describing, what was clearly being depicted on the screen. “She’s spilling the salt!” and “That pie’s no good,” and “That dude looks pissed.” It went on and on and on.
What is the purpose of this!? I thought. Then it came to me: His date must be blindnow I’m a jerk for being mad.

A moment later, his date popped up from her seat and bounced down the stairs unaided, probably going to the bathroom.

When she got back, he started again. “Oh, that guy’s definitely gay.”

Maybe I could have been more tolerant the plot was a difficult to follow. My husband and I whispered to each other several times during Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, putting our brains together to figure out what the hell was going on. (We never did.)

“I’m going to say something,” I whispered to Chad. “This is ridiculous.”

I wanted to give him a heads-up. He often implores me to be more patient; less impulsive, but this time he shrugged his shoulders at me, meaning, If you must.

Leaning in the yappy guy’s direction, I said, “Could you please keep it down? You’ve been talking loudly this whole time, and it’s really affecting our enjoyment of the movie.”

“You know what?” the guy said. “Fuck off.”

I turned my eyes forward, rage tearing through my veins. I leaned toward the guy again. “I can tell by your response that you’re a very intelligent man,” I said. 

When things get confrontational, I can’t think of a good come-back until the next day.

I looked at Chad. He was staring at the screen, not reacting.

After a moment, I said, “Did you hear him tell me to fuck off?”

Chad’s hand cupped my ear. “Did you expect his response to be different? He doesn’t care—he’s a jackass.” Even though he was whispering, I could tell he was annoyed with me.

My rage turned to Chad. “Not that you would do anything about it.”

I didn’t enjoy the rest of the movie. I wondered what all the critics’ fuss had been about. The annoying guy had stopped narrating, but I still felt like I was the loser of our brief argument.

When we filed down the row during the credits, I avoided Chad’s gaze. We both hit the bathroom on the way out. He took longer than I did, and I stood there fuming. I fantasized about calling an Uber.  Mr. Fuck-Off and his date  strolled around the corner, hand-in-hand. They didn’t see me.

“Are you okay?” his girlfriend or wife asked. He said yes. I felt vindicated; I’d gotten under his skin.

Fifteen minutes  later, in the car, Chad and I still hadn’t said a word to each other. I was thinking about my stepfather and my father. During my childhood, I’d seen them put many an unruly person in their place. They weren’t cowards. If it happened on my dad’s watch, I just knew he would have said to the man in the theater: “Don’t you dare talk to my wife that way!”

As Chad took the freeway exit toward our house, he said, “You’re upset with me.”



“Because you didn’t even look over when someone told me to fuck off!”

“What good would that do?” Chad glanced at me and then turned his eyes back to the road. “This is a person who is nuts enough to sit in a theater and talk over a movie. How the hell are you going to affect his behavior.”

“You didn’t even flinch when he cussed at me. You could have at least given him a dirty look.”

“So you’re saying I should have escalated with him?”

“Whatever,” I said.

During the brief silence that followed, frustrated tears sprung from my eyes. I realized I was shaking. Why was I so angry? Chad wasn’t being completely unreasonable. And I had effectively silenced the offender. Apart from the initial “fuck off,” he hadn’t uttered another word.

So what if some guy who I’d never see again was rude to me?

I’m not that damn sensitive, I thought. I’m embarrassed, but that's not it either. I do or say something embarrassing almost on a daily basis.

Chad broke the silence. “Know this: If anyone ever threatens you physically, I will cut that person down. I will take their eyes. But if it’s some idiot disrupting a movie, it’s just not worth the risk. The reality is, that guy could have been seriously mentally unstable.”

Those words were like the combination to my vault. My true feelings became clear to me. Deep down, I knew what I had wanted in that theater. I had wanted my husband to step in, be a man. How antiquated of me. How could I call myself a feminist and expect my husband to fight my battles for me? He was right—it wasn’t like I had been in physical peril.

Is my "honor" worth breaking a hand or a nose over? Life isn't a John Wayne movie--if that man had been carrying a gun, it probably wouldn't have shot blanks.

“I know. I’m sorry,” I murmured, my mind turning to the recent violence in the news. During the previous four days, two police officers were shot and killed in Westerville, another in Chicago, and there had been a school shooting in Florida.

Chad was absolutely right, but just because I’m stubborn, I added, “You could have at least flinched a little when the guy said that to me.”

He let out a chuckle. “Okay.”

That same night, we found out a man had been fatally shot in a nearby Walgreens. The motive? A disagreement. None of the witnesses knew what the argument had been about. It went down while we were at the movie.

Reality is different now. Chad’s smart as hell. It pisses me off sometimes.

Despite everything, we were back at the cinema on Sunday afternoon, seeing our first choice, a new release. The movie was so-so. The room was too packed for me to fully enjoy my chicken fingers with two honey mustard dippin’ sauces but I wolfed them down anyway, still having faith in humanity.


leah reynolds said…
Oh, you have a way with words! One moment, I'm laughing, and the next, I'm sucker-punched in the gut with a dose of reality.
Paulita said…
This was almost as good as sitting next to you and watching it all unfurl. Honest and hilarious. I give it 4 stars
Erin Adams said…
Thanks for the love, my friends!!

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