Finding the balance between going out and staying in.

(NOTE: I posted this piece last Friday, then deleted it.  I realized I needed a little more time to ruminate on this subject … so!   If you’ve already seen this in your email or RSS feed, my apologies.  I rewrote it and, I hope you like the updated version!  –T)

* * *

Last Friday night, Ross and I were driving home from a company happy hour at The Belmont.  He steered the car down 5th Street, home to what used to be a semi-regular haunt of mine, The Whiskey Bar.

“Gawd,” I said disparagingly.  “I am so over bar-hopping downtown.”

“Really?” he said.

“Pssh, yes,” I said.  “Obviously.  It’s Friday night, but right now I would rather go home and watch Netlfix with yoooou.”

He smiled at the sentiment.  Still, Ross can always call me on my BS.

“I mean, I guess you go out less now than you used to.  Which was all the time.”

This past week, I’ve been thinking hard about what he said.

Because right now, compared to some of my friends — younger, hipper, or generally more energetic — I feel like the biggest Grandma.

See, on many Friday and Saturday nights, I really would rather skip Red River (or east 6th, or a simple house party) to watch nature documentaries at home with Ross.  Did you know that the wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family?  Neither did I, until last Friday night. 

But there’s a tipping point with staying in.  And whether you live in Austin or not, you probably know what I’m talking about.

It’s the point at which you begin to feel cabin fever.   When you sense you’re not quite tasting the great big world out there.  When you start to feel a little isolated, a bit out-of-touch, and slang or pop cultural references or even current events sail right over your head (“oh, there’s a revolution going on in Egypt?  No kidding?”) 

I was nearing this point myself last Thursday, when I slapped on some makeup and presented an award at Chris Apollo Lynn’s fantastic Roaries.   I had just come from aerial dance and probably smelled bad.  But the whole experience of going out, in a dress, watching a show and seeing a million people was pretty darn thrilling, maybe even more so than it would have been a year ago.

That’s because I stay in more.

* * *

About a year ago, Ross and I looked at each other, and realized we were living highly independent lives.

“It’s good that you have your own interests!”  friends would say.  “I hate it when couples get married and just shack up at home.  We never see them anymore.  It’s lame.”

Maybe.  Or perhaps they’re doing something right.

One year ago, the concentric circles joining Ross’ interests, and my interests, drifted into two wholly different spheres of their own.  I was (still am) addicted to the novelties of Austin; Ross was immersed in fascinations all his own. 

“Did you hear about the Passion Pit show next week?”  I’d ask him.  He’d just look at me, puzzled.

“What is ‘Passion Pit’?  By the way, have you seen my Portuguese language CDs anywhere?”

“You’re taking Portuguese?”

“Si.  El gato no prefira aceitar un banho.”

It was at this point I realized that I truly had no idea what he was talking about.

* * *

For a while, I really took it for granted that when you get married, it’s nice to have mutual interests.  Not only because I can be a boneheaded only child, but Ross is just so good-natured about everything I do.   He even dropped me off on 6th Street not too long ago so I could go to some show at The Parish.  “Bye!” I waved, stepping over broken glass and a passed out frat guy.

But at some point last year, we just kind of decided to be more of a team.  I chilled out my manic weekend-planning; he ponied up and came with me to more stuff.  And I guess that’s the point I’m driving at here:  That it’s hard to find the balance between going out and staying in.  Especially in a city like Austin, especially if you’re part of a couple.

Hell, even if you’re not in a couple, it may take a few tries before you get it right.  Go out too much, and you stop sleeping.   You’re overstimulated to the point where everything is boring, you’ve tried every restaurant and every bar, you’ve seen God knows how many bands, and they all kind of fade into the same neon-lit horizon.  Your culture knowledge does become staggering —  I know people who are little walking encyclopedias of indie bands, sleeper films, and hidden food trailers — but it gets harder to hear yourself think.    

So.  A year after our realization, Ross and I are still working on this: Figuring out stuff we like to do together.  Here is our current list:

  • Eating
  • Talking
  • Watching nature documentaries

Riveting stuff, isn’t it?

But since I made somewhat of a conscious decision to go out a bit less, and spend more time doing whatever with Ross at home, I love it.  One of the biggest reasons I married this man was because he’s so damn fun to talk to, and trust me, I talk his ear off.   I know this sounds almost silly for two people who are married, but now that we have more stuff in common, our conversations have upgraded.  Conversations are extremely important to me, period, but they should be especially important with your husband, right? 

Also, when I do go out now, shows are AMAZING.  Restaurants are WOW!  So creative with their MENUS!  My people-watching happens in blinding technicolor, so special is the occasion to go out and observe a crowd full of absolute strangers. 

Last Thursday, I was gawking at some girl’s outfit at the Roaries, because I am not the most subtle people-watcher.  And I said to the people I was talking to, or rather shouted, “DON’T YOU LOVE THE WAY SHE TUCKED IN HER BLOUSE TO HER SKIRT?  IT’S SO WELL-PROPORTIONED!  WOW!!”

One of my friends said, “Tolly, you seriously need to get out more.”

But I’m enjoying this new cluelessness.  I’ve traded a bit of nightlife for a lot more time with Ross, and as a result I am more fascinated by him.

Ironically, I’m more fascinated by Austin too.