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Dinner out for anniversary sets the table for married couple [Column]

"This is nice," Doug sighed, settling himself into the restaurant booth. "This is really nice."

"What is?" I asked as soon as I'd untangled the strap of my cross-body bag from around my neck on the other side of the booth.

"This," he said, opening using his hands to indicate the entirety of our cozy spot in this mucho authentico Mexican place we'd never been to before.

Mexican food is Doug's all-time favorite cuisine; so I was pretty sure he'd have been just as happy to stay home in front of the TV, eating a frozen burrito from the microwave. So what exactly did he like about this cute little "hole-in-the-wall" eatery? I needed more information if I was going to be able to talk him into coming back the next time I didn't feel like cooking.

"Do you mean the mariachi music, the huge sombreros hanging on the walls, or the woven Mexican blankets draped over the hostess's station?" I asked. "Or is it that amazing aroma emanating from behind the kitchen doors?"

"All of it. Especially being out to dinner together, dressed-up, on a sort of a, well, a date," Doug, said flashing the charming smile he saves for special occasions. This time it was our 13th wedding anniversary. Last time was, I think, the Fourth of July...2009.

But Doug was right. It was very nice indeed to be out to dinner on purpose and in real clothes. After 13 years of marriage (in people years, that's nine years of wedded bliss), we'd stopped making a big deal about going out to eat. Usually we'll be coming back from somewhere else, like the local home-improvement store, and decide we're hungry. Doug will graciously offer to stop at the closest restaurant that doesn't have a line of people waiting to be seated that goes completely around the building, and I'll accept.

Not that Doug has ever had to ask me twice about eating out, mind you. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I would never turn down an offer that meant I wouldn't have to cook and do the dishes. There is no restaurant too casual, no cuisine too loathsome, if it means I'll get out of kitchen duty.

That night was one of the loveliest anniversary dinners we'd ever experienced. So much so that, on the way home from what we now think of as "our place," Doug proposed that we make every Saturday night "date night."

"We've been in a rut," he said. "I won't say the romance is gone, exactly; but that's the first time in a long while I've removed my baseball hat to eat.

"Besides," he added, "it'll give me a chance to show off my best girl, and you a chance to wear some of those shoes you keep buying."

Once again, he didn't have to ask me twice. He had me at "Olé!"

The following Saturday, I was excited at the prospect of our new tradition: date night! I chose a cool summer dress and dangly earrings. Then I set about choosing a pair of sandals to complete the outfit. An hour later — yes, it took that long, don't judge me — I went downstairs and announced: "Ta-dah! I'm ready for date night!"

Doug gazed at me blankly from his spot on the couch. "Huhn?"

"You know, date night. It was your idea!"

"Oh, right, date night," Doug said, understanding dawning upon his visage. "Okay, I'll see what's on TV while you microwave a couple of burritos."

Well, there's always our 14th anniversary. Those sandals aren't going anywhere.

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