The worst dates I’ve ever been on have all been with my husband, but last year he really outdid himself.
It began one day after work, when he announced that his schedule had finally allowed him to attend the Fly Fishing Film Tour. He told me we’d get a nice hotel, go to dinner, and watch artsy movies about angling. It would be a romantic and memorable way, he continued, to celebrate our first night away from our newborn kiddo.
To parry the stress of leaving my little boy, I dreamed of going to my favorite hotel that had a room with a Jacuzzi. While my husband looked at raffle items and watched movie trailers, I fantasized about eating a meal I didn’t have to cook or clean up.
Though I consider myself an angler, I’d never been to one of these shows. So I had no idea what to expect. Did people seriously go sit in a non-theatre to watch angling documentaries for hours on end? Who were these people? I was even more puzzled when the night before, for the first time in our marriage, my husband not only laid out the outfit he wanted me to wear, but also the lingerie. What kind of event was this, I wondered.
Tensions were high as we left the house. In the car I learned that the start time was earlier than we’d thought, so instead of going to a nice restaurant, we might hit a drive-through window. I was starving and my g-string was riding up. It wasn’t about sustenance. (There were plenty of goldfish crackers and raisins in between the seats for that.) It was supposed to be about going off routine and doing what you crave most. Because my husband was excited, I didn’t have the heart to tell him how much I missed our little guy, or how incapable I felt at being able to meet any kind of romantic expectations for the night. I felt like a failure as a wife and a mother. Then I found out that in an effort to save money, he’d booked us a room in a cheap hotel. Jacuzzi dreams crushed.
After spending an extra half-hour searching for the correct venue, the parking lot meter wouldn’t accept our card. Since we’d already come this far, my husband decided that chancing a $200 tow fee was worth being on time. A little later, inside a room the size of a high-school gymnasium, I found people wearing Howler Bros shirts, ball-caps, and cowboy boots—just like me. And even though there was no food, the movies were satisfying.
With the big screen I almost felt like I was fishing in Kamchatka or the Seychelles. I wanted to be one of the women who got together with other women each year and fished. The cameras successfully captured the transcendent majesty of perfect casts. The flow of the scenes and the rhythm of the dialog mirrored the cadences of Annie Dillard, Wendell Barry, and Hemingway. These weren’t just movies, but the poetry of angling put to film.
The closing credits rolled. The lights came on. And I was suddenly reminded of my empty stomach and deep wedgie, as well as the financially responsible room that awaited us. For years I’ve dealt with pulling my husband’s lost flies from sock soles and shirt armpits. I have learned how to classify insects and to tie knots with my own spit, and I’ve spent hours throwing rocks at branches trying to free my snags. The guy can practically catch fish on dry land. How the hell, I thought, can he have perfected the skills to read the desires and appetites of fish so well and not mine?
We skipped the hotel and under a star-crossed sky I finally told him exactly how I felt. After a long pause, he looked into my eyes and said, “Seriously? I thought we were here for the fishing.”