So there we were, stepping out of my comfort zone on a Saturday arvo - I forced husband Al along for the ride - to attend the flat-warming party of one of the young teachers from my school. Think she invited everyone on staff. Probably didn't expect the oldies to attend. She wasn't to know about the little pact I'd made with myself.
Wasn't too bad. I ended up chatting to another English teacher; Al was apparently chatting amicably with her husband. We all seemed simpatico, being empty nesters and occasional travellers. Swapping emails - not keys - appeared to be a good idea at the time.
Didn't really expect any further contact but let's call her Mary emailed me a few days later. Would Al and I like to join Mary and let's call him Bernard for a movie and 'a bite to eat'?
We accepted, and a bit like kids going on a first date, we met Mary and Bernard at the cinema, watched a comedy then had a bowl of pasta and a bevy. Quite fun. Conversation seemed to flow although Al expressed some reservation. Wasn't his usual kind of beery gig with his besties.
We met again a couple of months later for another film and 'bite to eat' date. This time we ate before the film. After the film I suggested a coffee. 'We can't drink coffee because then we won't sleep,' said Mary. Odd, I thought. 'Have tea? Chocolate?' Whatever. Thought it might be an age thing. In their mid-sixties, they're a bit older than us.
Our next date was just Mary and I. Lunch and a bike ride. Quite enjoyed the outing, finding lots of common conversational ground about our aged parents and our young adult kids.
Nearly went pear shaped at the next meal/movie. Al and I sat between Mary and Bernard through a turgid but beautifully drawn animated film. The dark cinema hours dragged. Didn't want to disturb our new friends by not paying close attention to the film they'd chosen. Couldn't leave, trapped as we were between them. Was so relieved when, at the end of the film, they both confessed to having slept through most of it. And there was me, being so good.
Mary had chosen that film based on film critics, 'Margaret and David's', four stars. When we parted ways, Bernard told us we had to choose the next film, ha ha, to avoid another disastrous choice by his wife. Kiss, kiss, off we went.
To be honest - and why would I lie? - it was all a bit forced. Al continued to go along for the ride, but with reservations. He was never entirely relaxed with Mary and Bernard, and neither was I but they were pleasant enough.
I almost let it go, but a few months later, out of guilt, thought I'd email Mary to see if they were up for another date, given that it was my turn to make contact. Instant affirmative reply, so off for another Saturday night film.
Al was a bit white knuckled on the drive in. He'd prefer it was just the two of us going out, he said. Fair call, but we'd made a date; too late to back out.
Mary chose the film. I didn't mind. I was out on a Saturday arvo and I was taking an extortionately priced glass of chardy into the cinema with me, as was Al. Not Mary and Bernard though. Perhaps they didn't want to add an extra $20 to the $38 for the tickets.
The film was good and afterwards we headed for an Italian cafe for dinner. Was all going swimmingly, I thought, until i noticed Bernard seemed a bit distracted at the other side of the table. I'd ordered a second glass of wine after the meal, despite no one else joining me. Fuck it, I thought. It's eight o' clock on Saturday night and I'm having one.
'Bernard, if you want to go, go, don't mind us,' I said.
'Yes,' he said. 'we'll go.'
Seemed a bit blunt, but I didn't really care. Mary did though. 'It's not even 8.30,' she protested.
'Well, I'm bored,' he said. 'The conversation is boring and depressing.' I'd been talking. 'Tell me something interesting; something funny...'
Don't remember the rest of the sentence, given my heart was breaking out of my chest and heat was threatening to explode my face. I was being boring, my biggest fear, and this guy was the first person who'd had the guts to call it? The fragility of my self-esteem alarms me.
'Okay, thank you.' Very polite; very calm despite the flight or fight heart beat. 'You'll be pleased to know you'll never have to put up with us again. How about you pay your half of the bill and I'll just sit here and finish my wine?'
Al said nothing. Why have a dog and bark yourself?
Bernard and Al got up to pay the bill and left me with an apologetic, heart-sloughed Mary, who blamed her husband's rude behaviour on the television on the cafe wall.
'You'll have to forgive Bernard,' she said. 'He gets tired and I don't think having a TV on the wall helps.'
So much for accepting every invitation. Better off at home with a cheap chardy and a box-set.