One of the new experiences I’ve had since I’ve started dating Eric is the double date. I always thought of double dates as something that only happens in episodes of “Happy Days” and not a real thing that actual couples do. But not long into our relationship, one of Eric’s friends actually suggested that we “double” with him and his girlfriend.
I, of course, was totally thrilled. I mean, yes, I thought double dates were an only-on-TV type thing, like huge dorm rooms painted bright colors, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want those things. So I’ve been totally cool with double dating. Every time Eric and I get invited on a double date, I start making plans to put on my best poodle skirt and imagine that we’ll be splitting strawberry shakes with our dates and then going to Makeout Point.
(Makeout Point also seems like an only-on-TV type thing that I really wish were a real thing. When I was in high school, I actually tried to make it a real thing. It wasn’t quite as cool as Hollywood makes it seem, although the same goal was achieved.)
In the 18 months since I’ve had a boyfriend, I’ve learned a few things about double dating. First, that milkshakes are rarely involved and second, that it’s way harder to plan a double date than one might think.
Problem #1. The other couple.
The first thing you need for a good double date are good couple friends. Now, I always assumed that couple friends just naturally happen when you’re part of a couple, but this is only semi-true. Yes, you can find other couples to go out with, but that doesn’t mean you are going to want them as couple friends. First, everyone has to get along, and the fact is, probably only two of the people are already friends.
What I’ve experienced/heard from my girlfriends is that if the men are the ones who are already friends, they just assume the women will be fine and will completely hit it off (because all women just bond over talking about babies, you know?) and can just entertain themselves from there. Guys don’t understand that you might not dislike the other woman, but that also doesn’t mean that you want to plan a group vacation in which they can just go out golfing because the women are going to be fine to go get mani-pedis and go shopping.
Every time Eric and I hang out with another couple, I know that the two already-friends are holding their breath, desperately hoping the two not-yet-friends will totally bond so we can be like, “OK! We found them! We found our couple friends! We’re done looking!!!”
But then there’s always the secret fear that when you do find the perfect couple friends, they are going to turn out to like you a little too much, and you’ll soon find out they are swingers.
Problem #2. Making Plans.
Making plans shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve found the perfect couple friends, but if you’re not there yet — if you’re still testing the waters and courting each other (which is very much like dating and that totally sucks because at this point, you thought those games were over) — you have to try to find something that the other people will think is cool/affordable/a good idea. Every time I get a cool Groupon or Living Social deal, I’m thinking, “Is this something that would make a good double date? Do they seem like rocking climbing people? Would they like to go make our own fudge and then hit this BYOB pottery class? It’s only $6 per person…” With so many daily deal sites, it feels lame to just go out to dinner, but then I think, What the hell is wrong with a delicious dinner?!
Once an activity has been selected, it’s even more complicated to actually make the plans. Every couple I know has a really complicated schedule that is very hard to get into. I’ve found that the best way to schedule a double date is plan it at least a month in advance and to not aim for hanging out every weekend. That’s another thing about couple friends on TV: they hang out all the time. In reality, no one has time for that. (Unless two of the friends are actually related because then double dating is actually just “family time.” Oh and just FYI, if you are trying to make couple friends with a couple who already has couple friends and they are related in some way, like the guys are brothers…good luck with that. You’ll never break into that circle unless you’ve been friends since high school and even then, it’s still just a maybe.)
The Double Date
Last night, Eric and I did go on a double date that was, miraculously, planned in just a few days. Last week, I volunteered to try out a new app called Serve that comes from American Express. Basically, it’s a sexy way to split the bill when on said double date. (Dealing with that is definitely Problem #3, but it’s a problem in any group meal setting, not just double dating.) Serve said they’d treat people to dinner if they went out and tried the app, and, because I’m the kind of girl who will do about just anything for a free dinner (it’s how I ended up with a serious boyfriend in the first place), I was really hoping I’d get to try it out.
I was excited to find out I’d been chosen to try it but then I realized I had less than a week to plan the double date, and, given the issues I outlined above, I was kind of worried it wasn’t going to happen. Luckily, Eric and I have a couple who we’re friends with (I really like them but I don’t know if I should call them our Official Couple Friends because that’s a big step and we haven’t really talked about it with them yet…although I’m not sure if you talk about making that official like you do a typical relationship) and they were able to go out to dinner last night so we could try out the app. Kyle and Mindy are always busy or out of town, so it’s hard to find time to hang out with them. The good news is that once we do, it’s easy to make plans because they are total foodies. Every time we hang out, Eric and I basically say, “Tell us where we should go out to dinner and we’ll see ya there.” For last night’s outing, they suggested Lucio’s in Houston, a BYOB (I LOVE BYOB RESTAURANTS!) that serves all sorts of delicious food. (And they serve it in very dim lighting, unfortunately, so I have no pictures of the fabulous meal I’m about to describe.)
I have to say that as far as double dates go, this was one of my favorites. First, the food was amazing. The waiter opened the first bottle of red wine that Kyle and Mindy had brought as we looked over the menu. First, we chose appetizers. I had read a review of Lucios’ online that basically said, “You’d never think to order spinach dip at a restaurant like this, but you should,” and we decided to take that advice. I’m glad we did; it was the best spinach dip I’ve ever had — warm, super creamy, with homemade fried pitas that tasted like they had a little funnel cake batter mixed into them. I also ordered the French onion soup for another starter; I love French onion soup and this was the best I can ever remember having (the beef and pork broth didn’t hurt, plus it was topped with a big puff pastry).
We had a pretty hard time choosing main courses because it all sounded so good, but eventually Eric ordered the New York strip steak, I ordered the filet mignon with asparagus and some of the most delicious mashed potatoes I’ve ever had (I know I keep saying that but it was one of those meals), Mindy ordered the salmon, and Kyle ordered the scallops with butternut squash risotto.
The food was good, but the company was great. I felt like we never ran out of things to talk about and we were laughing the entire time.
You Got Served
When it came time to pay the bill, I whipped out my phone to try the Serve app. Now, the idea behind this app isn’t totally new — the service itself is similar to other money transferring services — but I think they are taking a smart angle by pitching it as a way for friends to split the check at dinner. Unlike other similar apps, this one comes with some fun tools built in, like the “Split the Bill” tool (enter the total amount of your bill, calculate the tip, use the sliders to show exactly how much each person owes what, and then send them a money request right from the app) and the “Pizza Party” tool (enter how much the pizza cost, how many slices there were, and then ask your friends how many slices they each ate — therefore making the person who ate the most pay more without singling them out — and then send them a money request right there).
When you set up an account, Serve also sends you a debit card with the AmEx logo on it; it’s linked to your Serve account and you can use it like a pre-paid debit card at ATMs or just to just like a regular debit/credit card all over town, avoiding the whole “OK, I just paid for this out of pocket, so now I have to wait for my friends have to send me the money and then I have to transfer the money back to my bank account, and god I hope it comes through before my rent is due” thing that some of us have experienced with other apps.
I really like the app (honestly, the “Pizza Party” tool just makes me laugh every time I think about charging people per slice); I’ll definitely continue to use it and encourage my friends to sign up (because obviously it’s the kind of thing that works better if your friends are already using it too). To get more people to start using it, Serve is offering a giveaway — you can win $100 in your Serve account! (The $100 can be used on a nice dinner or you can just blow it on a trip to Target; it’s totally up to you.) To enter to win, just leave a comment on this post by December 25, 2011 at 11:59 PM PST and you’ll be entered to win!
Things I’m legally required to say: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a $250 stipend to try Serve from American Express. Sign up for Serve and receive $10 credit towards your first use. Comment below within the next 7 days for your chance to win an extra $100 credit to your account! Official sweepstakes rules and regulations may be found here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/blogs/4622317-win-serve-dollars-giveaway-official-rules.
Over and out!