Sunday, January 23, 2011


“What is it about brunch?” Mr. Black asks, Spock-like, bemused by this strange alien custom.

Brunch. One of the few things we don’t have in common. He never saw the point. It was mildly disappointing, but easy enough to let go in our early days of apartment sleepovers. Sure, I missed the twentysomething urban ritual of it – huddling into a booth, pleasantly hungover, cozy and hopeful with a new dare-we-call-him-a-boyfriend! I missed the pancakes, too. But not so much that I was willing to risk rocking the boat just yet. Brunch-apathy aside, this guy was promising! So we’d sleep in and eat leftover restaurant pasta from the previous night’s date instead.

I wish I had a better answer for him now, better than my giddy “Because it’s brunch!” as I take in a glorious forkful of gingerbread waffle with orange-honey butter. I ought to be able to explain this better.

“Remember in college,” he asks, “when two people would suddenly start showing up at brunch together, and that’s how you’d know they were a couple?”

“Fire drills, too,” I smirk. We went to different colleges, but the experience is universal. Even the menu picks up on the strange, sultry implications of brunch with a bold all-caps wink, urging customers to “Order a Bloody Mary! You earned it last night!” Ha.

Lots of different demographics go out for brunch, of course. But the height of my own brunch-going experience was in my carefree twenties, either newly coupled or with a merry band of revelers from the night before. After a while, I started dragging Mr. Black to brunch, too. We’d moved to Seattle by then, sharing an apartment with vague plans of continued cohabitation. He loved me so much, he could haul himself out of bed once in a while and have public pancakes with me.

We’ve attempted a few brunches with the kids over the years, but with the long waits for a table and the long waits for food, trying to keep crayons interesting for that long . . . it just wasn’t worth it. Might as well try to take them to a show at the Crocodile. Funny to be back here after all this time. Just us, enjoying a rare Saturday to ourselves. Nice of him to agree to it, even if he still doesn’t get the whole brunch thing.

What is it about brunch?

A sip of mimosa and an unexpected flash of remembered passion and tumbling of only a few hours ago. Sigh. Yearn. But he’s right there, hunched over a plate of eggs in his grey sweater, looking sleepy and scruffy and absolutely divine. This, I want to say, is what it is about brunch. This juxtaposition of wild decadence and the simple domestic act of sitting down to breakfast together. The weird optimism that used to come with it. Feeding yourself on love, and then on hash browns. It’s life affirming.

Except now, when I reach my hand across the table for his, he pulls away. Just a little. It’s barely perceptible; instinctive, almost. The remarkable thing is how truly okay with it I am. I get it. I’ve done it myself enough times to understand that it’s not personal. Sometimes, we pull away just when the other partner is finally ready to reach out. It happens. But here he is, still, mid-anecdote with a friendly voice. I’ll catch him the next time.

At the next table, two women ponder whether they’ll ever want to get married. Another table of merry post-grads discuss Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (is anybody not talking about that book these days?) and jokingly speculate about what kind of hapless parents they’ll probably be someday.

Funny. We used to do that too. So much of our time was spent wondering out loud what our life would be. We didn’t realize how much we’d find ourselves looking back on that time, nostalgic for what our life was then. Open. The uncertainties that caused us so much worry actually made life more exciting and free.

And now? Well, we have our answers. The crazy scavenger hunt for a life resembling adulthood is just about wrapped up. Some days, I’ll admit, I think of it that way and start to feel the grey cloud of midlife crisis looming near.

But that’s not it. Part of being “over the hill” involves hanging out at the top for a little bit first, right? Enjoying the view? Now that we’re here, why not spread out and just . . . be. 40 and 41. Parents. Introverts. Thinkers. Writers who will probably never quit their day jobs. Two unique human beings who find enough joy and comfort in each other to keep putting up with each other’s bullshit year after year. Let’s just luxuriate in that for a while, because it’s a lot, after all.

And while we’re at it, let’s order some more pancakes.

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