DATE KNIGHT: A Brush With Romance


    First dates are easy.

    Let me explain before everyone thinks I’m insane: What I mean is finding things to do for a first date is easy. The rest of a first date, of course, is the hard part.

    The goal of first dates is to get to know the person, figure out if there’s a spark to explore on subsequent dates or if you need to sneak out the bathroom window in between the appetizer and the entrée because the person you’re sitting across from is going on ad nauseam about preparations for the imminent apocalypse and the mind-controlling properties of toothpaste.

    So, it doesn’t really require a lot of imagination for coming up with something to do on a first date: coffee, drinks, dinner. It’s not about the activity, but the person whom you’re getting to know. The main goal is getting to find out about them and whether they’re crazy, semi-sane or, at the very least, tolerable.

    But when you’re on the 100th date, it can be hard to find things to do that aren’t just a repeat of the other 99 dates before. You can only meet so many times for happy hour and go to so many movies before it begins to feel stale.

    When you get to that point in a relationship, you’ve learned a lot about the other person. Now it’s time to learn something together.

    Which is how I ended up with my girlfriend at Sipping and Painting Hampden on a recent weekday night. The store puts on art classes where teachers walk you through painting a specific scene. Imagine Bob Ross, the painting instructor with the famous hair and mellow tones — but more boozy. The friendly staff provide everything you need and go step-by-step while giving encouraging words, playing an eclectic mix of music and offering wine. Lots of wine.

    Now, I’m not a crafty person. My skills with a paintbrush rival my skills on the dance floor (and my go-to dance move hasn’t changed since my time in middle school — the cabbage patch followed by the sprinkler, in case you were interested). I look at a blank white canvas and I start to panic. Where to start? What if I mess it up? Please, someone just tell me what to do!

    But that’s what’s great about the class. They make sure that fear of failure doesn’t creep in, and the wine helps settle the nerves even more.  They make sure you know it’s all about the experience and not making something perfect. And they taught me an important lesson about painting: always keep your paint brushes wet — and your drink full.

    Over the course of the two-hour class, my girlfriend and I alternated between brush strokes and laughs as we tried to follow instructions and make our own masterpieces. The subject we attempted to paint was the Eiffel Tower in spring, and while her painting ended up looking like the famous Parisian landmark, mine was more of a reflection of what the Eiffel Tower would look like after several years of living in the United States and eating fast food every day. 

    But that’s what’s great about doing something like Sipping and Painting when you’re a couple who’s several years into a relationship. You get to see a side of your significant other that you wouldn’t have a chance to see if not for the canvas in front of you. When you mess up something in the painting, it gives you a chance to show you don’t take yourself so seriously, that when a brush stroke goes awry, you can laugh as opposed to throwing your canvas in the trash and cutting off your left ear.

    Another thing Sipping and Painting has going for it is the atmosphere of the class. It’s hard not to have a good time when you’re surrounded by people laughing and slurping up the grown-up grape juice. The setup of the room gives you and your significant other your own space, but the class isn’t so spread out that you feel isolated from the fun. Which is why the class is such a great alternative to just another night out at the neighborhood watering hole.

    So, the next time you and your love decide it’s time to meet up for a drink, trade in the bar scene for some paint brushes. You still get to sip on wine, you won’t have to clean up after yourself and, at the end of it all, you wind up with a piece of art to hang up with pride. Or stash in your basement forever. Skills pending.