My wife and I exist in a world of opposition. This is not an issue of having deeply divergent social or political views but rather one of scheduling: I have a traditional Monday-through-Friday, 9-6 gig; my wife’s schedule is more, shall we say, irregular. Her online calendar looks like a very competitive game of Connect Four. She has four part-time jobs as well as a number of classes and extracurriculars that require various chunks of her weekends, afternoons, nights, mornings, mid-mornings, dawns, dusks, twilights, and the occasional gloaming hour. That is to say, we rarely get much time to actually, you know, see each other.
For a number of very obvious reasons, this isn’t ideal. It leads to lots of lonely nights and weekends and some missed opportunities to just enjoy one another’s company for more than an hour here or there. But, we make it work. Because, as the saying goes, the juice is worth the squeeze. This isn’t to say we don’t get frustrated by these natural circumstances and have conversations about how to build a better world. It’ll happen. In the meantime, we just have to manufacture solutions. And that’s why every two or three months, we play hooky.
Hooky, under normal circumstances, is an act of rebellion. For us, it’s an act of necessity. When we’re both feeling unusually tired of not seeing one another, my wife and I – usually a week beforehand, as these things need to be scheduled — decide on a day and call out of work or other obligations to just be together. When said day comes, we come up with an excuse (they vary, from food poisoning to vague family emergencies, both of which are pretty airtight in terms of convincing our superiors) and, will email them out early in the morning from the comfort of our bed. Is it honest? No, and we both feel guilty. But desperate times…
Our off-day routine varies. We always sleep in a bit. Sometimes we’ll go grab brunch at a place that has an obnoxious line on the weekends, check out a new movie we want to see together, or just lay about the house and catch up on Netflix. Other times, we’ll go see a new museum exhibit, swat some balls at a driving range, or just head to some dive-y bar at 2 in the afternoon and play pool and drink canned beer while playing songs we love on the jukebox.
The activities we do fall into two categories: new things we’ve been waiting to experience with the other and old pastimes that we used to frequently enjoy. This is intentional: a day of hooky is a day without obligations; it’s a day of freedom during which you get to exist with your partner. Thus, we don’t schedule things one person wants to do but makes the other roll their eyes so hard their sockets creak; nor do we schedule things that we feel obligated to check out because it’s trendy. It’s all about mutual enjoyment, about experiencing the world we so regularly trudge through independently with the other by our side.
We share inside jokes and eat good food and act like we would during an anniversary or some other special occasion. In fact, our self-prescribed off day is better than any calendar holiday because it’s more or less impromptu. We do it to refill our batteries and remind ourselves that, even though we don’t see each other as often as we’d thought when we first said our vows, there’s a reason we signed up for this whole adventure together.
That’s the real purpose of playing hooky. It allows you to pump the brakes and just exist with the person you want to exist with most. To unplug and ignore the world, to try and jettison whatever is making your muscles tighten, or making you feel low, for just a moment.
A few years ago, on one of our excursions, my wife and I randomly ran into one of my bosses outside of a restaurant. He was a gruff executive who, at work, didn’t have the stomach for idle chit-chat or even a knack for it; he seemed to me as one of those guys whose job forces him to spend so much time-solving problems in his head that he couldn’t hone the art of casual conversation. He liked me well enough, but I could never get a good read on him.
In any case, here I was caught in a lie. I wasn’t vomiting or dealing with some private family matter; I was eating fancy eggs with my wife. I expected the worst from him. But instead of berating me or firing me there on the spot, he simply looked at us, smiled, and said, “Enjoy the day.” I, of course, couldn’t enjoy the day because the grim specter of corporate death hung over my head. But we went on our way as planned.
The day after, I stood in this man’s office, apologized, and explained the reason for my truancy. After a long, long pause, he said he understood. His wife, I found out, spent most of her time in a corporate gig on the west coast and the two were only able to see one another one weekend a month if that. Every so often, he explained, he’d take an unannounced long weekend and fly out to meet her in some city. It’s how they maintained their relationship, he said, and that was that.
So, if you’re able, play hooky with your partner. Because you’ll go to work the next day and realize that, even without you, the world kept turning. It’s just that you spent one revolution on your own terms.