Someone very wise –it may even have been Homer Simpson – once said; ‘why bother going out? you’re going to end up back here anyway’. Some might still be living the kind of exciting life where this is not always necessarily the case, but for the majority, and certainly for me, those words are wise indeed. Why go out? Why put yourself through it? Why not cut out that awkward bit between being at home and coming back home later?
It’s difficult to tell when, exactly, Not Going Out started (yes I know there’s a BBC sitcom of that name which started in 2006), but it was probably a very short time after the arrival of kids. With young children going out becomes such a nerve-racking experience that the post-traumatic effects can last well into your children’s adulthood. First there’s finding a babysitter (together with the small fortune needed to pay them), then there’s worrying that your kids won’t behave or go to sleep, then there’s the worry that your evening is likely to be interrupted by a phone call (and for those of us old enough to remember pre-mobile days such a call involved public embarrassment), then there’s the thought that you’ll return to find your kids running around the house and the babysitter demanding danger money.
The idea is that once the kids get older, once the function of babysitters becomes nothing more than meeting legal requirements and ensuring that you don’t get arrested for neglect by leaving under-age children alone, you start to go out again. And then when the kids start going out themselves and then when they leave home you go going-out crazy, enjoying your new liberation in a spree of socialising which would tire and embarrass the most party-hungry teenager.
But some, like me, just get stuck.
Other things came along. The Sopranos. The Wire. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. The West Wing. Friday Night Lights. The Gilmore Girls (no really, check it out). And that’s not mentioning Seinfeld and Frasier and all those shows you missed because you were reading bedtime stories and being a fantastic all-round, hands-on dad. DVD box sets became my new babies and I would stay at home watching their progress with a loving parental gaze. When I finished each series I felt strangely bereft, as if one of the children had just left home.
And what have I missed in these stay-at-home years? Cinema? Why cope with rustling sweetmunchers, loud teenagers and afternoon OAPs when you can watch it in the comfort of your own home? Theatre? Don’t make me laugh – it rarely did. Music? Huge prices, huge venues. Dinner parties? You’re joking. Football? Well, OK, I did still go to football, but as this involved watching QPR I regarded it as nothing more than further proof that going out led only to pain and disappointment.