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Dykes on Dates: Bowling Is the Epitome of Romance

Hello and welcome to the very first installment of Dykes on Dates! My fiancé Kristen and I are very good at going on dates, even four years into our relationship, and we love it! So I thought I’d bring some date planning ideas to y’all every other Thursday. These will double as date recommendations but also just a diary of the dates Kristen and I go on, which means some of them might be about date idea misfires! We’re all in this together. Each installment, we’ll start with logistics and then move into a mini personal essay of sorts. As always, feel free to make suggestions or requests in the comments.

I’ll also include tips and tricks for lowering the cost of the date. Some, but not all, of my date ideas are catered toward people who drink, but I will include sober options where applicable! Some, but not all, of my date ideas will be set outside of the home, and I’ll also try to include at-home alternatives where applicable.

Not every single date will be for every single couple! That’s why I’m doing this every other week, bringing you a slew of date ideas with a ton of planning details and notes from my own experiences. Kristen and I will be challenging ourselves to try new things, too, so sometimes the dates might not even be our cup of tea! I’m going to be honest and personal in these!

While some dates can obviously be used in more casual dating arrangements, I’m writing from the perspective of an engaged person who lives with my partner of four years, so the point of view is geared more toward long-term queer relationships.


The Date: Bowling

Cost

Varies, can be as low as $15 or as high as $100, depending on how long you want to bowl, rates at your local alley, and whether you’re ordering food and drinks, etc

Notes on Cost

Many bowling alleys will run specials and happy hours that lower the cost of games, drinks, and food. If you and your partner really like to bowl a lot, then I recommend paying by the hour versus paying by game, because games go FAST when there’s just two people. But if you wanna be more casual/leisurely about it, you can absolutely pay by game, which can be as low as $2.50/game. If you do drink, the most cost effective way to do it is to split a pitcher of domestic beer!!!!! You know I’m choosing Bud Light, but my fiancé is a Miller Lite dyke.

Additional Planning Notes

Don’t forget to wear socks and comfortable clothes! One time I wore a cute dress to bowling and immediately regretted it! It absolutely fucked up my game!!!!

Alternative Options

A modified at-home version of this game could look like temporarily transforming your space into a bowling alley. Set up a simple tabletop bowling game or even channel cosmic bowling with an LED glow bowl set that, sure, is meant for children, but who cares!!!! Then just serve things like popcorn and frozen mozzarella sticks or order a pizza. You can even order a $3 pitcher online to serve beer or nonalc beer if you really wanna bring some accuracy to the setup.


Kristen and I go bowling every few weeks, but we might start going more regularly because of how much we love it for date night. Our local alley is the Aloma Bowl, and it’s got just the right amount of bells and whistles, smells like shoe cleaner and dropped beers, and is home to what we jokingly (but also sometimes seriously) refer to as our favorite bar in Orlando. It’s called the Brooklyn Bar, and I suppose that means it’s New York-themed, though it’s difficult to discern that in the details. Really, it’s just a solid dive bar tucked into a corner of the bowling alley with a killer karaoke night twice a week. We’ve not had the courage to go up on stage yet (there are a lot of regulars, many of them 60+, all of them incredible singers), but maybe next Bowling Date Night.

The thing about bowling is the more you play, the more you want to play. We’ve been known to knock out a full five or six games together, which means we’re throwing those bowling balls a good 100-120 times each, more if we manage to get a tenth frame bonus. Are we sore the next day? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. And hey, increased and intense upper arm strength concentrated to just one arm can be useful in a lesbian relationship I am just saying.

When I started dating Kristen, I said to her very matter of factly: “I’m very good at throwing things at other things.” I can’t remember where we were or even what city we were in. It was the early period of our relationship when I lived in Brooklyn and she lived in Orlando but we bounced around the country together at least every other week, as she was on book tour for Mostly Dead Things and I had a flexible job that allowed me to travel. She asked me to clarify what I meant by my declaration, and I listed some examples: bowling, yes, but also darts, horseshoes, arcade basketball, shuffleboard, corn hole, the more obscure yard game Kubb, I’ve even tried my hand at curling and wasn’t bad for a beginner. If a game requires throwing something at something else, I’m both down and good. Maybe we were in San Diego, because it was there that I decided to prove this point by throwing a skeeball ball into the 100 ring — yes, throwing, instead of rolling. Which is against the rules, but my point was proven. Where I lack in overall strength, I make up for in aim.

The first time we bowled together, we were in Austin, went with one of her best friends, split a pitcher, and played for over four hours. After that, it joined karaoke as one of the shared activities we love to do.

The spirit of bowling — with the right person or people — is congenial. Sure, there are leagues and people who take it very seriously, but it’s not a cutthroat sport. When I bowl, the only person I really feel like I’m bowling against is myself, trying to beat my own personal records every time. We cheer each other on, kiss when one of us gets a strike. Yes, we’re trying to win, but we’re not necessarily trying to beat each other. All couples are different in terms of how competitive they get, but I think it’s hard to be an asshole at bowling. The beer’s flowing, and the vibe is distinctly 1995-2002, no matter what alley you’re at. (We have occasionally tried out one of the fancy bowling alleys that do not have this vibe, and it’s never worth it!!!!!) It’s hard to be mad in a bowling alley.

And yet. One weird thing about me that was discovered by accident is this: When I’m angry, I’m really fucking good at bowling. We’re already established that I’m just generally good at bowling, but I’m talking breaking 200 good. I’m talking strike after strike after strike good. This became clear to us when, shortly before a bowling date with Kristen, I experienced a small but frustrating work-related challenge that pushed me over the edge of an already long day. I took my frustrations out on the lane, and it showed.

My weird emotion side effects aside, bowling should be an easy breezy time. It might not be obviously romantic, but it is. You get to talk a bunch, like a dinner date but with an added activity — one that not only enables you to but almost insists you stare at your partner’s ass. Even if you didn’t grow up going to bowling birthday parties in the suburbs like I did, there’s something in the air at a bowling alley that’s conducive to nostalgia, to telling winding stories, to not realizing how much time has passed. The focus on the game also means not focusing too much on your phone. It’s easy to connect while bowling.

We like to do date nights where we actually combine bowling with going to the movie theater after, a nice balance of activity and then chilling out. These are the best kind of dates, the kind that feel endless and like one adventure spilling into another.


Dykes on Dates is a new series by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya chronicling dates with her fiancé Kristen and offering ideas, tips, and tricks for stoking the flames of romance.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 814 articles for us.

14 Comments

  1. This is a cute idea. I’m hoping for a tin fish tasting date? :D

    You know you’re onto something. Bowling really kinda is the only group sport where you basically are trying to beat yourself and cheer l on the other folks playing in your lane… or random lanes. Lol.

  2. CUTE, I also like bowling for dates with partners. I once went on a second date with a girl who suggested bowling, told me she wasn’t competitive, and then proceeded to be annoyed all night that I was bowling better than her…..so now it’s reserved for people I know well lol

  3. Ooh! This was so great! I am not sporty at all, but bowling is one of the few I’ve played. Definitely giving high school vibes and lots of nostalgia. 1995-2002 for sure. :D I also love the idea of a two-poster date that feels endless…

    I’m not saying you should do one on museum dates, but I AM saying that I will be following eagerly to see if there’s ever one on museum dates. 🤓

    Thank you for making something wonderful, Kayla!

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