Forty days: the time frame of the mystical Egyptian embalming process. The span of time that Noah’s animal-stuffed ark roiled as God unleashed merciless rains upon the world. The number of days between Jesus’s crucifixion and his resurrection on earth. The length of time this couple is going to date.
If you’ve never heard of 40 Days of Dating, which is sweeping the Internet by storm like a photo of a fashion blogger eating pizza in her underwear and a Brooklyn Nets hat, two key demo early millennials—they are graphic designers based in New York City, natch—found themselves single at the same time. So they decided to rage a war against the difficulty of finding romance in the city by dating each other for 40 days, leaving us greatly indebted to them for asking the tough questions and also a really beautifully designed website for us to follow their every blessed day together. Says the website: “Can they help each other, or will they fall into their same habits? Will they damage their friendship? What if they fall in love?”
This video explains it all. The two paramours sit across from each other as very Brooklyn-y things happen to them. Like, someone cuts a leg off the guy’s chair with a chainsaw and later yogurt or paint or something gets dumped on them, and then in another part rats crawl all over them because, whoa man, dating.
Every day they fill out the same questionnaire about what they did and what they learned about themselves and each other and and blahdiddy-blah-blah, all interspersed with very lovely graphics that say things like “Being in pain doesn’t mean you have to be one” in loopy goopy writing, which you should tumble all over your Tumblrs. This basically amounts to pouring onto a website all the really boring stuff you usually have to listen to your newly wifed-up friend drone on about. “Jessie was checking her email during the show! I’m a big jazz fan, so this was sacrilegious to me. I got over it, but this can’t happen again. No, no, not at a jazz show.” And it allegedly brings them to a greater understanding of why their lives are a string of failed relationships and really well-executed freelance design projects.
They are on day 24. They’ve only made out and held hands.
What’s less well-executed is their dating life. They seem to have skipped all the cool parts of the relationship—the part where you meet each other and get really excited, the part where you’ve been on a date or two and get to fill in all the things you don’t know about them with little lies you know won’t pan out (“I bet her paintings are really good!”), the part where you excitedly agree to be exclusive (or just get your arm twisted enough that you sort of agree), the part where you start seeing them everyday, the part where you begin to see the person’s flaws and learn to accommodate and maybe even adore them—and moved straight to the worst part, where some bad thing causes you to question the whole ordeal, where it gets better or maybe worse or just stays ickily the same, where you have to make silly rules like “we’ll see each other everyday” and “let’s go on that weekend trip we always wanted to go on,” and attend couples’ therapy to attempt to breathe life into the thing.
Also? They are on day 24. They’ve only made out and held hands.
I suppose there are things for them to learn here; it seems like their couples’ therapy thang is working out for them and perhaps they will leave knowing more about themselves and why they are the way they are.
But it reveals much more about the sad state of modern dating: they set-up roles for themselves to play, like the worst kinds of Kate Hudson/Matthew McConaughey vehicles—she wants too much, he wants too many—and they posit dating as some rote set of motions that works when people just cycle through and perform them with dedication. Which is a total downer, because dating should not have the same logic as a juice cleanse + pilates class regimen. Perhaps dating is dead, and we’ll now meander through a series of hook-ups until we get to a certain age and just freak ourselves out and get married. That sounds more fun to me than forcing myself to eat muffins with some dude between meetings because we made a video where rats crawl all over us.
Of course, it’s possible the experiment will fail terribly and the authors will admit that; there are still sixteen days to go, after all, and that doesn’t seem like enough time to set the course towards a long-term relationship, let alone to fall in love. Then again, the website is too pretty for all of this to fail.