40 Days of Dating: First Comes Friendship, Then Comes…Dating?

This just in: dating is hard. Scratch that. Dating used to be hard; back when boy met girl and girl agreed to go steady. Yes, plain old going steady was still hard, without the help of technology, when it was still called going steady. Now we find ourselves immersed in 2013, a year in which dating is tougher than most Olympic sports and your ability to lock down plans with a sane prospect for Friday night should land you atop the medal podium; definite gold goes to those whose night doesn’t end resembling a scene from Girls. So, what are modern day guys and gals to do when the tweeting, texting, facebooking, online-dating world of present-day love has tired them out and let them down? Well, best friends Timothy Goodman and Jessica Walsh decided to date each other. Luckily for all of us, the duo documented the experiment every step of the way.

By now, you have probably heard of 40 Days of Dating. Envious observers have been posting their obsessions over the project via various forms of social media for weeks; friends wait anxiously for the previous day’s activity to form the present day’s post, leaving them to discuss the developments. The dating life of Tim and Jessica is consuming the happy hour conversations of both committed and single men and women all over the nation. If you have somehow escaped being sucked in to the latest internet craze, allow me bring you into the vortex with the rest of us.

Tim and Jessica, best friends living in New York City, found themselves single at the same time after seeing one another through years of crazy relationships and endless dating. Their single statuses wouldn’t last however, as they concocted a crazy, yet amazingly awesome, idea that would reveal if opposites really do attract. Walsh, a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic who is constantly searching for “the one” wondered if she was sabotaging her relationships by jumping in too quickly; or perhaps the guys she dated just sucked (sometimes, it is totally their fault, ladies.) Goodman’s situation was just the opposite; he was the one half of the friendship possessing a romantic history littered with often meaningless dating and, as stereotypes would have it, an evident fear of commitment. Owning up to their faults and realizing their vastly different outlooks on love, the long-time friends made the decision to pair up and explore their fears and inadequacies. Since it has been said it takes forty days to break a bad habit, Goodman and Walsh vowed to go through the motions of a real relationship for that exact amount of time in hopes of overcoming their dating downfalls. Thus, 40 Days of Dating was born and the millennial generation rejoiced.

The allotted forty days has come and gone for the friends turned couple and now the whole world gets to read about their trial period one day at a time. Currently over halfway through the unveiling, the website provides daily updates on the happenings and events of the couple’s dating life, as well as Tim and Jessica’s emotions and thoughts through graphic designs, original art, videos, photos and question and answer sessions. The rules their followers are eagerly observing them abide by seemed simple at the onset- see each other every day for forty days, go on at least three dates per week, see a couples therapist once a week, go on one weekend trip together, fill out the daily questionnaire and document everything and, lastly, not see, date, hookup or have sex with anyone else. On second thought, how simple would it actually prove to be? Would their dating ruin their friendship? What if they hooked up? Would it be awkward after? Would they end up together? All questions they asked themselves when they dove in head first; all things we are learning one day at a time.

I will openly say I am obsessed with Tim and Jessica. Not only is their genius social experiment like a real-life dating show that puts reality television to shame, the general ideas of how our generation deals with dating and dating dysmorphia are completely relevant and interesting. The idea that we could, or may have the need to, date a friend to learn about ourselves and save one another from our own vicious cycles shows how complicated love has become; perhaps, it shows how complicated we have insisted on making it.

Thus far, those obsessing over 40 Days of Dating have seen Tim and Jessica waver back and forth between friends and something more. It is easy to see how having a solid friendship as the foundation of their dating relationship makes them consider one another’s feelings before taking quick action. It is also apparent that a friendship first scenario increases appreciation for good qualities, while slightly heightening disappointment during the discovery of the negative. As followers we have seen them learn things about one another and themselves that caused hurt feelings, happy feelings and a great deal of self reflection while tackling couples therapy; we have seen the reveal of frustration and jealousy as new feelings were formed and habits that would haven normally taken precedent in other dating scenarios were forced aside by the rules; we have seen their opposing characteristics come together like yin and yang to make magical dates and collide to cause controversy; and without revealing too much, we have, depending on our Tim/Jessica stance, rejoiced or made disgruntled faces in the general direction of our computer screens when the duo recognized their feelings in more ways than one. We have seen modern day dating redefined. First comes friendship, then comes dating has proven to be an adventure that is emotionally connecting not just two people, but thousands.

As entertaining as this project is (and it is, I promise you…seriously, go read it and then talk to me about it) we sort of have to wonder why so many of us are enthralled with the concept and resulting daily updates. I have to believe it is the genuine humanity and humility of it all. Like I said in the beginning, dating is hard. Except it isn’t just the type of hard that you sit around and joke about with your friends family. I mean, it is because we do; we often trivialize the hardships and pressures of dating in order to save face or avoid coming to terms with reality, but it is also the type of hard that is sometimes exhausting and really disappointing.

In my opinion, Tim and Jessica allow us to feel that all of our dating emotions are valid, while entertaining us along the way. As they learn about themselves, we learn a little about ourselves; while they are charming us with their relationship and discoveries, we have a few “aha moments” that the downfalls, pressures and unrealistic portrayals of modern day love don’t always allow. At the end of the day, Tim and Jessica are quickly becoming the dating voice of our generation and we are certainly all ears.

If you haven’t checked out 40 Days of Dating yet, head over to the website and browse through some of the daily dating adventures these two crazy kids have been on. I promise you, it won’t be long before you are equal parts obsessed with their relationship and reflecting on your own love life. Expect to laugh out loud at their fun-loving, quirky and appropriately serious recaps. I encourage obsession of this project with one warning: force the light reading on a friend because you will have an undeniable need to gush about the daily dish. Then again, I am already all in, so if you need a friend, you know where to find one.

Happy (Vicarious) Dating!

Feature Image via Cool Hunting

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