Gessen on Dating

Speaking of Keith Gessen, I’m pretty sure he is responsible for this n + 1 gem.

Dating presents itself as an education in human relationships. In fact it’s an anti-education. You could invent no worse preparation for love, for marriage, than the tireless pursuit of the perfect partner. Keep Looking, says dating. You’re Not Done Yet. What About That One? And That One? Dating, like the tyrant, seeks perfection (within a certain price range). Whereas the heart, like the eye, can only cling to imperfections: her funny stride, and the way her voice breaks, child-like, on the phone. And so the dater, self-baffling, seeks what the heart cannot understand.

We must stop dating. But we can’t. Because the only way to stop dating would be to date more, and more efficiently, to become more adept at spotting, on the first date, those things that on the fifth or fifteenth date are going to become a problem. Of course that only makes it worse—by that standard, even Abelard and Heloise wouldn’t have made it. The other option is to change yourself. But you’d have done that by now, if you could.

The only way to stop dating is to fall in love. But how, under conditions of dating, would this be possible?

I have a lot of thoughts on this, as I have a few friends in the n + 1 gang, and a lot of them intersect with the people I think of as constituting my primary social world, most of whom think of my political semi-engagement as a minor eccentricity. Which is how I like it — my dream in life is to do a series of completely non-overlapping things, and have people who listen to my children’s music be shocked and appalled by my blue Rickles-style stand-up, or have people who enjoy my picaresque science fiction be confused by my essays on Asian American militancy and the history of penal dentistry (in Samoa). I’d also like to sell T-shirts, and have my appointment to the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Backgammon and Chess be sunk by the rumor that I’ve personally given birth to a Bengali child who happens to be my own clone.

But, I mean, who doesn’t, right?