It's been a long month or so for fans of "40 Days of Dating," the painfully touching relationship experiment-turned-blog phenomenon that so resembles a Hollywood rom-com it may very well turn into one.
But Judgment Week has arrived. Like any reality show, "40 Days" is finally rolling out its big reveal.
The premise is simple—and as complex as any real-life relationship. Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman, chronically single graphic designers in New York, had been friends for years, and struggling romantics for longer. Goodman has commitment problems. Walsh is "a hopeless romantic who jumps into relationships very quickly." So they decided to try dating each other for 40 days. As in, actually dating: they saw each other every day, went on dates, remained exclusive, attended couples therapy, and—yes—eventually had sex. They also blogged each step of the way.
They knew it would be sort of maybe weird. They did not know it would garner them an international audience, a steady flow of fan mail, and a very possible movie or TV adaptation. But if that pitch seems like a juicy rom-con to you, is it any surprise a Hollywood executive would have the same thought? And if you're already living out your love life for a rapt Internet audience, why not go the extra mile?
The catch is, we still don't know what happened to our heroes, romantically speaking. Are they still together? Their When Harry Met Sally-style stunt took place last spring. They began publishing their day-by-day journals in July. And they've been withholding the last four entries ever since. This week, that changes.
Slate's Hanna Rosin got a hold of Goodman for a quick Q&A about what's to come:
Slate: When did you last see each other?
Goodman: We see each other way too much.
Slate: Will you say in your final entries if you're still together?
Goodman: Yes, more or less. It will be obvious.
Slate: Was it different operating without accountability, that is, after day 41, knowing you could act and wouldn't have to write about it, did you act differently?
Goodman: Yes, it was very different. And it was weird. Documenting our experience allowed life to slow down. It allowed us to be more mindful and more considerate with each other. The idea that this would be shared on the Internet held us accountable.
Asked about the coolest moment of the project, Goodman's answer is surprising. He doesn't point to specific anecdote or brag about being recognized on the street. He just points out the strange normalcy of the relationship that ensued:
Our relationship issues seem to be common with many other people, so we wanted to learn more about love and relationships in an attempt to figure out why. Our individual stories, issues, and approaches aren't much different from a lot of folks
And that's just the thing. Scrolling through Goodman and Walsh's entries, it's surprisingly easy to set aside the novelty of the stunt and realize that their relationship problems are as routine and familiar as anyone's relationship problems, just with a heightened dramatic pitch.
Which means, fame aside, they're just like us. The Guardian's Hannah Slapper goes one further in suggesting that Walsh and Goodman's little project could offer a romantic solution for the desparately lonely urbanite: you've got platonic friends with whom you get along well, and chances are there's one or two you wouldn't mind getting to know a little, ahem, better. Why not test the waters? (Read: you don't need to blog the experience for the virtual world to see.)
Walsh has outright said that her favorite fan mail hailed from "readers inspired to make a move on a special someone who had been stuck in the 'friend zone.'" And with the recent success of Bang With Friends, it's not altogether unfeasible to imagine an app aiming to bring together friends and acquaintances seeking more than a one-time meet-up without having to go the OkCupid route.
We'll find out this week if "40 Days of Dating" succeeded or not, in the most simplistic sense. But even if Goodman and Walsh are no longer together, can you really call it a failure? Forty days of dating is, after all, better than one hundred years of solitude.