What would it mean to subject the notion of dating, of being dateable (as Gay Prof writes), to serious scrutiny? I ask this as one who has derided, scorned, abandoned, and, for good measure, cremated the idea and practice of dating (especially around February 14). I am not concerned with the quality of one’s dates, those abstract and material measures of worth and attractiveness that seem to add social significance. Instead, I am interested in the indifferent—if normalizing—project of dating.
Perhaps its best to begin from the negative: what does it mean to be (un)dateable? Once we move past the cosmetic and cultural fixes (a little Shaw channeled through Rex Harrison), and once we bracket the performance of gendered excess and cultural insensitivity, once, that is, we get to the (fictional) ordinary of undateability, then I think, the question becomes more interesting. Here, I shall avoid the inevitable comparisons to markets that surround the stranger sociality of public intimacy. Even though such a comparison is contiguous to this particular set of concerns
To consider the quotidian of being (un)dateable means thinking about time and space (fortuitously captured in the term “date”), about an unspecified temporality awaiting enfleshment in the form of bodies, time awaiting further elaboration (first date, second date) and arrest (no more dating, marriage at times), about the way dating (being dateable) interpellates and enfleshes (here, it’s necessary to think about ideology, per Althusser and Butler, and embodiment). To be (un)dateable, that is, or, more precisely, to think through what it means confronts us with an idea of how bodies occupy, stretch, and interrupt time.
Dating, at least as constructed in contemporary media, internationally at this point, is viewed as part of a narrative with definite ending(s); some continually frustrated, others realized only to be repeated. Here, I find I must amend myself, for dating seems more synchronic than diachronic, more bound to arrest and repetition than intimate (fore)closure. Dating, that is, offers a way of occupying—and manipulating—time. (I’m circling). Insofar as it is also considered an achievement—one can date at a certain age; we count certain forms of intimate success in dates per year (dpy); we consider it a marker of maturity, social worth, and mental health—dating also has the potential to function as a normative regime(n). But this is easy enough to say.
What continues to fascinate me is how we might talk about being (un)dateable away from rhetorics of socio- and psycho-pathology. Of course, I have (artificially) removed one key player in this particular scenario: the anonymous and synecdochic dater who judges whether one is dateable or not. At best, I am limping like a kiguru (puns abound).
It is as kiguru, then, that I ask what particular form of failure inheres in being (un)dateable? This is related to but not quite the same as being “unmarriageable.” It is not a diagnostic question. In other words, it’s less a matter for the numerous solutions and remedies too readily available, and more an opportunity to think through and with the banal ways we inhabit intimacy, even, and especially, when marked by apathy, indifference, and failure.