Next week: Why the bus is more romantic than the car on dates

By Amanda Marcotte
Sunday, October 26, 2008 20:46 EDT
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Miriam linked an interesting article from Slate about starting a “date local” movement that would discourage long distance relationships that result in many more flights booked (and CO2 emissions) than would happen without them. I’m sure the suffering airline industry would disagree with this, but I can sort of see the point. But I can’t help but make the feminist critique of this suggestion. It’s been noted by feminists before that a lot of the individual environmentalist solutions tend to focus on changing women’s behavior more than men’s. For instance, there’s a lot of focus on changing housework and cooking techniques so that they’re more environmentally friendly but also more time-consuming, putting the burden in most cases squarely on the shoulders of women. And there’s a feminist angle to this, as well.

It seems to me the emergence of the long distance relationship can be understood as resulting from feminism and the gay rights movement, both of which created a social space for romantic relationships that were egalitarian, where both careers have to be considered important. Prior to that, gay relationships weren’t accepted and women were expected to follow men’s leads in straight relationships. It had the advantage of keeping things simple, but the cost is obviously too high. LDRs have emerged in this exciting new egalitarian world where people are trying to figure it out, and many of us have to, at some point in time, decide how we feel about the possibility. I’m honestly surprised at how many people go for it, because it doesn’t seem like it’s that hard to find someone close by, but perhaps my attitude seems a tad mercenary and not very romantic. But I tried the LDR thing once, when I was young and stupid. I lasted a month, then it ended very badly. I’ve been hostile to the concept ever since. Involuntary sexual abstinence erodes people’s decision-making skills, and bad ideas like quitting your job or cheating start to seem like good ideas. Of course, I say this but I know at least one couple that’s made it work, so what do I know? It works on occasion, but most of the time I’ve seen it, it tends to have an end game clearly in sight where you either break up or someone has to give up something they love for the other one.

Thankfully, nothing in this Slate article openly advocates for the idea that women are simply going to have to suffer for the greater good, while men get off relatively easy. No hints that women need to just follow men around (or that gay couples should just give up hope). It’s more that people in general should get out more, perhaps going to local establishments, and date locally. Seems reasonable. It was funny reading the comments at Feministing, where the idea was soundly rejected because, presumably, there’s one soul mate out there for everyone, and if you limit yourself, then you won’t meet the one special guy that the Disco Ball made just for you. That’s the sort of thinking that also is an ample predictor of bad decisions. (See above mention of my wayward youth where I thought love was something a lot more than just really digging the hell out of someone.) I sympathize strongly with the belief that there’s not enough good guys out there, but I promise that there’s something perversely relationship-eroding about believing that you couldn’t love anyone but the person you love right now. It adds a gloss of desperation, the scent of stress to the air. Don’t want to love someone else is a lot pressure-inducing. Coupled because it’s a conscious choice instead of the grand romance that’s bigger than you is much easier on the spirit.

The funniest part about it was when I first saw the whole “date local” thing, I thought they meant spend your dating money in local establishments, instead of corporate ones that are owned outside of your city. I fully support that, as well. But it doesn’t seem like you’d have to tell people to do that, because having a roster of locally interesting activities to do on dates strikes me as a bare minimum requirement if you want to come across as interesting enough to continue dating.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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