Going On Dates / by Sophie Johnson

Yesterday I went on a date. It was not a date with myself -- I am kind of good at those, though, because I'm a great conversationalist, and so am I. But this time around, I went on a date with my roommate, Derek.

Believe it or not, in all the years Derek and I have been living together (three), we have not done a single activity together, just the two of us, outside the house. 

We have done activities together, just the two of us, inside the house. Sometimes Derek's partner Hannah (who is our other roommate) leaves to be productive in the world. That leaves Derek and me alone in the kitchen, where we often talk about philosophers. (Derek knows all the philosophers. I know none of the philosophers.) This can go on for hours, and sometimes we'll even eat popcorn.

We have also been out of the house together with Hannah, lots of times. Once the three of us drove across the lake to ride bikes, pick blueberries, and tell How-I-Lost-My-Virginity stories. Both Derek and Hannah are unnaturally physically attractive, and unnaturally intelligent. These qualities are indisputable in both of them. It's enough to make you hate them, except that when you get to know them you find out they're also unnaturally kind and giving, and then you have to love them and kind of hate yourself for not being immune to their charm. 

It's actually kind of hard to be around people you admire so much. The way Hannah and Derek live their lives often seems impossible to me. They are deeply loving with one another and always communicative. They are organizers and activists, and have found a way to not need lots of material possessions so they can maintain a lifestyle where they don't have to take money from anyone they don't believe in. (I, on the other hand, ride my bike to an assortment of charter schools every day of the work week, and then turn around and blog about how much I despise what the charter school system is doing to the world.) They both eat really well all the time. Our house has lots of fermented things in it I can't pronounce, and Derek generally puts kelp on his food instead of salt. They clean with vinegar and baking soda, because it's better for the planet. They don't drink or smoke cigarettes or go on television-watching binges. Sometimes that's hard to be around because Hannah and Derek are like the grown-ups I always wished I would be, but then, seriously, who are we kidding? I watched eleven episodes of "Community" yesterday. 

So what ends up happening is I live in this house with this pair of people I admire, and, let's face it, kind of deify, and I feel scared to eat tacos in front of them because I know that the tacos contain lots of salt, and I'm afraid they'll think, "Oh, Sophie is eating a processed salty taco. What a shame for Sophie and for the earth." Of course, Derek and Hannah would never think that, because they're acutely non-judgmental. It slides in next to "unnaturally kind and giving" on their character pages.

I realized that I was projecting a lot of "you-should-be-judging-me" onto Derek, especially. He wasn't judging me. But he should have been! I was eating so many tacos! I was in unhealthy relationships! I was drinking gin on Tuesday nights sometimes! I watched eleven episodes of "Community" and one sitting, and only because there weren't MORE episodes to watch after I'd finished the eleventh! I couldn't do a Burpee, and when I pretended to do a Burpee, I never did the push-up part of it! These were all reasons Derek should have been judging me. Again, he wasn't. He was happily living his own life, not all that interested in all the things I felt I was doing wrong. But for me, our relationship felt palpably strained.

So, in a moment of uncharacteristic honesty, I told Derek how I was feeling. And Derek said, "Let's hang out sometime." And I said, "Let's go on a date." And he said, "Let's go on a date."

There is something so exciting about the word "date," isn't there? It implies that flowers might be involved, or that you might wear fancy perfume or a special hat. People get ready for dates. They don't put end times on them. So why do we go on dates with people we have never met before who share common interests with us according to an algorithm made up by a computer (thanks, OK Cupid); but "just hang out" with our friends, whom we love very much? All the magic and mystery and adventure of dates should be reserved not only for exciting strangers with sex potential, but also for the people we see every day and who continuously make our life better.

Derek and I should have dated a lot sooner. We went to a restaurant, shared a salad, and talked about our sex lives. We turned our phones off and gave each other full attention. And then, when it was over, we hugged a kinda-long hug and said "I love you," and the air between us felt less tense, at least for me. 

Love takes all these different shapes, and instead of guarding it and trying to make it fit into Rom-Com boxes, we ought to be embracing it every time we feel it, and celebrating it with everyone who ignites it within us. I want to date all my friends. Who's next?