What the Internet’s Strangest Dating Sensation Teaches Us About Old-Fashioned Romance

An experiment involving two long-time friends who have blogged every day reaches its conclusion

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Osvaldo Ponton

Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman

If you’re a twenty-something with access to the Internet, chances are that you or someone you know has been reading “40 Days of Dating” this summer. The beautifully constructed website—which went live in mid-July—chronicles the experiment of two long-time friends fed up with the New York City dating scene who begin a relationship told through a series of daily blog posts.

At first glance, the site looks like every trope of millennial life gone wild, the sort of narcissistic, Internet-addled behavior that leads to labels like the “Me, Me, Me Generation.” Weirdly, what has given the site such a following may not be its newness but that it has revealed something far more traditional.

“Courtship” is a word rarely heard in the discussion of 21st-century dating. Still, it’s an accurate description of what transpires on “40 Days” between graphic designers Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman.

If virtually every recent article written about modern relationships is to be believed, casual hookups are rapidly replacing more familiar dating practices. That is not the case here. From Day One, clear rules are set: the pair will see each other every day, they will go on at least three “dates” each week and, most crucially, they will not “see, date, hookup, or have sex with anyone else.” This sounds nothing like the beleaguered modern love depicted in Style sections. Instead, Walsh and Goodman jumped headlong into a fully formed relationship, complete with weekly couples therapy sessions.

(MORE: Online Dating: Women Want Younger Men)

In a word, the “40 Days” experiment is unrealistic. It’s hard to imagine two people beginning an exclusive relationship—one in which they see each other every single day—without even the slightest amount of physical intimacy (Walsh and Goodman don’t so much as kiss until Day 18). It’s equally difficult to imagine both members of a relationship telling the particulars of their dating experience in such great detail—and in such a public setting. But the object of “40 Days” is not realism. It’s an experiment, and a compelling one at that. The website has received so much attention over the summer that Walsh and Goodman signed with talent agency CAA. Many believe it’s a sign that “40 Days” has a future as either a film or television show.

“40 Days” owes much of its notoriety to the medium. The site itself is spectacularly rendered, thanks to the nearly 100 listed contributors—complete with GIFs and thematically appropriate pop art. The videos stray a little toward the mundane, but there aren’t many of them anyway. And the detail with which Walsh and Goodman chronicle each day they spend together through responses to a series of daily questions is unparalleled.

The actual arc of their relationship, however, is nothing experimental. The two describe themselves with perhaps the most obvious of romantic comedy tics: she’s the hopeless romantic; he’s scared to commit. Reading the blog entries reveals far greater nuance, but the problems they face are not particularly original.

[*SPOILERS AHEAD*] Walsh and Goodman spend the first half of their forty days navigating the uncomfortable space between friendship and romance. Barely a week after Walsh resolves to quit the experiment, the two have sex for the first time and by the time they head down to Disney World on Day 38 for their rules-mandated getaway, the two appear fully committed to each other. But (and stop me if this sounds familiar) by Day 39, things have taken a turn for the disastrous, with both unsure about the future of the relationship. Friday is the 40th and final day. We’ll see if Walsh and Goodman can pull of a last-minute Hollywood ending. A tip of the hat if the story ends with one or both of them running through the Orlando airport and sharing an embrace in the final entry. [*END SPOILERS*]

For critics, this is all staged hokum. Throwing out the Hollywood fantasies and giant cast who helped with the site, there is one more problem. It quickly became apparent that these two weren’t exactly friends engaging in a joint experiment. Rather, they come off like two friends who wanted to date for all the reasons people normally do.

With that, the site and the 40-day marathon of dating have allowed Walsh and Goodman to pull of a neat trick: they’ve harnessed the exact technology that has led many to fret up the future of modern relationships and spun together something that many worry is out of date: an old-fashioned romance.

MORE: Study: Men Want Women to Chip In on Dates, but Are Afraid to Ask

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35 comments
Voltons
Voltons

All you need is make your day WOW with www.wowcouple.com! See you!!!

Doibelieve
Doibelieve

I did a whois on their website, Tim registered the domain about 60 days before the "experiment" started. It is hard to believe that this was a much more orchestrated event than people would like to believe

mcorner
mcorner

I have been married for almost 25 yrs.  My husband and I met in college when I was 19 yrs. old.  I never really dated a lot, but the year I met my husband, I had several dates with him and several with other guys.  After a few months, he asked me out again and that was it.  But I realize my situation is a bit unique.


I, too, felt this couple was whiny.  I tried to consider my husband and I having the fight that "broke them up" and couldn't picture it happening to us the same way.  While I think it turned out for the best with Jessie and Tim, I think they need to get over themselves and just shut their mouths and listen a little more.  Tim, especially, seemed bossy.

trainwreckip
trainwreckip

I read the blog the other day. It was interesting. The only thing I really took from it was that they both were selfish, and whiny about almost everything. There was no way that it was going to work out any other way than it did. You can force something like that. 

Personally what I think messed everything up was doing therapy sessions for dates. To me that seems like a poor decision.

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams

"Walsh and Goodman don’t so much as kiss until Day 18."

 And on Day 19, he finds out that she kisses like a cow, smells like tuna when he gets that close to her, and by Day 19.5, he tells her he thinks they should see other people.

truthbtolled
truthbtolled

look you 20 something whatever you are. here's the deal. when yr all done doing whatever it is and however it sounds, get yrself someone you can love, trust, laugh with and talk to, depend upon when you feel poorly or when life isn't quite working out - and, yes, someone with whom you are sexually compatible, as well as someone who is mutuall stimulating, intellectually, with you, and someone who a)has a moral vision and compass and b) appreciates yours even if you disagree about some things, and then hold hands, kiss, walk together, get talking, get in bed if it feels ready and natural, and plan to spend yr life with them, because it is not going to get better with person A through Z. No matter who you end up with, these are good attributes to work with and why not start with them. Something else: temptation to cheat and lie will come up. Don't do it. It is not ever never never worth waking up with yourself because you chased away someone good for you for a fantasy. 


okay, i'm done. had two wives, ten years about each. then the third, i mean the last - 30 years and still hot for each other in every way, plus, the appreciation 30 years and more can bring beats every single 'new' thing you can dream of. try it, you'll like it. and more.

JKT
JKT

Eric, I'm afraid you've projected your belief system of what a proper relationship is onto "40 Days". There certainly are couples who are monogamous and further who are not intimate. I've dated women for months without getting intimate. And while I at first thought I was weird, I'm starting to learn it's not all that uncommon. Hollywood (and sex therapy books) have "taught" us that sex is crucial and must come within the first few dates. Hogwash. A whole lot fewer people are getting it on than pop media leads us to believe. 

Drewz
Drewz

On the contrary, it IS possible and very much so does happen that couples have a monogamous, non-physical courting relationship. My gf and I both said from the first date that we want a hands-off relationship. This means no sex, no holding hands, no kissing, no cuddling, nothing physical at all. The point of our relationship is not to become physically satisfied, rather it is to get to know the other person, and to say the physical part of our relationship for marriage. Now granted, I am a fully red blooded male and I do struggle sometimes to maintain this. However, I do trust in my God to give me continued strength as we honor Him in our relationship, and seek to keep Him at the center of everything we do. This type of relationship is possible. It's hard, but with God's help, ALL things are possible!!!

glennra3
glennra3

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said,“You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

For those who are fascinated with technology that lets you tell the entire world about your every bowel movement I have some advice:

Keep it to yourself.




MMacli
MMacli

Turns out its not just romantic courting that is gone, its romanticism in general. Most of these comments are negative and depressing; did no one here read each day and hope they could make it work? And so what it didn't work in the end, you can tell they both took a lot out of it.

allofthethetime
allofthethetime

Much more interesting would be something LESS traditional. Instead of dating to model a future married, monogamous relationship, why not date to model a future married, honest, and non-monogamous relationship?

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

I smell another reality TV series - and it stinks...

LJL209
LJL209

I followed their story and thought he was a jerk for about 90% of it. I'm sorry she's hurt, but it's for the best. She can do way better. 

Besides my opinions on them as people, I thought it was a brilliant undertaking. Part experiment, part case study, and very gutsy to put it online for the world to follow. 

death_touch
death_touch

Ugh, they are both so precious and pretentious all in one. It was obvious in the first two weeks that these two had NO chance, and at that point it stopped being a legitimate experiment and became just about "art." 40 days of over-extensive documentation of their lame single lives; like the drunk person at the party who corners you and won't shut up.

spamjoes
spamjoes

I can't stand looking at the photo of the couple.  The guy looks like Mark Zuckerberg in a leotard, and the chick has an emo bowl cut.  No thanks.

kira82
kira82

I read the blog, and it really seemed more like an experiment in "attention." As someone who struggled with relationships until age 30, I'd honestly consider traditional dating more of an experiment - constantly looking for which variables need to change in order to find success.

Like the many dating reality shows that have come before this, a relationship born out of "unreality" is unlikely to succeed in the real world. You don't necessarily see someone every single day; you certainly don't typically see a therapist from week one; and you don't establish a timeline for when things should conclude.

It was definitely an interesting read, albeit awkward, but after the first few posts, it seemed pretty clear that these two were not a great match.

brooklynite4321
brooklynite4321

Wow. Hundreds and hundreds of words, partly crafted, in order to explain a thoroughly uninteresting stunt pulled by a couple of designers. I agree with portmanteau, whatever he or she was referring to: yuck.

CrisGarcia
CrisGarcia

This is a horrible article, it undermines the emotions felt by two human beings. 


They don't strive for a 'hollywood story'  .. they actually try and struggle.  


They are artists, that is what artists do.  They come up with weird things, new things. 

anarcissie
anarcissie

This does sound like carefully crafted hokum, particularly dependent on presenting a retro contrast to most contemporary hokum and popular culture.  Even if it is not hokum, it sounds like hokum, which probably means it will enjoy vast temporary popularity and then sink without a trace, since it is indistinguishable from the sea of hokum on which it floats.

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams

@truthbtolled - your entire first paragraph could just as easily be written to two gay guys, two lesbians, or a straight couple.

If only more people "got" what true love is - and stayed out of the way of two people who feel it.


Thanks!

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams

@Drewz bla bla god bla bla delusional thought bla bla bla.

If your God was so good for relationships - how come y'all have a higher divorce rate than atheists???

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams

@MMacli Well GEE - thanks for the SPOILER ALERT.

Now I don't have to read the whole thing to know for sure that they got it ALL WRONG.

truthbtolled
truthbtolled

@MMacli romanticism is not gone. there's plenty of us who don't buy the cultural candy of the day but stick to what we know is enduring. romanticism is, if it's yrs for real, so don't give it up. trust me. it works.

LJL209
LJL209

@death_touch It must have been compelling enough for you to follow it.... and then comment on. 

alexreverie
alexreverie

@@jclin1 Just wanted to comment positively, to counteract the unkind comment before mine! I read your blog post and I'm happy to see that there is someone out there reflecting on and responding to moving art! That's partly what the 40DoD project means to me: being artistic and involving others in the discussion. So props to you.

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams

@CrisGarcia And here's ME coming up with some weird, new things:  BORING!


Look!  I'm an artist!!!

Drewz
Drewz

@SamuelAdams I honestly cannot answer that question. My theory is that they are getting married for the wrong reasons, and that they do no have God at the center of their marriage. Getting married just so I can have sex is like getting buying a 747 for the free peanuts. Sex is most definitely a part of marriage as God designed it, but it is to be kept in the boundaries of a monogamous, lifelong marriage relationship. If God does bless our (my gf and I) relationship with marriage, then sex and a physical relationship will come with it. However, we are choosing to keep our focus on God and seek after Him and through that He will draw us closer together emotionally as a couple. When we are married, the physical part of the relationship then starts. And it is only through the power of Christ that we will be able to keep our wedding vows, and if we honor Him in our dating relationship, He will bless our marriage more than any halfhearted relationship could ever do. 

JKT
JKT

@glennra3 @MMacli Apparently you do, Glenn, or you wouldn't be here posting about it.