October 18, 2011 by Kat Richter
In case you were wondering, the Starbucks salted caramel mocha tastes neither of salt nor of caramel (until you the get the last inch and a half, which is indeed worth the wait.) Also, in case you were wondering, there’s a woman out there who is almost as crazy—perhaps even crazier—than me in her approach to dating. Her name is Tamara Duricka Johnson and I received an email from her publicist last month asking me if I’d like to review her book, 31 Dates in 31 Days.
Of course I’d like to review her book. I’d never heard of Johnson or her project but the press release alone was enough to convince me that here was a woman who takes serial dating to new extremes—not only does she subject herself to 30 first dates before agreeing to meet any of her new suitors for a second, but she crams it all into one month in honor of her 31st birthday and sets herself a limit of no more than $31 per date.
Being a good Mormon, she also places a limit the amount of sex, kissing and alcohol consumption that will take place during her project and that limit is, on all three accounts, N-O-N-E whatsoever.
(I’m with her on the first of these, and I tried to be with her on the second, but we all know how well that turned out—sometimes kisses just happen. Additionally, online dating without the benefit of alcohol is almost as crazy as attempting to scale Mt. Everest without an oxygen tank. Some things are just necessary… especially when you’ve accidentally agreed to go out with a 49-year old Sugar Daddy or resolve to summit the highest peak on the face of the earth, but I digress…)
I tend to over prepare whenever I’m reviewing a book, which means I accidentally researched the end of the story before I’d even started it (thus ruining the surprise), but it was still fun to read about how many crazy non-alcoholic things one can do in New York City for less than $31 (or rather, $31 plus whatever the guys insisted on chipping in).
My main beef with the book was that Johnson tried to turn everything in a learning experience, whether the date warranted it or not. I know I go on and on about my “anthropological” investigation of modern courtship but I like to think I generally maintain a sense of humor about it. When you look as dating as fieldwork (like I do) or as “a one-month master’s course in men” (as Johnson did) you can’t take yourself too seriously. (Remember that the next time you’re reading this, Date #7.)
When Johnson ends up at F.O.A. Shwartz, for example, and discovers that her date is a whiz at the Rubik’s Cube, she concludes,
There are millions of ways that six-sided cube can be twisted, and there are only a handful of techniques to get all the same-colored stickers on one side. All that’s required is patience and a little thinking outside the box. The same goes for me and dating. Instead of assuming a guy is a waste of my time, I need to keep setting aside my pride, expect the unexpected, and invest a little more time. I might just match up my sides.
True, but seriously, a Rubik’s cube as a metaphor for getting to know someone? It’s a bit of a stretch, as is Johnson’s assertion, a few chapters later: “[My date’s] attitude about his pacemaker was exactly what I needed. He helped me realize that a broken heart doesn’t have to be the end.” (I can’t say that I’ve ever linked bradycardia to broken heartedness before.)
Nonetheless, I was amazed by how many decent dates Johnson got out of her project. So many of the dating memoirs I’ve read lately have been abysmal, but Johnson definitely lucks out. She even—well, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but her “master’s course in men” definitely yielded some unexpected results.
I was, in fact, so inspired by the success of her project that I was tempted to re-launch mine but then I thought better of it: between Match.com and The Wedding Date, my life is complicated enough already. Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever had more than four or five guys in the pipeline at the same time; Johnson’s “master’s course” required her to juggle thirty simultaneously. Now that’s commitment. (Or reason to be committed. I’m still trying to decide.)
At any rate, if you like my blog, you’ll definitely enjoy 31 Dates in 31 Days. In the end (don’t worry, this isn’t the happily-ever-after ending, just the process-of-self-discovery ending) Johnson confesses,
I began this project because I wanted to learn something about men and dating, and I discovered so much more—about people in general and myself. The one lesson that insisted on coming up again and again, however, was as simple as it was important: If you want love, give it away.
Hmmm. There’s one tactic I haven’t tried.