Erin Greeno, currently an archives student at University of Toronto, formerly a long-time resident of Halifax, came up with quite possibly the most ambitious Valentine's Day endeavour yet: A Month of Dates. Twice, once in 2002 and again in 2004, Greeno went on (or at least attempted to go on) a date every day for the month of February. Did she do it all in the name of romance? Or purely for her own entertainment? She tells all to Coast writer Stephanie Johns via email.
Q: What made you decide to do it?
A: The initial idea came from an ongoing discussion about Valentine’s Day. I personally like the holiday, yet I knew very few people who shared my sentiment. Many people recoil when the holiday is mentioned because the day is so loaded with cultural and emotional expectations. The tradition to designate only one day in a year to celebrate love and romance is obviously absurd. I don’t need to explain how one day alone isn’t sufficient. Yet our society places so much weight on that one day. Partners are expected to do something special that day and when no action or recognition is made, feelings are often hurt. Advertisements and television programs reinforces this with messed-up, hetero-normalizing and often offensive images of “thoughtless and unaffected” husbands and boyfriends and emotionally unstable or disappointed wives and girlfriends. Or we are smothered with pre-fabricated ideas of what romance constitutes, of how love should be expressed. A bouquet of roses supposedly cures personal insecurities and excuses dependency behaviours.
In celebrating relationships, the holiday also chastises the concept of being single. To be alone on Valentine’s Day is supposedly a grave punishment, a sign of personal deficiency. The pressure felt on those with no valentine is one of the most singularly puzzling phenomena—folks either become depressed because the romantic images are a vivid reminder they are alone or they so disparagingly criticize the holiday that their condemnation seems in some way to validate the societal importance of Valentine's. You may wonder why, after this explanation of Valentine’s Day, that I actually consider it one of my favorite holidays. My reasoning is purely aesthetic. The commercialization of “love” and “romance” is sickening, yet the symbols associated with the day—hearts, flowers, cupids—are undeniably more visually pleasing than Santa Claus and Easter Bunnies. I like pink and red and paper lace, I like hearts and those cinnamon candies. No shame. Yet in defending the holiday, I was forced to seriously consider the societal implications of the day. I started to think about how Valentine’s Day was perceived, its strategic placement in the middle of one of the dreariest months in Canada, its limitations, etc. And from this the idea of The Month of Dates was born. I decided that I was going to spread the sentiments of Valentine’s Day over a month period.
Not only would it allow me to advocate the positive (and often superficial) attributes of the holiday for a whole month, it would encourage me to go out, see people and do new things during the often reclusive month of February. Of the two reasons, I believe the latter was the true motivation behind the project. I’m generally not that social, especially when the weather makes it easier to sit at home and play music alone. The concept of a project, of a whole month of dates, made socializing more appealing. In some ways, it was an unrealistic goal, especially for someone like me, but I approached the project head-on.
Q: What were some of the responses you got from people?
A: I’d say the majority of the people responded uneasily. I don’t know if it was because the idea of going on a date everyday seemed too exhausting or too ridiculous to fathom, or whether my motivation was unclear. I suppose there were a few people who questioned my definition of date, or were suspicious of my intentions, yet I think I made it clear that my objective was not sexual or even romantic. I just wanted to spend time with people I knew well or wanted to know better, to challenge myself and my dates to think of creative ways to spend time together. I was using date in a broad sense. I suppose I was trying to strip away the romantic connotations to the word date, or dating. Yet it was amusing sometimes to see people’s reactions when I’d ask them on a date without providing the context of the Month of Dates to them.
I obviously seemed very bold at those moments, intimidating even. I suppose I was so consumed by scheduling dates that I’d simply forget not everyone was familiar with the Month of Dates. Of course the first year, there was more skepticism, yet the second time around, many people approached me first. Even nowadays, there are people who ask me if the Month of Dates is on, or what.
Q: Best date?
A: It would be unfair to pick one date, since most of them were enjoyable for their own particular reasons, whether it be drinking tea with a good friend or going for a walk. But highlights include a date square date—that being a date to eat date squares, and an afternoon of bowling and fries at the Halifax Shopping Centre. I ate a lot at Robie Food…the best place for a date, I think.
Q: Worst date?
A: No bad experiences… yeah!
Q: Did you begin to notice a dating pattern?
A: Well, for me, dating involved lots of French fries, coffee, tea and beer.
Q: Did you mostly date friends?
A: Most of my dates were with close friends, though I wanted to make sure I’d go out with new folks whenever it was possible or desirable.
Q: What does the concept of dating mean to you?
A: Well, I suppose dating wasn’t something I did, prior to the Month of Dates. I had been in a long-term relationship for well a long, long time and once that ended, I wasn’t actively seeking romance, or perhaps better put, I wasn’t interested in becoming a player in the dating rituals expected of twenty-something singles. I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of dating, or traditional representations of relationships and relationship-building, from both a gender and socio-political perspective. The idea of dating for romantic ends simply didn’t seem appropriate or desirable. So I approached the Month of Dates without the painful, fearful or even hopeful expectations usually involved in the act or process of dating. Without these expectations, a person can enter into a social transaction, a date or whatever, in healthy spirits. It allows you to simply enjoy the date, that is two people spending time together, or it allows you to simply respect the limitations of what you and the other person can bring to the exchange. Though admittedly some of my dates were goddamn romantic and that was fun. (Despite my political front, I’m a romantic at heart. Bring on the pair dancing!)
Q: Did you see it as something you had to push yourself to do? Was it important that you go through with it?
A: Each year that I took on the month of dates “project,” I was always extremely enthusiastic at the onset of February. The thought of all the experiences I’d have overshadowed the reality that I would inevitably tire of the social demands of going on a date every day. The first attempt in 2002, I would periodically miss a day and I wouldn’t let the lack of a date affect me. The second time around, I arguably was trying to achieve a better turnout than my previous attempt and so I forced myself to seek dates every day. In order to do that I often called upon a few reliable friends who would always go out for fries or a beer with me. They didn’t seem to mind they were backups…or at least I believed they didn’t feel the dates were forced upon them. Yet in the end, both attempts, I was unable to have a date every day. It wears a girl out…