First things first: If you haven’t yet seen Sarah Baker’s seven-minute magnum opus of a monologue on why guys don’t date fat girls from the first of last night’s two episodes of Louie, go do that. Right now. Look, I’ve even dropped the video in here for you:
Done? Still emotionally in one piece? Good. Now we can talk about the first few opening seconds of this scene. Just before Baker’s character Vanessa launches into her screed on fat girls, Louis C.K.’s Louie makes an off-the-cuff comment about how he would go on more dates “if they didn’t call it ‘dating,’ you know?” he says. “Something about the word ‘dating’ makes it worse for me.”
“What would you call it?” Vanessa asks.
“Trying, maybe? Like I’ve been ‘trying’ this girl? I’m going out on a ‘try’ with this dude?” He ponders the term for a few seconds. “But I would still hate it.”
Louie may be a divorced dad in his forties, but I’ve talked to people across various age groups who have all expressed a similar aversion to the term “dating” when they describe the activities of their romantic lives. Whether it’s been a few dates or a few months doesn’t seem to make a palpable difference — the resounding feeling is that “dating,” as a term, feels a little too serious.
In a way, this aversion makes sense. The term “dating” can encompass any level of seriousness from “we’ve been on a few great dates” dating to “we have each other’s keys” dating to everything in-between. Unlike when people say, “we’re married,” or even, “we’re hooking up,” telling people “we’re dating” also leaves the door open for unwelcome questions that demand answers the two of you likely haven’t figured out yet — presumably because you’ve been busy doing things like enjoying each other’s company. “Are you guys official?” “Is it serious?” and “Are you exclusive?” top the shortlist of the most annoying questions people navigating the dating scene constantly face from peers.
This is precisely what makes the idea of Louie’s suggested alternative term — “trying” — so appealing. Except that “trying” isn’t quite right, either. “Trying” someone out in a dating context implies that, like shoes or ice cream flavors, you can readily go back to the store where you picked them up and exchange them for a better-fitting size or a tastier flavor. In reality, “trying” someone is more like dipping into a bag of only Mystery Flavor Dum Dums: You can be sure some of them will taste like shit, but the thrill of discovering something in there that’s new and different and awesome-tasting is enough to make you keep eating them.
Of course, whether you call it “dating” or “trying” or any other name doesn’t change the entity itself, nor does it make it any less scary. But the point here is that you have options at your disposal. Dating is whatever the two of you decide you want it to be — and so is what you call it.