thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

“I Don’t Think We Owe Anyone A Second Chance”: Katie Heaney on Dating and the Single Life

In books, Interview on March 17, 2014 at 5:18 am

Sarah T.

To go by most books about dating, being single is kind of like walking around with a glob of macaroni in your hair: embarrassing, unsightly and a departure from the natural state of affairs. Katie Heaney’s Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date is a welcome antidote to these narratives. In her new memoir, Heaney chronicles spending the first 25 years of her life as a smart, funny, confident young woman who is at peace with her self-declared status as a “Bermuda Triangle” of romance.

“One of the great divides, I think, between people who date a lot and people who date never is that people who date never don’t understand putting up with ‘fine,'” Heaney writes. She’s had her share of crushes, make-outs and promising prospects that wind up fizzling, but in the end she’s holding out for way more than “fine”–and finding it in her relationships with her pals. Read on for Heaney’s thoughts on texting, wooing your friends, the most swoon-worthy Jane Austen character and why women shouldn’t feel obligated to go out with guys they don’t like that much.

I’ve been a fan of yours since you started writing for The Hairpin — “Reading Between the Texts” is not only hilarious but also super-cathartic as a reminder that dating is insane and so are people. Are those texts real? What about the conversations?

Thank you! The text messages are real, yeah. That’s why sometimes I go a long time without writing them — I have to wait for the material! The conversations I make up, though they’re definitely very representative of how the real-life conversations go down.

In Never Have I Ever, you write that you sometimes feel self-conscious about being a long-term single person. I think there are a lot of women (and men) who worry about the same thing, partially because our cultural conversations about love and romance tend to make people feel anxious if they don’t hit certain landmarks at expected times. Have you heard from a lot of readers who feel less alone after reading your book?

I have! And that has been very gratifying. I have heard from so, so many young women who feel like they can relate to what I wrote about, who are in their early or mid- or late twenties and haven’t really dated either. Way more than I ever would have thought. They’ve been universally sweet and kind and I have loved those emails.

There’s one big overarching love story in your book–your friendship with Rylee. It was so lovely and empowering to read about, because I think a lot of stories in books and movies and television suggest that women can only feel truly connected and emotionally fulfilled in romantic relationships. What advice would you give to women who don’t currently have close friendships but want to find ways to build them?

Thank you! I got so lucky with Rylee, and all my college friends really, that it’s hard for me to advise, because I was truly just like, plunked down next to her in my freshman dorm. What would have happened had it not worked out that way?? I don’t even want to think about it. But I think it’s just important to remember that finding women with whom you can have long, intense, important friendships is crucial and also tough, and it involves some element of pursuit, too! I went after Rylee, for sure. Because I could tell. So I guess my advice is like … chase girls, too. Haha. Or just, work at it. It takes a LOT of work.

 

I was really struck by the part of your book where you’re trying to decide whether to go out with a guy you’re not sure you like romantically, and your friends keep telling you to give it a shot. You write: “Everyone means so well, but how weird is it that so many girls spend so much time convincing each other to date people we aren’t sure we want to date? What are we pushing each other toward?” I’ve definitely felt that pressure to give second, third, and/or infinite chances to guys I’m lukewarm about. Why do you think women push their friends this way? Do men do this too?

I don’t know for sure whether guys do this much or not, because I haven’t talked to many of them about it, but my gut feeling is that they do not do it nearly so much. I think women are taught to do this to each other. We’re supposed to be trying guys out for husband material. We’re supposed to be working hard at finding him, and be patient and generous, and accommodating, and “open-minded.” And it’s not like I think those are wrong things to be, but I think that’s a largely unhelpful and frequently sexist advice trope. I think we ought to be able to trust ourselves to decide whether we’re into going out with someone again or not. It’s okay to give up after two dates, or one. I don’t think we owe anyone a second chance.

One recurring theme in Never Have I Ever is your tendency to crush on people from afar. In that same spirit, who are your top three fictional crushes?

Ooooh okay, god, I have to pick carefully in case they see this. I would say Mr. Knightley, from Emma, Nick Miller from New Girl, and Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything.

Who are a few authors you think write really well about dating and romance?

I think my roommate and friend Chiara Atik does. Her book Modern Dating: A Field Guide is really funny and charming and insightful. We like to argue about dating and definitely don’t always agree, but I think she’s really smart. I feel like I haven’t read many other romantic/dating-related books in a while. Maybe I’m romance-d out. Is it weird if I’m like “also, Jane Austen” ? Haha. But it is true. She’s incomparable.

I believe I read that you’re working on a novel — what’s it about? And where can fans of your book find more of your writing?

Oh, well, I think I am about as far along with that as I was whenever I threw that into an interview, which is to say, not at all. I couldn’t even tell you what it’s about because I don’t know. But on a day to day basis I work and write at BuzzFeed, and I also write for Pacific Standard, and I tweet too much at @KTHeaney.

Check out previous Girls Like Giants interviews here.

Related links:

An Interview with Dodie Bellamy

True-er Detectives: “The Bletchley Circle,” Lady Sleuths and Friendship

True Confessions; Dangerous Minds

 

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