A Museum Is a Terrible Place for a Date
The next time someone you are chatting with on Tinder suggests you two check out the new National Gallery of Art exhibit instead of grabbing drinks, playing mini-golf or really doing just about any activity under the sun, pivot immediately. Why? Because museums are garbage date spots.
Four to eight people are going to begin mentally composing aggrieved emails that say, “The best date of my entire life took place at The Hirshhorn; how dare you?” And I will immediately mark them as spam, because museum dates, especially early on in relationships, are second only to poetry when it comes to being a deceitful enemy of love and horniness.
There are many reasons why people who are considering a relationship should not elect to spend their time in a spacious, brightly-lit room, but the main one is this: timing. No two people alive move through museums at the same rate. Personally, unless I have purchased a guided audio tour that is giving me juicy gossip on every artist, like which relatives they slept with and which pope they sent into apoplexy, I am the kind of person who needs Heelys to get through a museum fast enough. I have no fine art education, which is admittedly my fault, and I don’t get much enjoyment out of paintings without knowing some background. Even then, I get bored easily in quiet, deferentail spaces.
Meanwhile, my boyfriend makes a whole production of it. He can look at one singular painting for longer than it takes me to make a whole lap around the room. (What is he looking at? I have spent less time analyzing my best friend’s ex’s engagement photos than he spends on a little statue.) He and I are extremely mismatched, yes, but it is not just the two of us. Everyone has different museum speeds — who is supposed to adjust, and how much? Is the brisk museum enjoyer supposed to linger with the slow peruser, growing bored out of their mind, feigning interest? Or does the lackadaisical browser need to toot toot hurry up? There is no correct etiquette, just awkwardness.
The idea, of course, is that art will provoke stimulating conversation — great in theory, but unlikely in practice. In this fantasy, you go agog at all the same pieces like the beginning of act two of an indie rom-com where you both connect over an abiding love of Artemisia Gentileschi. But that simply doesn’t happen. Either you are the kind of person who gazes at a painting, speed-reads the plaque and decides how much you like it, or you stalk around the place with your arms joined behind your back like a Serious Art Person while you form deep, emotional connections with the artwork. This means that when two people enter a museum, one might exit feeling somewhat relaxed (museums are pretty soothing) but otherwise unaffected, while the other is reeling and trying to not think about the painting that reminded them of their estranged relationship with their father. Now what? You two are emotionally out of sync and you have just walked two miles, so you have to find a place to sit down pretty soon.
The problem isn’t just that museums — well, the art within them — inspire discordant emotional responses. Lots of, perhaps even most, dates involve two people feeling very differently. The issue is that museums don’t offer a particularly conducive environment to actually talk about these feelings. They are meant for quiet reflection. There are intimidating security guards stationed at every corner, ready to yell at you the moment your face gets too close to a piece. Plus, everything you say echoes, so your uneducated critique of a classic piece of modern art is earning you glares from an art student who has spent the last two months studying the work of Wassily Kandinsky.
I will also reiterate that these mismatches are especially difficult to reconcile early on. Expressing heavy emotions to someone and getting nothing in return can quickly snuff out a romantic spark. “I loved the painting of the woman on the chair. It reminded me of all the years I felt totally isolated and alone,” being met with, “Yeah. It was nice,” is not a recipe for “happily ever after” or even, “Do you want to come back to my place?” Please reserve deep emotional trauma for date seven and beyond.
Reciprocal enthusiasm and physical touch are two of the best ways to scoot romance along, and you aren’t going to find those in museums. You don’t have to be near to your date, or even make any eye contact at all, in fact, during the entire ordeal.
I will absolutely concede that the museum date sounds romantic. I do not think anyone is a fool for being seduced by the idea of a joint edifying pursuit, of ogling masterpieces with a person you would like to ogle naked. But unless you two were both art history majors, the reality is likely to fall far short of the expectation.