Last week, Slate reviewed Going the Distance, a romantic comedy in which two party-hard thirtysomethings, played by Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, attempt to maintain a long distance relationship. While the protagonists struggle to maintain their romance, this relationship may have the greatest burden on someone not listed in the ending credits: Mother Earth. In the article, reprinted blow, Barron YoungSmith makes a case for dating local by examining the environmental repercussions of the long distance relationship.
What's more, out-of-town daters have less sex than local couples—and long stretches of abstinence between visits could lead to negative health outcomes and thus higher health care costs. Distance also magnifies the impact of negative feelings like longing and suspicion; according to one study, intercity lovers are more likely to be depressed (PDF) and less likely to share resources or take care of each other when sick. And they spend money on travel that they might otherwise save and invest—leaving them vulnerable to economic shocks and wearing away their future standard of living. Every one of these demons could be banished by simply dating local.
Of course, like many eco-conscious attempts to instill social virtue, this proposal runs the risk of killing romance. Many a true human thrill—the high-octane cheeseburger! the long shower! the Chevy Suburban!—has been deflated by green evangelists out to render the personal political. And, in a way, long-distance dating is romantic precisely because it expends so much in the way of resources and effort. It's less exciting to date someone based on your shared love of canvas shopping bags than it is to pine for a partner who wants to meet in Arizona.
No, our Date Local movement won't be overbearing. It shouldn't try to break up every cross-country love odyssey. Instead, it will discourage this special type of conspicuous consumption at the margins, nudging people toward the realization that breaking up is in their own, and enlightened, economic self-interest.
For example, with fuel prices likely to whipsaw upward for the foreseeable future, many people currently in LDRs will end up questioning whether they want to keep timing their liaisons to coincide with oil underconsumption troughs—or whether it's better to call it splits. (The coming death of lucrative, globalized post-college jobs may force similar reconsiderations.) Date Local could educate them about the environmental and social benefits of breaking up and nudge them in the right direction. And the group would be there to cushion the brokenhearted by imparting newly minted locasexuals with a sense of noble self-sacrifice—not to mention a pool of cute, like-minded enviros who happen to live in the neighborhood.
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