reading field & stream with extreme prejudice

Dating is nothing like fishing.

I know this to be true on more than one level. Most of all, I would like to think I’m an evolved enough person to understand how this sort of thinking leads to the objectification of people, or perhaps the fishification of people. And that level leads directly to the second level. For fishing to be like dating, some of the fish would have to want to be caught and I’ve never observed that to be true.

But it still feels like fishing is an outstanding metaphor at least for the process that leads to dating.

And that’s why I love this quote from Chuck Klosterman’s novel “Downtown Owl.” If you haven’t read the book, here’s a little context for you. Julia, who was never the most or least attractive girl in her group of friends, suddenly finds herself teaching in a small North Dakota town called Owl, where she has suddenly become the object of desire for every single man in town.

“If Julia didn’t like you, no one could ever say ‘Well, there’s a lot of other fish in the sea.’ There was one fish, and it lived in a lake with no tributaries, and all the competing villagers read Field & Stream with extreme prejudice.”

I live in a town where this phenomenon sometimes seems as true as it is in the fictional town of Owl, never mind that the town where I live is 100 times bigger than Owl.

If there’s one way that fishing is metaphorical for dating, it’s the most obvious way. If you attempt to fish in a pond where there are no fish, or if you go fishing at the wrong time of day, or if the wind is blowing from the wrong direction (the east, I believe), then you won’t catch any fish. But every now and then you’ll find a pond that does have fish in it and it’s the right time of day and the wind is blowing from the right direction (the west, I think).

And then there’s my own metaphor I’ve adopted for my own personal attempts at dating — fly fishing. Because it seems to me that fly fishing is all about the perfection of the technique. I can see myself standing in a river practicing casting the fly rod so that the fly just touched the surface of the water. I would never expect this to lead to catching a fish and I would be surprised as hell if I ever caught one. See how that works?

It should be noted that I almost never go fishing, even though I thoroughly enjoy fishing. But I still feel as if I know way more about fishing than I know about dating.

photo by Matt Hayes.


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