A couple of years ago, when Joanne “Jo” Hoch was spending the summer with her parents in Livingston, she confided in a friend of hers, telling him she’d never had a boyfriend.
They talked about that from time to time until one day he asked her, “Jo, why haven’t you had a boyfriend?”
“Which I, of course, laughed at,” Hoch said. “I said, ‘If I knew the answer to that question, I feel like I would have solved the problem by now.’ I told him that if he wanted to know the answer to that question, he would have to ask every guy I’ve liked.”
Last year, as she was wrapping up her college career at Oklahoma City University, she started thinking about those conversations again, and about the question her friend posed.
“For some reason, it just really stuck with me and I couldn’t shake that idea,” Hoch said. “And I suddenly started thinking, what if I did do that? What if I did contact all these guys?”
That was the genesis for a YouTube documentary series —”Why Didn’t You Date Me?” — that Hoch ended up deciding to make. This weekend, she is planning to release the first of nine episodes — a group interview with four boys from elementary school, followed by seven episodes of one-on-one conversations with boys from high school.
In the final episode, Hoch will present her own thoughts and conclusions, while bringing in one more boy from her past, “a secretive guy” that she decided to slip into the series “as a kind of surprise.” You can get the drift by watching the trailer she has already posted on her YouTube channel.
Hoch, 21, is a native of Billings and a 2014 graduate of Skyview High School. She graduated from college on May 5 with a degree in acting. She said she is doing this project partly as a means of personal growth — trying to figure out why she is the way she is — and partly to be entertaining. She considered doing this as a podcast, but she really likes YouTube and had already done a few short videos for her YouTube channel.
Hoch said she only talked to boys to whom she had made her feelings known, “or if our relationship was clearly not platonic, which I have been referring to as, ‘there was kissing.’ That’s how I narrowed down my field of men.”
She made contact with all the prospective interviewees this spring, then launched into a whirlwind series of filmed interviews as soon as she graduated in early May. First she drove from Oklahoma to Livingston to take all her belongings home, then flew a few days later to New York for 1½ days, and then on to Chicago for another couple of days of interviews. The rest of the boys were spread out around Montana, where she completed the interviews.
She said she started each conversation with the same question: “Why didn’t you date me?” but then branched out into more general aspects of romance and dating and culture, “things I’m curious about and things I think other people are curious about as well.”
With one boy she talked about “hookup culture,” in which people opt for “quick and easy” sexual trysts in hopes of avoiding tumultuous, emotional relationships.
“The thriving hookup culture is probably turning out a lot more single women, whether they want to be or not,” Hoch said.
As for her own lack of relationships, Hoch said she made one important discovery. “I learned how important communication is, and how lacking I am at communicating with guys.”
“I would say communication, communication, communication is key,” she said. “Especially today when we try to shortchange communication so much by just texting and virtual communication.”
She also learned that she has perhaps been failing to notice some important signals coming her way. While she was watching one of her filmed interviews with a boy from high school, she said, she couldn’t believe what she had missed in person.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back through the footage I was like, ‘Holy crap, he is just flirting with me this entire interview.’ … This is kind of part of my constant battle with guys. I don’t know what it is, but flirting happens on another plane for me, goes right over my head.”
She was also surprised to learn, from watching her interviews, that she was wrong in having considered herself someone who did not believe in romance.
“Through this project,” she said, “I had to realize that I am quite the little hopeless romantic.”
If anything, she said, she is too romantic, and has set her expectations too high.
“I blame it on being in the theater,” she said. “I feel like I’ve come to expect the sweeping emotions of musicals, or even the poeticism of Shakespeare. Now comes the battle of trying to become more realistic. I do definitely believe that people deserve sweeping romance, and that should be something to look forward to in life, but you kind of have to pair that with realism.”
Hoch has been encouraged by what she hears when she tells people about the project. Almost everyone has been enthusiastic, urging her to complete it. And she realized she is not alone.
“I heard from so many women who are around my age that I think are smart, cool, beautiful women, who also have had the exact same experience of being in their 20s and still never having had a boyfriend or been in a relationship,” Hoch said. “I think it’s much more common than people think it is, especially amongst us women who are at this age.”
Did she have any new feelings for any of the boys she interviewed?
“I did have a rule going into this,” she said. “I told myself it was very important that I did not fraternize with any of the guys. I told myself that until everything is edited, like, no dates, no kissing, no nothin’.”
How about later?
“I don’t know,” she said. “We’ll kind of see how it goes.”