By now you may have heard about this article that was published in the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column a few weeks ago. In the piece, the author recounts her date with an acquaintance, and details how completing these 36 questions, from a study by Dr. Arthur Aron, can supposedly cause a couple to fall in love (it worked for the author!). Let me state here and now that if you are single and try this with a date, I want to know about it — regardless of results!
My friend Hallie emailed the article to me soon after it came out, and encouraged a bunch of us to try answering the questions on our blogs. Of course I had to bite (I’m a glutton for punishment, apparently). I think what makes the questionnaire effective amongst would-be couples isn’t any magic formula, it’s that the questions allow for (and perhaps force) vulnerability. This being the Internet, and me having some boundaries, I’m not going to answer all the questions, and some I can’t answer in great detail for privacy’s sake, but I’ll do my best to fill you in. You can play too, in the comments, if you’d like — just pick any question(s) that resonates (you can view the full set here). I’d love to hear your response!
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? Probably a comedian — someone who would be super sharp and observant and make everybody laugh the whole time. Like a Chris Rock or a Tina Fey or a Louis C.K. Nothing can make people enjoy an evening more than sharing a lot of laughs together. And it instantly makes you feel really, really good.
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way? Aww, hell naw. I value my privacy too much, and I
feel like know it would bring out all the most anxiety-ridden, under-confident, worrisome parts of me.
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why? I mean, depending on the nature of the call, who doesn’t? If you’re making an important business call, it makes sense to have talking points so you don’t sound like a moron, or forget to ask about something pressing. Even if I’m calling a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while, I won’t rehearse what I’m saying, but I think subconsciously I remind myself to ask them about the status of this or an update on that, or to tell them a story I know they’ll appreciate.
4. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else? To myself: Last week while at work, with my headphones on. To someone else: Lucy, probably some time over the weekend. I sing all types of little songs and lullabies to her.
5. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? Not really a hunch or premonition, but I definitely have those “Ugh, I hope I don’t die like this” fears and the “Man, I hope I go like this!” thoughts. I think everyone does, right?
6. For what in your life do you feel most grateful? Resilience.
7. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? This is a very tough question. There were normal parts to my childhood, and many unique/difficult parts to it as well. As much as I look back and sometimes wish this or that was different, I ultimately wouldn’t be who I am today — the good parts and the bad — and I accept that and am okay with it.
8. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible. We would need way more than four minutes. Trust.
9. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? To sing really well, and also be able to pick up any instrument and immediately create music with it. I’m reasonably good with languages, but waking up tomorrow and speaking five of them fluently would be awesome.
10. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know? Nothing. I don’t want to know about anything that happens beforehand, good or bad. Believe me when I say, I have had more than enough surprises for one lifetime! But hm, maybe I’d ask the crystal ball random shit about the nature of the universe. That’d be kind of interesting to know.
11. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it? Yes! See this post. Why haven’t we done it? Money (obvs) and for now, geographic location.
12. What do you value most in a friendship? Empathy, a willingness to be vulnerable, and being easy going.
13. What is your most treasured memory? It is really hard to narrow down a single memory. Like most people, I think I have treasured memories for various times in my life, and with different people, for different reasons. With Joe, it is probably sitting outside at a winery many years ago, with no one around, talking about how we saw our lives historically and how we wanted our lives to be, together. With my family, probably the Christmases we shared when I was a little girl. I really treasure summer’s at my grandmother’s home, camping trips (and summer camp!) in the Texas hill country, and vacations I took that made me see the world differently.
14. What is your most terrible memory? My father was ill from the time I was about 8 years old until he died two weeks before my 10th birthday. I was old enough that I remember many things in the years he was sick, and obviously everything thereafter. This sounds really depressing and I’m not intentionally trying to bum anyone out or sound dramatic, but there were so many terrible memories from that time onward that I couldn’t even list just one. I suppose that was true too with the question above, but, well…I’m sure you agree that listing the treasured memories is more pleasant.
15. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why? If I found out, like, today? I would immediately leave New York, for sure. Here’s something interesting that happened by taking this questionnaire: My initial instinct was to say I would travel a lot, but when I thought about it, I don’t think I would. The whole travel-before-dying thing is meant to bring enlightenment and perspective to someone, but I think I would better face the realities of my situation at home. I wouldn’t feel like I had to see particular places in the world in order to feel like I’d experienced life; instead, I think I would prefer creating an ideal home situation in a beautiful place that meant something to me, and staying with the people and things I treasured the most. I’d want to spend the year with friends and family. On an interpersonal level, I don’t think I would really change anything, except to make a concerted effort to tell my tribe how much I loved them and how much they meant to me.
16. What does friendship mean to you? You know, it’s interesting, I’m still figuring this out. For a very, very large part of my life, I had a difficult time being completely vulnerable with people, and letting others into my life uninhibitedly, without emotional hesitation. It has only been in the last 2-3 years or so that I have changed this. So in some ways, I’m still figuring this out, especially since I think the nature of friendship (and one’s needs) changes as major life events happen (marriage, kids, career, moving, etc). But I do know that everything listed in #12 above is absolutely true for me at this moment.
17. What roles do love and affection play in your life? I’m always down for a good snuggle.
18. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life. All of 6th and 7th grade was kind of an embarrassment, but it’s all good now.
19. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself? In front of another person: last night. By myself: in the shower two weeks ago.
20. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about? I don’t think anything, because humor is always subjective, experiential, and contextual. That’s definitely not to say there aren’t jokes that would offend me personally, but yeah — just because something offends me doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be joked about by anyone, ever.
21. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet? I know the answer to this but can’t really share it publicly. But I will tell you — in case you can relate — that it weighs heavy on me, and along with the whole friendship thing above, I make strides every day to get to a place where I could have the conversation I envision.
22. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why? One item is really, really hard. The thing that always immediately comes to mind is a photograph of my mother and father that I’ve had forever. I’d also try to grab those meaningful knick knacks given to me by family!
And because I can’t end this thing on such a downer note, you have to read this humorous response to the NYT article and question set from The New Yorker. Probably more accurate in some ways! ;)
Hope you enjoyed reading my responses. I’m telling you, the memoir will be really good some day!