"Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?"
I asked my date as I watched the grease drip off my pizza, like the sweat from my palms.
I was nervous. I've never been good at science. And now here I was treating a date like a science experiment, Psychologist Arthur Aron's 36 Question Love Experiment, to be precise, that you can try too.
You may have heard of Aron's test. It gained attention recently when New York Times author Mandy Len Catron wrote about it after applying it to a date in her article "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This." It seemed to work for her; she wrote she is now in love with her date, saying that love is an action and she's in love because "we each made that choice to be."
Love as a science experiment does make sense. Isn't that what dating is essentially? An experiment to see if you (the control) and your date (the variable) are compatible? You test this compatibility through different settings: dates alone, dates with friends, dates to Ikea, and eventually the meeting your parents. You hypothesize the future of the relationship over monthly catch-ups with your close friends: "Jake is great. But I don't think it'll last much longer. He still seems pretty hung up on his ex," you'll confess to your friend Emily over a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
Aron's study took place over 20 years ago in a lab, when a straight couple of strangers sat face to face as they took turns answering increasingly personal questions (like how do you imagine you'll die), followed by a silent four-minute-long staring contest. The result of this experiment? Six months later, the couple was married and the whole lab was invited.
Aron's study took place sober in a laboratory; about 20 years later, the New York Times writer (Catron) tried this experiment buzzed at a bar in Vancouver. My test took place sober (me) and tipsy (him) in downtown Los Angeles on a second date. It was about a week ago, the air was brisk, as we faced each other in a pizza shop, followed by a staring contest in his Prius. Passersby probably thought we were doing a drug deal, as this was downtown.
I did not fall in love. If anything, I fell out of lust. Here are the flaws I found with this experiment:
Aron's Test Took Place Over 20 Years Ago
Twenty years ago, as in around 1995; as in before widespread Internet and cellphones. Before dating apps and the ability to do an at-home background check with the click of a Google search. If this study took place today, I'm pretty sure the woman would've been over it after finding that his recent profile pictures feature what looks like an ex. Or the man would've found that her Instagram has too many selfies, concluded she was a narcissist, and then swiped himself to sleep on Tinder. We are living in the age of TMI and endless possibility. So if the possibilities are endless, why should we settle?
Los Angeles Is a Terrible Romantic Backdrop
Traffic. Gyms where 87 percent of the people are better looking than you. Traffic. Parking. Paying for parking. Parking tickets. The city often feels dead, like a messy house the morning after a party. Sure, traces of a good time remain, but now it's just you, and all these empty PBR cans you have to pretend you will recycle. What I'm saying is there's a reason so few romantic movies are set in Los Angeles.
This Study Is a Great Way to Expose Red Flags
This experiment, which essentially tests if "given a few commonalities, you could fall in love with anyone," could also backfire, fast forwarding the exposure of differences and nonnegotiables that you typically wouldn't uncover until a few more dates, like he's actually older than he says he is, he has a drinking problem, he will never be your boyfriend. But then that also goes back to Catron's point. She and her date both chose to fall in love. Love is being on the same page. So perhaps this 36-question test should be applied to all first dates. Sure, it takes two hours. But I'd rather spend two hours of my life figuring out someone is wrong for me now than two years later.
This Test Hits Women Harder Than Men
The New York Times piece was written from the perspective of a woman but never really featured what her date thought about all of this. As a girl, when I initially did this test, I fell for my date. I saw him in a different light. A majority of the questions make both parties vulnerable, talking about your likes, dislikes, fears, dreams, what you like about each other, your relationship with your parents. So is vulnerability a factor of love? The journey of questions almost bonds you, like a camping or ecstasy trip. But once the dust settles, and you take a step back, once you are sobered from the experience, you may be over it.
Is Falling in Love Essentially Falling For Yourself?
You know how they always say "you have to love yourself before you can truly love someone else"? Well this test kind of does that. After all, you talk about yourself for at least an hour, including spending four minutes telling your life story, which for two comedians who love talking about themselves isn't nearly enough time. I'll be honest; I wasn't 100 percent listening to my date. As he answered most of these questions first, I spent a lot of the time thinking about what I would say next.
Prolonged Eye Contact Is Terrifying
When was the last time you stared into someone's eyes for four minutes straight? Those four minutes drag by slower than your four-minute life story. Eyes are the portal to your soul or something. Looking into someone else's eyes is scary, especially in our world where we're always hiding behind the screen of our phone. Staring into someone's eyes makes you put your guard down, in an almost hypnotizing way.
In conclusion, I prefer to make love an experience over an experiment and I'm probably dead inside.