You might have seen it going round the internet – “the 36 questions that can make you fall in love with anyone”. Yes, apparently there’s a simple way to finding true love: interviewing a stranger. Apparently answering these questions force you to be vulnerable and intimate, which is just what a romantic relationship needs. The questions range from bland (“Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?”), personal (“What is your most terrible memory?”), to… well a bit weird, really (“If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?”).
It all sounds a bit spurious, but the internet will tell you it’s all based in science. Psychologist Arthur Aron did an experiment way back in 1997, in a report catchily titled ‘The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness’. His experiment was having 52 pairs of male and female strangers, and 19 pairs of female strangers, sit in a lab and ask each other these 36 questions. Six months later two of them got married. At least they have an unusual story to tell their grandchildren.
Yes, I know. About twenty years ago two people out of 142 fell in love after having an hour-long conversation. It’s not all that convincing. But in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and because Venue was sending me on a blind date anyway, I thought I’d take the 36 questions along to my date with Freddie and give it a go. Spoiler alert: we didn’t fall in love.
Now that I’ve tried them out, I think a more accurate description of the questions would be “36 questions to help you get to know someone” or “36 questions for when you can’t think of anything else to say”. They were definitely a conversation starter, and some of them were easier to talk about than others (everyone has an embarrassing story to share, but not everyone has a secret hunch about how they’re going to die), and at the end of the date I definitely felt like we’d had a good chat.
It was nice getting to know Freddie, and if anyone asked what he’s like I’d say he was a really nice person. Because, ladies, he genuinely is! He’s funny and clever and positive. But I have more chemistry with Concrete’s Deputy Editor Peter Sheehan, or a massive bar of Dairy Milk. And that’s the thing about falling in love – you have to have some kind of “spark” there. If you don’t then you’ll just be friends, no matter what questions you ask each other. And that’s great, I love friends. We could all do with more friends.
I think this experiment has come out as a success for friendship, not romance. If you spend a bit of time getting to know someone then you might find you get on pretty well. It could be the start of a beautiful friendship. So maybe that’s what we should be doing this Valentine’s Day. Instead of trying to find “The One” (or just Johnny Depp), maybe we should just make an effort to talk to someone we don’t know all that well, or someone we do. I’d rather have a new friend than another guy who’s going to leave his pants at my house and ditch me by text.