Thursday, February 25:
Well, it’s all settled. On Saturday afternoon I’m going to meet a girl I don’t know with the intention of falling in love over the course of 3 hours. Yikes.
Next week is the Rival’s “Sex Week”, and I was all set to write about how the relationships we have in high school affect the relationships we try to have in college. I even made the bold play of asking my ex-girlfriend to talk to me over Skype about our relationship. She actually did say yes… before changing her mind (in hindsight.. thank god). But there I was, without an idea as my deadline loomed.
Enter the New York Times Modern Love essay “37: Big Wedding or Small”. This quiz, which went fairly viral last spring, gives a set of 36 questions that, when answered truthfully, supposedly make you “fall in love”. The quiz is not based on a “love algorithm” or anything like that, but is instead based on an idea of mutual vulnerability. Jessie had been trying to get some Rival writers to do this for a while, eventually ending up with the potential pairing of Nick Younger, one of my best friends, and myself. We were eager to see if this quiz could take us from best friends to “hetero life mates”.
But, upon further reflection, Jessie and I decided that we could actually make this a real social experiment within the context of Duke relationships. She decided that she was going to find me the perfect girl to take this quiz with, and we would magically fall in love. Great, right? But here’s the rub. Neither of us have any idea who we’re doing this with.
Anyway, where was I?
Ah. That’s right.
The way I see it, this could end a few different ways. Here they are, complete with odds, so that you can gamble on the likelihood of my lifelong happiness!
Absolutely Unrealistic Best Case Scenario:
Obviously, this is what you hope for. I meet this girl, who I (apparently) have never run into during my time at Duke, and by some stroke of divine intervention the quiz works. Suddenly, every instinct I have to write about Duke’s relationship scene and every girl I think I might want to ask on a date fly out of my head, and over the course of a random February afternoon I get a girlfriend. She’s also living in New York this summer, will be around all next year, and then bada-bing bada-boom eight years later we’ve got the cutest “how we met” story of all the couples at my family reunion. If this happens I will literally let Jessie name my first-born child.
Old Indian Culture Reversion Scenario:
The conversation and its fallout proceed to ruin my perception of modern love so badly that I ask for an arranged marriage. My grandparents are pleased.
Rom Com Movie Scenario:
Jessie bursts into the restaurant and confesses her love to me. This is convenient because she’d get to name my firstborn child anyway
Non Hetero-Normative Movie Scenario:
Nick bursts into the restaurant, confesses his love to me, and gets to name our firstborn child.
One Sided Nightmare Scenario:
After the “date” I fall in love, as I am known to do, and think that I’ve just been part of the best experiment ever. On the other hand, our mystery girl texts Jessie, “Remind me to never let you use me for an article again.” Jessie is forced to break the news to me via text, as the ensuing awkwardness is so terrible that Jessie thinks to herself,“I literally just can’t right now.” High potential to direct to “Old Indian Cultural Reversion Scenario”.
No, but in reality, I don’t really expect to fall in love. I mean, it’d be dope, don’t get me wrong. The romantic side of me is secretly hoping this is the girl of my dreams. It also would say something pretty interesting about love if I did end up with this girl… that love is just coincidental and a set of circumstances, not preordained by fate. Who knows though. I guess we’ll see on Saturday —
Saturday, February 27: Post “Date”.
So that was pretty cool.
Not only had I never met mystery girl, but I had never heard of her, which is unheard of in the Duke social bubble. Of course, she had never heard of me either. We really crushed the “strangers” thing.
I tried to keep the my attitude about the whole thing pretty light – when my friend asked me to get dinner tonight I told her, “I’m falling in love at 4, but after that I should be free”- but it didn’t change the fact that, as I outlined above, this had the potential to go SO badly.
Luckily, it didn’t.
While I don’t think that I “fell in love”, I definitely had one of the most interesting afternoons I’ve had in awhile. The list works, I can tell you that much. It compresses at least 4 dates worth of vulnerability into a few hours, and as I walked out of the 9th Street Coffee House, I felt pretty connected to this girl I had never met before.
The questions on the list cause you to be so vulnerable so quickly with someone that has no idea about your life beyond what you tell them. Some of the questions, like number 19, (If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?) require a level of introspection about your own life that allows your partner to explore the depths of your insecurities and dreams alongside you, rather than only being let in only to the extent that you’re comfortable. For example, when I answered that question, I was forced to dig beyond the stuff I tell employers about my future aspirations and come up with a year that even I didn’t know I wanted1.
After we had finished the questionnaire, mystery girl expressed to me her dismay at the lack of deep connections that people seem to miss while at Duke (and no, she had not read my article). While I have already written pretty extensively about the rationales behind loneliness and perpetual college singlehood, that actually wasn’t where my mind jumped post-questions. Instead, I thought back to the meaningful romantic connections I had (or thought I had) in the past, and how I sort of just recreated that feeling of emotional connection in a situation where there wasn’t really any drawn out source of direct romantic tension.
I guess that while the 36 questions experiment did not exactly replicate these more organic feelings from my past, it did do a good job simulating the kind of bond you make with people you’re in love with. I mean, these are the kinds of things you need to know in order to fall in love with someone, right? It is interesting though, that having a deeply emotional conversation with a cute girl didn’t have me giddy as a schoolgirl immediately afterwards.
Had I fallen for mystery girl, it might have suggested that love is extremely arbitrary, which is a perspective I still agree with despite not having fallen in love. It could be because my parents were semi-arranged, but I think that love occurs in the right situation with someone who has the right combination of character traits, not by fate and not because we are destined to be with one specific person. From my perspective, there’s a certain subset of the population that we are capable of falling in love with. I don’t think certain couples were destined to have dated, but they were probably among a subset of people with a certain set of qualities who happened to be in the right place at the right time and say the right things to find their significant other. If I had fallen in love with mystery girl, it could’ve been fated, but it also could’ve been that I happened to share a moment of total honesty and vulnerability with someone who lied within my “subset” of potential mates. I guess I figured that someone who I shared such a great afternoon with had to be in my subset. Maybe that’s why I was struggling to decide whether I was feeling a romantic connection or not. But then again, maybe if someone is in your subset you won’t have to struggle.
It seems that in my nervous state last week, I completely forgot one of the potential outcomes.
I don’t fall in love. I don’t die of awkwardness. Nick and Jessie don’t come bursting into the coffeehouse with heartfelt confessions. But I’m not disappointed, because I made a pretty great connection with a total stranger and learned some stuff about myself in the process. It’s still pretty great. and Jessie, if you keep setting up writing assignments like this maybe you’ll get to name my firstborn child after all. Just please keep in mind that “North Joshi” is off the table.
1. My answer? Quit school and try and do 4 things. Create something that is lasting and mine (make a full movie or write a book), finish traveling to all 7 continents, spend time with my family, and fall in love.↩