Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Accelerated intimacy: Can 36 questions make people fall in love?"

Jul. 7, 2017 "Accelerated intimacy: Can 36 questions make people fall in love?": Today I found this article by Zosia Bielski in the Globe and Mail:  

It’s been two years since Mandy Len Catron, a sessional lecturer in English and creative writing at the University of British Columbia, offered the world a tempting experiment to “fall in love with anyone.”

In a staggeringly popular New York Times Modern Love essay, Catron described a date on which she and an acquaintance, Mark, spent hours on a questionnaire designed to “accelerate intimacy.” The 36 questions start out innocuously enough (“Would you like to be famous?”) but rapidly move to the highly personal (“When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?”).

Catron and Mark topped off that intense mind game by staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes on Vancouver’s Granville Street Bridge. The entire evening was modelled after a lab study intended to manufacture love, designed by American husbandand-wife psychologists Arthur and Elaine Aron. The electrifying experience (and a few beers) left Catron woozy. The couple started dating seriously soon after.

In her new book, How to Fall in Love with Anyone, Catron plays witness to just how high her story got the lovelorn masses. People started laying the questions on their Tinder dates and on their spouses in hopes they could ignite or rekindle attraction with a handy formula.

What Catron offers in her book is more of a tempered tale. Blending interviews, pop cultural narratives, insights from neurochemistry and an economic history of marriage, she deftly mines our myths about partnering up – such as that it isn’t often privately very messy.

The book also reveals Catron as a woman who is unabashedly invested in her love life and determined to be its architect, first corralling a relationship with that quiz and later with a “contract” that spells out everything from recycling duties to splitting the bills to sex, somehow. “[It] gave us a sense of control over the process of merging our lives,” Catron explained.

The author spoke with The Globe and Mail from Vancouver.

You are not a fan of oversimplified fairy tales about love. Then your essay about 36 loveinducing questions goes viral and becomes a modern romantic fairy tale itself. How did that feel?

The irony felt so crazy. It was weird watching the story circulate as people wrote about my relationship in the newspaper and talked about it on a podcast. People get the details wrong all the time. They said that by the end of that night, we’d fallen in love. We didn’t actually start a serious relationship until months later.

I’d been thinking critically about love stories for so long, so it was interesting to be on the other side, where I could see the ways in which people took my story and turned it into what they wanted it to be. It felt like a case study that I was now in the middle of.

Why did the idea of a ready-made formula for falling in love appeal to people the way it did?

Most people want to feel a deep, intimate connection with another person where they are totally understood. Today, especially in the era of online dating, the pool of potential partners who could be a good fit is huge.

The tradeoff is very superficial interactions with many people over a short period of time.

Part of the popularity of these 36 questions is that they offered an alternative, a way to deeply connect with just one person. It’s a way into intimacy that feels safe. It’s scary to say to someone you’ve just met, “Let me tell you about my relationship with my mother.” The questions provide a mechanism for doing that. All you have to say is, “I read about this cool study. Do you want to try it?”

Beyond the dating cohort, what’s the appeal of this questionnaire for people in long term relationships?

I’ve talked to lots of friends and strangers who have done it with someone they’ve been married to for a long time or in a relationship with for years. It’s a way to pause and connect.

The questions are so specific that people do learn something about their partners or about themselves. When I did it, I was surprised by some of my own answers sometimes.

You said the biggest lure of this experiment is that it allows people “to be seen.” What did you mean by that?

Sporadically, the questions prompt you to compliment your partner. You’re not just looking inward and talking about yourself the whole time. You’re bothering to notice your partner and to explicitly articulate thoughtful things that you like about them. Hearing my partner say specific things was the best feeling. You’re seeing someone notice you. This isn’t something we bother to do with our friends or the people we love. It feels so good.

This is especially interesting when you’re doing this with someone you’ve just met.

Originally, researchers dubbed these questions the “fast friend protocol.” They used it to create closeness. It seems to consistently work among all different kinds of groups.

Suggesting, as you do, that people could “fall in love and be relatively happy with a significant number of people,” this is an optimistic and humanizing outlook. It tosses out the soulmate idea and recognizes that more than one good person is out there.

It’s just wild to think that in the 7.5 billion people on the planet, there’s one person and your job is to find him or her. It’s much more freeing to think, “I could be happy with any number of people. I want to find someone whose company I enjoy and who is kind.” That certainly opens the possibilities, which is kind of a relief.

A theme that reoccurs in your book is uncertainty. You find it “audacious,” “irrational” and somewhat alien when people marrying seem so sure of their lifelong love. What’s the problem with certainty?

The narrative goes that you’re dating, you find someone, you enter into an exclusive relationship and at some point it’s going to dawn on you in this unwavering, confident kind of way that “this is the one.”

The problem with that thinking is it implies that the work of romantic love ends there.

Obviously, the reality is quite different. There aren’t a lot of narratives that tell us what to do after we’ve found a partner. People aren’t equipped to deal with it because we don’t talk about it very often.

I wonder how many people actually feel certain. Even those who do, that certainty comes and goes.

You propose we expand our rigid romantic definitions by looking at less conventional love stories, such as happily divorced couples parenting together, gay men fostering a family member’s child, partners living apart or going polyamorous. Why do you think those stories are so relevant?

The script for love is so narrow. It tells us what we should want from love and we tend to take on those desires as if they are our own. The problem with the script is that makes it difficult to think about what it is you actually want. And so whenever we go off the script we tend to feel a lot of anxiety, like we’re failing.

One way to open your sense of what’s possible in love is to consume more diverse stories – to see the many ways love can play out in people’s lives. People can be quite happy with experiences that fall on the margins of the script and way outside of it. Reading these stories I get to figure out the kind of relationship I want with my partner, rather than falling to the predetermined path.

This isn’t a self-help book. Your only advice for “making love last” is generosity: “Be good to the person you’ve chosen.”

The way I’ve come to think of it after doing all this research is that really, my job in my relationship is to be kind to the person that I love. If I can’t be kind to that person, then I shouldn’t be in that relationship. It’s a good starting point for thinking through what a relationship could be, what we might look for in a partner and how we might decide when to leave, if you can’t be kind or if someone isn’t kind to us.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Jul. 27, 2017 "Sifting through romantic mythology": Today I found this article by Katherine Laidlaw in the Globe and Mail:

Mandy Len Catron offers a touching guide for those trying to find their way in love and life

In Mandy Len Catron’s 2015 Modern Love essay, To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This, she resurrects a dated rubric for creating intimacy.

The closest humankind has come to manufacturing love in a lab is a list of questions developed by American husband-and-wife psychiatry team Arthur and Elaine Aron.

“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?” one of the 36 questions reads.

In Catron’s essay, which became one of the most-read New York Times pieces of the year, she takes us through a dreamy first date. It begins sitting across from a man in a bar and ends staring into his eyes for four minutes on a Vancouver bridge, as the questionnaire dictates.

It’s a delightful conceit, the idea that you could expose your deepest wishes to a virtual stranger and, two hours or so later, emerge with love, that most elusive of feelings.

Catron’s essay makes an appearance at the end of her debut collection, How to Fall in Love with Anyone. Before that, though, she returns to her beginning. The memoir-in-essays is Catron’s attempt to reconcile the endings of two formative relationships in her life – her own, which lasted 10 years, and her parents’, which lasted 28.

As each unravels, she searches for clues in the lore that makes up her family history, looking for scripts that have influenced her own ideals about love. She takes us back to a coal camp in Appalachia in 1944, where her 15-yearold grandmother marries her 31year-old grandfather to better their economic circumstances. She unearths some complicated truths about her parents’ marriage that make her realize it wasn’t the wonderland she saw through her childhood eyes.

Catron’s essays offer a touching guide for those trying to find their way, especially in love and life’s early stages. Her own formative relationship starts with a man vacillating between two women in different cities, refusing to choose or commit – for more than a year.

She sticks it out, and later explains that she wasn’t sure if or when she was allowed to ask for what she wanted. I was immediately reminded of my 20-year-old self, yearning but not knowing how to articulate that I wanted clearer bounds.

It’s difficult to capture ambivalence and Catron, a professor at the University of British Columbia, does it deftly. The decision about whether or not to break up with said man 10 years on weighs heavily on her and on us. And there are tender moments in Catron’s prose.

The way she describes her long-time boyfriend in the relationship’s nascent stages is lovely, that feeling that you’ve discovered some new way to breathe by watching another person complete the most menial of tasks: “That’s how I fell in love with him in college, when we slept belly to back, my nose tucked against his neck, when the daytime was just a placeholder for the night.”

But, further on, as she moves away from the distinctly personal, she wonders whether or not our reliance on fairy tales in pop culture makes us better. I’d argue no, and she does too, outlining a number of attachment theories and happiness studies from which we can draw advice and bust up our own myths about long-term monogamous devotion to one person.

Love doesn’t always strike like a thunderbolt, Cupid and psyche-style. Still, I had trouble with the premise uniting these pieces. Most of the lovers I know have let their fairy tales fall away long ago.

Now, they talk about the benefits of monogamy versus open relationships; the cresting and breaking of desire; the efficacy of marriage in an era where women don’t need it; the would-be mothers who are racing against time.

Catron touches on these themes, but I was left wanting more. That the takeaway of her lyrical exploration of her grandmother’s marriage was that Catron has choice where her grandmother did not felt soft. She analyzes Sixteen Candles and Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, contrasting them with the narratives that make up her own romantic mythology to conclude that real love stories are so much messier than our fairy tales allow. But we knew that, didn’t we?

I can’t help but wonder if the book is missing a coda, one final essay that addresses not how to fall in love with someone but how love endures. Falling in love is easy – it’s staying there that’s hard, and, now in my 30s, it’s that conundrum that keeps me up at night.

Proving Catron’s ultimate point, I wanted a happy ending, a formula or at least some reassurance, but there was none. People leave. Love fades or, worse, flames out. Reading these pieces left me with a deep, unshakeable anxiety because I know that what Catron says about how unlikely our modern expectations of relationships are is true, but, like so many, my heart keeps on shouting louder than my brain does.

The longer I stewed about it, the more I considered that maybe Catron’s closing advice is simple because it’s all we know for sure: Be kind to each other, as kind as you can be. The rest – attraction, chemistry, timing, circumstance – just isn’t up to you.

My week:

Dec. 26. 2017 "Is it too late to say sorry?": Today I found this article by Emily
Yahr in the Edmonton Journal.  I tried to copy and paste the article, but I couldn't access it.  It's about celebs apologizing for things they said and did, that don't have anything to do with harassment.

Lorde: talking about Taylor Swift and their friendship.  "There are certain things you can't do together."  Lorde apologizes.

My opinion: I accept her apology, but that's what friends do with the activities.

Jessica: I asked her if she wanted to go to K-days with me and she didn't like amusement parks.

Sonia: I asked her if she wanted to see a scary movie with me, but she didn't like scary movies.

Josh Groban: He made a light fun joke about Mariah Carey's disastrous lip-syncing incident.  I only saw a bit of him on Oprah and Glee.  He said: "Deleted my tweets about a certain performance because it was made in humor but taken way more meanly than intended.  Not out to diss artists."

My opinion: I accept his apology.  Also Carey is a public person and I bet a lot of people other than Groban dissed her.  Carey's fans did support her.

Lucy Hale: She Instagramed "Ugh, I was so fat."  Then apologized "I know people look up to me and I should be way more aware of what I say sometimes."

My opinion: I accept her apology.  However, she was dissing herself and not anyone else.

Penn Juliette (magician): said "I'm probably from Newfoundland, which is just a euphemism for stupid."  Canadians were offended.

Penn: "I was setting up a bit we didn't get to.  I failed and I'm sorry.  I'm an idiot."

My opinion: I accept your apology.  However, what was the punchline? 

My opinion: This article really stood out to me, because it reminded of the time I thought I made a light and fun joke about one of my friend's interests.  She was offended.  I apologized to her twice.

Dec. 28, 2017 Immigrant family story: I was talking to the cook R and he's from Bangladesh.  He said his mother-in-law is finally able to permanently stay in Canada after she's been trying to immigrate here since 2009.

He asked for 2 passes to get into the Waterpark at WEM.  All the workers get 3 passes a month.  He wanted 2 more so he and all his family could go there so I gave it to him.

I hope all of you are grateful for your family.  

Or at least that you're in Canada.

Don't be jealous: So my boss C told me about a time she had a driver's test.  

C: The teacher seemed jealous of me having a nice car when we were doing the test.  He asked me "Is this really you car?"  
She did pass the 2nd time.

C (paraphrase): People should not be jealous of other people.  They should focus on themselves.

Eye clinic job interview: I did an interview last week.


1. It was part-time.  3 days with the possibility of more.

2. The pay was fine.  There is the benefits of monthly bonus of selling the monthly eye glasses.

3. I can do the job of answering phones, pre-testing, cleaning.

4. It was a small office.  4 people worked there.


1. This is a mild con.  It was far away with 1 bus and an LRT.  It was a little walk to get there.  1 hr.

My opinion: I would work there if I got hired.

On an unrelated note, the woman who interviewed me was like the East Indian version of Mayim Bialik (Amy from The Big Bang Theory).

A couple's fight goes viral: It's not a video, it is someone tweeting a couple arguing:

Couple beside me at the airport is arguing over money. He just told her if she loved him she’d turn down the promotion bc everyone would know she’d be making more money than him and he’d be humiliated. Holy shit is that really still a thing? wtf

omg she’s crying and said she’d never do anything to jeopardize their relationship and he’s like “good then turn down the job” and I just want to punch him

OMG SHE WIPED HER TEARS & SAID “kids? who said anything about me ever wanting kids?!”

He’s rage texting now. RAGE TEXTING LOL. Good for her but now the airport is boring again. 😉

Dear Brave Airport Lady, if you ever see this, just know that although I’m sorry you went through this (esp during the holidays), I hope that, one day, you look back on this as a defining moment in your life. Never settle. Follow your heart. You are a goddess. ❤️

21 things your partner should never ask you to: It's fast and easy read.  1 line and picture with it.  A lot of things you can apply to friends or family members.

Meditation: I have been listening to guided meditations on the internet:

Christy Whitman:

Telus on Demand: There is a "Healthy Living" section of guided mediations that are like 12 min. long that I listen to.

Post Secret: I found this on Dec. 9, 2017 "I've spent more time downloading meditation apps than I have meditating."

Quantum Success Show: This is from Christy Whitman.

"Overcoming Holiday Blues" ep.  It's 5 min. and it's positive.  You don't have to watch it, but you can listen to it while checking your emails or surfing the internet.

I listen to a lot of telesummits while I'm looking for a job on the internet. 

Jan. 3, 2017 The highlight of the week: I worked the holiday season and it was busy, but manageable.

Also, my old boss A from the home installation place came to my restaurant on Christmas Day.  We talked a bit, and she messaged me later on Facebook.  I emailed her one of my weekly emails like the 2016 fall TV season email. 

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