Earlier last year the New York Times published that article claiming that two people can fall in love after asking each other 36 certain questions, and I have always wondered if it really works. I tried doing it with my ex when the quiz came out but we soon realized that we already knew too much about each other–he yawned after four questions: “What do you say we watch another episode of The Office?” Doing it with friends would be like giving them something to make fun of me for the rest of my life. “Remember that time you tried to make me fall in love with you but naaah?” Hitting up random strangers at a bar and convincing them to go over 36 questions with me sounds great in theory, except that I’m as charming as a rock and have the flirting skills of a drunken frat boy.
Then Michelle gave me this brilliant idea: “How about a Tinder guy?” Tinder has always been fun and games for me, but I never thought I’d meet the love of my life on Tinder. This is exactly why it’s perfect. I have nothing to lose.
After scanning hundreds of profiles with my homies, we chose, well I haven’t asked for the permission to put his name here yet so let’s call him Horsy McHorseface, for 3 reasons:
1. He had this as his profile picture. Ever since these horse masks came out, I knew I’d one day fall in love with one of their proud owners.
2. He’s Scottish. During my 3 weeks here, I have met plenty of Americans, Germans, Italians, Lithuanians, Indians but only 2 Scotsmen. It’s like Scottish people live in another Edinburgh. And you know the saying, when in Rome, date the shit out of the Romans.
3. He’s funny. If I was going to talk to someone for 3-4 hours, that person’d better be entertaining.
I’ve read that men’s biggest fear when it comes to online dating is that the girl turns out to be fat, so I just wanted to put it out there to see how he’d react. Later on, I asked him if me being overweight bothered him, he was nonchalant: “I didn’t know what 20 pounds overweight meant. We use kilograms in the UK, you know.”
I know nothing about McHorseface other than how he was supposed to look like. I didn’t stalk him on Facebook. I didn’t know where he went to school. I didn’t know what he did. I told him that there was something I wanted to try with him for 3-4 hours, though I didn’t tell him exactly what it was in case he prepped. In hindsight, though, I think this might have given him a very wrong idea.
When I told McHorseface about the quiz in person, he was confused.
“How long will you be in Edinburgh for?” He asked.
“So you know this is going to fail?”
I was stumped. I never thought of the outcome of the experiment. What if it works, then what?
McHorseface was an easy going lad. He was happy to do the questions, on the condition that if we ever get married it’d be a medium sized wedding. There are 3 sets questions, the next being more invasive. It took us more than 4 hours, a dinner and a few drinks to go over all of them. McHorseface was willing and consistent, I have to give him that. If it was left to myself, I might have never finished the quiz.
The first set was easy to do. It was like a silly “what if” game you play with your friends. “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” For me, it was easy. Hitler before he became Hitler, just so I could slip poison in his food. “That was nice meeting you,” McHorseface laughed, pretending to leave. When it was his turn, he named a musician whose name I had never heard of. That’s fine, he could just name another person. It was also another artist I had never heard of. Awkward. “British,” I thought to myself. “Why do you have to be so cultured?” The question “What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?” is fun. If you don’t mention sex then you’re either a prude or a liar. Questions like “name three things you and your partner appear to have in common” can be made as fun as you’d like them to be. We are both trying to impress the other person. We are both not yet dead. We finished the first set of questions in 49 minutes with some good laughs. We didn’t fall in love yet, but we were no longer staring at each other in awkward silence. I’d call that a success.
Before we started the second set of questions, I reminded McHorseface that he had the right to stop this anytime he wanted. “No, I like it,” he said. The second set was harder. More than half of them I would never have answered under different circumstances. “Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?” Shh, I made a list of 6 things I want in my life and I have never shared it with anyone. “What is your most terrible memory?” I thought of my most terrible memory and I knew if I had dwelt on it a bit longer, I would have cried. Again, McHorseface was willing and open. “Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.” was an interesting one. “You go first,” I told McHorseface. “This should be easy for you since I have plenty of positive characteristics.” He laughed. Question 21: “What roles do love and affection play in your life?” I kept finding myself glance at the question again and again. “Don’t you dare trying to look for a loophole,” McHorseface knew what’s up. “Just answer the bloody question.” It took us more than an hour to answer the second set. After that, we had to take a break.
Answering those questions was like soul searching. I could feel a psychological force at work. To share a part of yourself with someone, you must have convinced yourself that the other person is worth sharing it with. I started seeing the man sitting in front of me in another light. His openness impressed me. Coming from a Silicon Valley where everyone we meet seems to have an ulterior motive, this heart-to-heart conversation was refreshing.
The third set was mostly about reflecting on what you perceive of the other person. One question asks you to make three true “we” statements that apply to both of us. Another asks us: “If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.” The question asks you to consider “become a close friend”with the other person, not “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. Friendship is less intimidating than relationship, and this question makes us unconsciously consider bringing the other person into our lives. This set has two questions that ask you to tell your partner something you like about them. It was obvious emotional manipulation–it makes you focus on the positive traits of your partner and at the same time it’s flattering. We like to be around people who make us feel good about ourselves, don’t we? We enjoyed the answers nonetheless. To him, I was funny, interesting, brazen and attractive. To me, he was funny, interesting, Scottish and willing to go on a date with me. We had a great time, but by the end of the third set, I was pretty much done. From the look on McHorseface’s face, I knew he was done too. We had been talking nonstop for 4 hours. When the last question came: “Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it”, McHorseface stood up: “My problem is that I need to pee.” I didn’t even remember what my answer for this question was, I was just done with the quiz and wanted to get to know him my own way.
The most important question is: did I fall in love? I’m not a believer of one true, big, eternal love. I believe in loving moments. And for a moment there when we sat inches away from each other, our hearts laid bare, our eyes met, and we laughed at his childhood on a treeless island with his beloved grandfather and that goat hoofing around in their kitchen, I felt that it was a special moment. But was it love? This quiz is like hypnosis. It only works on you if you want it to. Sometimes, being in love is a choice we make. And, when you know you will soon be on two different continents, it’s a choice easy to make.
However, one important thing this exercise did to me was that it made me realize what I wanted in a relationship. It made me take a hard look on all the relationships I have had and what is missing in my current relationship. I learned not only about McHorseface, but more about myself. It was a good and fun exercise overall. I’m glad I did it. And I hope McHorseface is glad he did it too.