Well in to my eighth-grade year, I became obsessed with the film “Titanic. Not because of the special effects or Oscar-worthy acting on the part of Kate Winslet and ‘90s heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio, but because until that point I had never seen a love story so devastatingly tragic as that between Jack and Rose.
I sat curled up in a ball in my bedroom the length of Thanksgiving break, memorizing every word and reciting it back to myself. My parents grew concerned for my well-being, and rightfully so.
It wasn’t until I had played the tape so many times that it became permanently lodged in my television’s built-in VHS player that I knew my fixation had grown to be borderline psychopathic.
Seven years later, not much has changed. My bedroom walls are still adorned with pictures of movie couples staring lovingly into each others’ eyes and I’m still a sucker for a love story that ends with one half of the couple dying or losing their memory. It’s my cross to bear.
There is something to be said for love that is lost as quickly as it’s found – it’s heartbreakingly romantic. But even in the movies, love that begins and ends in as little as 24 hours is not only unrealistic, it’s setting suckers like me up for failure.
Last month, the New York Times ran a personal essay titled, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This.” The author, Mandy Len Catron, tested psychologist Arthur Aron’s theory that any two people can fall in love after answering a series of very personal questions and subsequently staring into each others’ eyes for four minutes.
Some of the questions were, “Would you want to be famous,” “What is your most terrible memory,” and “When did you last cry in front of another person” – all involving topics that should come up over the course of a first date or, if you’re lucky, by the second or third.
By the end of Catron’s testing of the love experiment with a co-worker, she came to the conclusion that strangers do have the capability to fall in love relatively quickly, but not necessarily at the hand of Aron’s test.
As someone who has yet to be in love, I thought long and hard about conducting the experiment myself, but realized the chance of finding a partner to agree to stare into my eyes for four minutes was highly unlikely. Not only that, but my negative feelings for the experiment would probably have thwarted any chance of it feeling natural, or as natural as possible in that kind of forced setting.
The idea that one night and a laundry list of questions can make two real-life people instantly crazy for each other is not only unreasonable, but completely boring, even in the eyes of a seasoned love-story veteran.
Part of the fun of falling in love with a person should be the conversations to get there. Learning your partner’s likes, dislikes, fears and goals is important – but more important are the experiences people gain to realize the significance of the relationship.
When I ran the idea of the experiment by my roommates, two of whom are in long-term relationships, they agreed that you have to be together and experience things in order to reach the point of falling for one another.
In any romantic relationship, they said they did not feel completely comfortable and attached after the first encounter. It took months before they had reached the closeness and intimacy that Aron promises and Catron said she experienced to a degree.
While it’s comforting to revel in the idea that anyone on the street could fall for you after a Q&A session and staring contest, it just isn’t possible for a love-story in the real world.
Aron’s experiment happened to work with the two random participants he selected, but, as Catron points out, love doesn’t just happen. It is something to work for. At the end of the four minutes of staring deeply into her partner’s eyes, Catron admits she felt strange, but love never crossed her mind – at least not until months down the road when the pair had gotten to know each other more intimately.
No one can predict how or when they will fall in love – not even me, a woman who has spent half her life day dreaming of moments that happen in movies. Drama and directors and scripts aside, people will fall in love or they won’t, and a test will not decide that.
Alexa Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org