After every date comes the inevitable “so, will there be another?” and of course I’m sitting there biting my nails trying to figure out what I know that I didn’t know before that might kill or perpetuate this relationship.
What did I learn, what did I learn? Um, he knows more about seals than I do, but I know more about penguins. He runs so he can eat. He isn’t crazy about sushi. We both like chai lattes. In other words: not much.
This, apparently, is a common problem among daters, which one Ariely fellow has dubbed “Bad equilibrium.” (Hat tip to College Student for the link.) This is the point where you discover that you like the guy and he likes you and you can just continue liking each other forever so long as you both continue to avoid anything that might drive a wedge between you… such as the “Yankees or Mets” question, or the “JIF vs Skippy” question, or the “filtered vs unfiltered internet” question, or, or, or…
Free choice may be the distinguishing trait of humanity, but Ariely says that in dating we totally lose the right to it. It’s only by removing our free will to discuss vanilla subjects that we can possibly be induced to make ourselves interesting. (Or the opposite.) He gave daters scripted questions to choose from (“Have you ever broken someone’s heart?” “What do you feel about abortion?”) and they produced deeper and more meaningful conversations (discussing innermost fears, etc.).
Okay, so I agree. At some point we need to move beyond “How many siblings do you have” without (dear God) ever crossing “If you were a piece of furniture, which one would it be?” But let’s face it. You can’t just up and ask your date “Have you ever broken someone’s heart?” Well, I mean you could, but unless you worked it into the conversation it would sound weird. Moreover, your date has to cooperate, instead of blowing it off with something like, “Of course. My little sister had this pencil with a plastic heart on top and I stepped on it accidentally. Boy was she upset.”
And this is the difference between an experimental dating procedure and Real Life.
Oh, there are other differences. It’s called Orthodox Jewish Hangups, aka Hashkafic Differences. In my experience, discussing something controversial early on is Numero Uno way to ensure no further dating. Trust the girl with the bad habit of playing devil’s advocate.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a devil’s advocate situation. I recall one conversation where my date and I discussed a theoretical childrearing situation that we disagreed on. Granted, there were hashkafic differences that were clarified, but they weren’t polarizing (at least, not from my POV), and anyway, we were discussing a situation that wouldn’t come up for about a decade (assuming we married immediately). That’s a lot of time for someone to shift positions.
Still, it was our last date.
But I’m not sure that guy is unusual. Heck, I’m not sure I don’t jump to conclusions from minor statements. It’s practically something we’re conditioned to do: read little signs like yarmulke position and music preferences and project from there a person’s entire religious weltanschauung.
Still, if the questions were carefully chosen to avoid religion, maybe…
Some date in the future:
Bad4: So, it’s our fourth date. We both like ice cream and flowers, which is why we’re eating king cones in Battery Park. Shall we step this up a bit?
Guy: Like how?
Bad4: [whipping out index cards] Pick a card, any card. No backsies.
Guy: [picks card] What was your most embarrassing moment of the month….? I think it’s about to happen.
Bad4: Sorry, but that’s borderline time travel paradox. Make that past month. If you’d like we can do ladies first.
Guy: Um… [Thinking: what a weirdo. How did we get this far? I’ll play along politely and we’ll go home after. Waste of the price of a king cone.]