Is falling in love an act of sanity, madness?
When Ed returned from London, he told me: “At the Ironwood airport, they weighed each of the passengers. The airplane was small, and the weight had to be evenly distributed so the airplane wouldn’t tilt in midair.
It was a single-engine Cessna with eight seats. There were only two women on the flight and no stewardess. I sat next to a Bob. I fell asleep to the hum of the propeller, and woke up in Chicago.
“The Chicago flight to Paris seemed promising, from a falling-in-love perspective. The airplane was packed with people, and I sat between two women. One was a nun. She wore a stern expression and looked straight ahead into eternity. The other looked lovely and when I started talking to her, she looked into my eyes and nodded. I told her about our bet, doc, and about the New York Times article “To Fall in Love, Do This,” that said that to fall in love with someone, anyone, all you should do is ask the right questions. ‘Would it be okay if I presented questions to you?’ I asked her, ‘We could, theoretically fall in love, wouldn’t it be wonderful?’ And she said: ‘Je ne parle pas anglais.’ A bird and a fish, doc, even if they wanted to fall in love, how could they?
“The lady who sat on my right side, from Paris to London, spoke fluent English and was willing to participate in the falling-in-love project. So I asked her a question from Arthur Aron’s falling-in-love experiment: ‘If you could invent a new flavor of ice cream, what would it be?’
She thought for a long moment. ‘Vanilla is my favorite flavor,’ she said, ‘it has always been my favorite, and always will be.’ And I immediately knew, doc, that she wasn’t the one with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
“In London, I did what tourists do: A walk along the Thames. A visit to Buckingham palace. A show at the theatre. Fish and chips wrapped in an old newspaper. On my last day there, I stood on a bench in Hyde Park and argued for Brexit; then moved to the other side of the park and argued for staying in the EU. Things like that.”
“What you are telling me, Ed,” I said, “is that I won the bet. You didn’t find love by asking a random woman a set of questions. It doesn’t surprise me at all. After all, Arthur Aron–the researcher who supposedly made two strangers fall in love in his laboratory–selected students from his own psychology class: couples who shared a common background, all of them students in a prestigious university, all of them interested in psychology. These weren’t random people, Ed, but people who were destined to fall of in love. Even Mandy Len Catron — the woman who wrote “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This” — even she admitted that she first fell in love with a man she found suitable and only then did she ask him Arthur Aron’s questions.”
“Speaking of destiny,” Ed continued, totally ignoring what I had said, “I didn’t fall in love–not on the flight back from London to Paris, nor on the flight from Paris to Chicago.” He then stopped, as he usually does, for suspense.
“So, I win, that’s my point,” I said.
“But, in the Chicago airport, as I was waiting for the flight to Ironwood, I saw Susan,” Ed said, “I asked her if she remembered me, and she replied that she didn’t. I told her that when I fell for her, I was a junior in high school, and she was a senior. And she said she still can’t remember. And I said that love has mysterious ways to join the lonely hearts. And she asked if I was a poet. And I said that wasn’t, but I knew one. And we burst out laughing. And as we were flying back to the UP in the good old Cessna, sitting next to each other, I told her about our bet and we asked each other the questions that Arthur Aron had composed and answered them honestly. And when we landed, we were in love, doc, we fell for each other, in midair, like love-birds.
I thought: Love is never a random act of closeness. In the other person, we search for the familiar, a reflection of ourselves, a projection of the ideal lover we have already formed in our mind. And yet, by asking intimate questions of each other, by responding honestly, by sharing who we are, the bridge to true love can be crossed with greater ease.
Last week, I wrote a check to Ed. I will never bet again, not with Ed.
Editor’s note: Dr. Shahar Madjar is a urologist at Aspirus and the author of “Is Life Too Long? Essays about Life, Death and Other Trivial Matters.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.