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Monday, February 26, 2024

Using the right Valentine’s Day questions? – Daily Freeman

While struggling to find a suitable angle for this Valentine’s Day essay, I lucked upon some “Reader’s Digest” clickbait.

The article talked about psychologist Arthur Aron’s 1997 study, in which he brainstormed 36 questions (including “What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?”) that can theoretically accelerate intimacy between two strangers (or rekindle romance in long-term relationships).

Bravo. People typically do an awful job when left to improvise.

First dates tend to be characterized by superficial chitchat, phoniness or cringey obsession with exes. (“Ha! And Clara swore I’d never manage to land a date with another real, live girl! Uh, that is a beauty mark and not an air inlet on your neck, isn’t it?”)

The long-established couples inevitably communicate through grunts, inane observations and vain attempts at spontaneity. (“No, wait — this time grouse about the weatherman, put out the cat and fidget with the thermostat in reverse order. Born to be wiiiiiiiild…”)

Finish each other’s sentences? These time-tested couples finish each other’s flatulence.

Aron’s 36 questions seem quite adequate for breaking the ice or making jaded companions see each other in a different light, but I’m sure legions of self-styled psychologists are itching to devise their own questions.


You will regret diving into the dating pool with questions such as:

“How hard a slap on the wrist do you think stalkers should receive?”

“Sorry for the misunderstanding about supper, but did you never notice how much ‘my treat’ sounds like ‘dine and dash’?”

“Wow, this joint brings out the really fancy shivs for cutting the steak, doesn’t it?”

“Isn’t it romantic how your dreamy blue eyes distract me from thinking about the screams of the calf you’re eating?”

“I think society needs the term ‘cult-adjacent,’ don’t you?”

“How can you ask me if I believe in commitment right after I told you about my 72-hour video game marathon?”

“Do you realize how much you remind me of my great-granddaughter?”

It’s not just novices. Retirees, empty-nesters and their ilk are not immune from blurting out queries that lack Aron’s finesse.

“If I ever bend over and pick up my dirty socks for the second time in my life, what brand of liniment do you think would be best?”

“If your brother ever pries his butt off of our spare sofa, do you suppose it should be donated to Goodwill, the Smithsonian or the Environmental Protection Agency?”

“Forget blue pills! How come nobody ever warns you about snores that last longer than four hours?”

“If, God forbid, you tumble down the basement steps while I’m on a business retreat … in a perfect world, which of the pets would eat you first?”

“Remember the time we … no, wait — that was Junior’s piano teacher and her husband.”

“Why don’t we invite the Millers over for a clothing-optional ‘The Heck With Out-of-Network Dermatologists, We’ll Just Figure Out Our Own Irregularly Shaped Moles, Thank You Very Much’ party?”

“If you could invite anyone in the whole world to dinner … do you think we could sneak your mother into their trunk while they’re distracted?”

Don’t mind me. Go ahead and enhance your love life however you please.

Me? I’ll shake things up in my 32-year marriage by practicing portion control.

I’ll control the portion of my wife’s dietary advice that sinks in!

And convince myself that my “perfect” day involves sleeping in the dog house.


Danny Tyree’s column is distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Reach him at [email protected].


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