How to Fall in Love with Anyone by Mandy Len Catron
A couple of years ago, an essay was published in the New York Times under the undeniably compelling headline, ‘To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This’. It outlined 36 questions supposed to spark intimacy between two strangers. The questions were taken from a 20-year-old study by the psychologist Arthur Aron and his wife, and demanded an escalating degree of self-exposure. But what made Mandy Len Catron’s essay go viral was the tantalising revelation that she had used the questions herself to great effect with a male acquaintance… and fallen in love.
Naturally, cynics everywhere scoffed at the idea that there could be a ready formula for falling in love – one that could be followed over a couple of beers in a bar, no less – but Catron’s essay was still read by millions of people around the world. This memoir-in-essays picks up where her original essay left off, exploring the fascination with fairy tales in pop culture, the ways in which we create and edit our own love stories, and the influence of our parents’ narratives on our own.
It’s more cynical and ambivalent when it comes to love than the title might suggest. Catron is excellent when detailing how marriage has only relatively recently become inextricably connected with love, or dissecting her parent’s relationship, which she idealised as a teenager. It’s fascinating to read about her reaction to the New York Times essay going viral; even more so to infer the pressure she now feels to make the relationship endure. But maybe that’s a question no one can answer in 36 questions: how, or through what, love endures.