Young Star

The burning question

SENSES WORKING OVERTIME - Luis Katigbak - The Philippine Star

If you had 30 minutes to determine a potential life partner, what questions would you ask?

Lots of people date for years or have long engagements before getting married. But what if everyone only had 30 minutes to talk to someone they had just met, and then had to decide whether they would be okay with spending the rest of their life with that person?

For some people, that scenario isn’t hypothetical. I was watching a recent Aziz Ansari comedy special (an activity I highly recommend to people who need more laughter in their lives), and he talked about his father, who entered into an arranged marriage after talking to his potential mate for half an hour. I wondered: in the same situation, what should I ask?

So I did what many people in search of wisdom and guidelines for life do these days: I threw the question at my Facebook contacts. The questions my friends wanted to ask generally fell into three categories: Practical, Cultural, and Philosophical.

PRACTICAL. “Do you snore?” was the first question posted. Apparently, for some people, that can be a dealbreaker. It’s the kind of question, though, that is not always easily answered. (“I don’t know, I’m usually asleep when I’m asleep,” I might say.) “Do you enjoy cooking and washing dishes?” suggested an ex of mine (who, as I recall, was not overly fond of either activity). “Would you sign a pre-nup?” was another very practical consideration.

Other considerations — some serious, others less so: “Matakaw ka ba?” “Do you like pets and/or have any?” “How much is your baon?” “Been to a psychiatrist lately?” My friend Kats wanted to know: “Hetero woman to hetero man: how would it impact the relationship (and your ego) if you were the stay-at-home parent or primary childcare provider/lower earning partner/partner with less education or less prestigious job?” In many ways, this first category boiled down to finding out: Will I be able to stand living with you?

CULTURAL. Many of the questions posed had to do with favorite books, films, and/or music. “What are your top five music albums and your top five favorite films?” suggested Meryll. “Who’d you rather be, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?” said a music critic friend. “Do you like Star Wars?” said another. “What are your favorite TV shows?” “Your fandoms, tell me all about ‘em,” said Andrea. Two friends also wanted to know: “Do you like dancing?”

It’s a notion carried over from high school, and possibly earlier: that liking the same band makes two people kindred spirits (the more obscure the band, the better), that compatibility of literary tastes suggests a compatibility of minds and hearts. In practice, it doesn’t always work out that way, although binge-watching True Detective together can be a unique bonding experience. If you both love the film Eraserhead, that might just mean you are both irreparably damaged, and not that you should move in together. More important than identical tastes is being open to each other’s tastes, I think. Not a complete overlap on the Venn Diagram, but a little shared space. This category of question is all about finding out: Can we enjoy things together?

PHILOSOPHICAL. “What is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?” Okay, by now, everyone knows The Answer is 42 (thanks, Doug Adams), but still, it’s nice to get a handle on where your potential spouse stands on the less tangible issues of existence. “How do you feel about solitude?” asked another friend. Another: “Do you know who your God is?” And also: “Are you gonna use this for an article?” (Wait, I think that last one was directed specifically at me.)

I’ve been in relationships with people with different beliefs, and it was rarely ever a dealbreaker, but I think in some sense what people who throw these Big Questions around are trying to figure out is: Will we be moving in the same direction together? 

Of course, some really good questions did not fall easily into any of these rough categories. “How’s your relationship with your parents?” “Do you agree with the Copenhagen Interpretation?” “Can I be the little spoon?” And my favorite, from former officemate Avee: “Can I take a look at your Internet browser history?”

Another friend posted an article that stated that a good marriage is not solely about who the other person is, but about who you are with that other person. In other words, find the person who brings out the most acceptably crazy of your multiple personalities.

It’s fun to think about. And while asking these questions — and maybe, someday, getting the answers — may not prepare you for getting married, they can at least prepare you for writing a column on asking questions.

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