Catrons Modern Love Essay

Writer Mandy Len Catron's memorable article for the New York Times series "Modern Love" is one of the newspaper's most-read essays.

The 2015 article, "To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This," is about what happened when she and an acquaintance re-created an intimacy experiment she'd read about.

They asked each other 36 personal questions like, "When did you last cry in front of another person?" Then they stared into each other's eyes for four minutes.

The essay was widely shared, and that acquaintance became her boyfriend. Now Catron has published her first book of personal essays, "How to Fall in Love with Anyone."

In it, she takes a candid look at her own life and explores the psychology of relationships and the myths we create about romance.

Catron argues that love stories limit our idea of what's possible in love.

Ironically, her book about love opens with her parents' divorce.

"For most of my life I just thought, if you're a good person and you don't do anything to betray your spouse in any way, that's all you need to do to have a long, stable marriage. And when my parents split up I was shocked and I kind of thought, 'Wow, maybe a lot of what I think about love is actually wrong,'" Catron said.

One of the author's major points is about the difference between falling in love and staying in love. In preparation for the book, she took a hard look at the many love stories in our culture.

"So many of our stories are really about how two people get together, but ultimately we don't talk that much about what it means to stay in a relationship and what that looks like and how that works," Catron.

The author cites romantic tales such as the movies "Notting Hill" and "Dirty Dancing" as examples of stories that focus on the falling in love part—not the staying in love.

"I do think the reality about love is we often think about it as this thing that happens to us and we're just sort of passively accepting whatever love throws our way. But the truth is we have a lot more agency than that," she said.  

Catron's advice?

"Choose to invest yourself in another person and that might lead to love."

To find out what happened with Catron and the man she posed the 36 questions to, watch the above video.

When Mandy Len Catron ended a turbulent, decade-long relationship, she wanted to take an entirely different approach to finding love. She abandoned her romantic ideals and, instead, turned to science — specifically, to a psychological experiment designed to increase intimacy between two people.

Gillian Jacobs can be seen in the new Judd Apatow Netflix series “Love,” opposite Paul Rust. “Love” follows Mickey (Jacobs) and Gus (Rust) as they navigate the exhilaration and humiliations of intimacy, commitment, and other things they are hoping to avoid. “Love” is currently in production on Season 2, which will also be released on Netflix.

Upcoming, Jacobs will be seen in the new Mike Birbiglia dramatic comedy, “Don’t Think Twice,” starring alongside Keegan-Michael Key and Kate Micucci. Additionally, she recently wrapped production in “Dean,” directed by Demetri Martin.

Jacobs was also seen in the fourth season of the HBO hit series “Girls” as fan-favorite Mimi Rose Howard, the multimedia artist who doesn’t agree with Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) interpretations about art and challenges her ideas.

Jacobs made her directorial debut with “The Queen of Code,” a documentary short film about Grace Hopper, the computer scientist and high-ranking naval officer. The short premiered on Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website on January 28, 2015 as part of the “Signals” docu-series, where filmmakers use data analytics to explore stories across political, economic, science, lifestyle and sports domains.

Previously, Jacobs starred in the critically acclaimed comedy “Community,” which just finished its sixth season. She was nominated for a Broadcast Television Journalists Association award in the category of "Best Comedy Supporting Actress" for her performance as Britta. Additionally, the show won a Broadcast Television Journalists Association award in the category of "Best Comedy Series" in 2012.

Jacobs’ recent film credits include Mike Bender’s “Black or White,” which debuted at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, as well as Steve Pink’s “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” which she starred in opposite Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Adam Scott and Chevy Chase.

Her theater credits include Philip Seymour Hoffman's “The Little Flower of East Orange” opposite Ellen Burstyn and Michael Shannon at the Public Theater, “A Feminine Ending” at the Playwrights Theater and Adam Rapp's “Cagelove” at the Rattlestick Theater.

Jacobs received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at The Juilliard School.


Now it's your turn to go through Arthur Aron's 36 questions -- with a partner, a friend, or a complete stranger. When you're done, record a voice memo or write something about your experience, and send it to We'll feature some of our favorites on the podcast.

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