November 17, 2017
In 2015, the writer Mandy Len Catron invited Modern Love readers to join her in an experiment. First, find someone you’d like to know better — ideally, a person you view as a romantic prospect. Then, ask each other a series of increasingly intimate questions and see where the experience takes the two of you.
Ms. Catron couldn’t have known then how many couples would come to credit the questions for their unions, or how many strangers would try, and fail, to connect by using them. But what about those who are pretty sure they already know everything about each other?
We had a group of senior couples try out the questions to see.
LUCILLE KING, 86,
AND JOSEPH LIONETTI, 78
Inseparable for one year.
How they met: Ms. King noticed
him making eyes at her in the
medical suite at the Lillian Booth
Actors Home in New Jersey. Mr.
Lionetti, once a hairdresser to
Marilyn Monroe, was admiring
Ms. King’s coiffure. He’s been her
stylist — and closest companion
— ever since.
If you could have either the body
or mind of a 30-year-old, which
would you choose?
LUCILLE The body. No question.
JOSEPH See how shaken up you
got? You would chose the body?
JOSEPH At this stage of my mind,
I would choose the mind.
LUCILLE My mind’s fine.
Tell your partner what you like
about them and be very honest.
LUCILLE When you walk into the
room, I get all passionate. Just
looking at you turns me on. Is
JOSEPH It sure is. I feel the same
way. When I see you, I tingle.
LUCILLE You dingle?
JOSEPH I tingle. I’m not going to
tell you where, but I tingle.
Tell your partner something they
did in the past that they might
not realize impressed you.
JOSEPH You invited me into your
LUCILLE It was your birthday.
JOSEPH But you still didn’t have
to invite me, and Leah didn’t
have to bake me a birthday cake
and have a party.
LUCILLE No, that’s true.
JOSEPH I hardly knew her.
LUCILLE We hardly knew you
and we made you a big birthday
JOSEPH There you go.
LUCILLE Well, you kept telling me
you wish you had a Jewish
family, so for your birthday I
gave you one.
JOSEPH If you will something
hard enough, with all your heart,
and you do it continuously all
your life, whether it takes a year,
two years, 10 years, 20 years, or
50 years, it’s going to happen. I
always wanted a Jewish family.
LUCILLE And you got one.
JOSEPH And it finally happened.
See? I told you.
JOSEFA RODRIGUEZ, 66, AND
DOMINGO RODRIGUEZ, 78
Married for 50 years.
How they met: Domingo was
introduced to Josefa as a friend
of the family. “I didn’t fall in love
that day, because I saw him as a
friend of my father’s that was
just coming over, you know?”
When was the last time you cried
with someone else? Alone?
JOSEFA The last time I cried was
when my daughter thought that
she had a terrible illness, and
thank God that wasn’t the case.
Everything was O.K.
DOMINGO That was also my last
Tell your partner what you like
about him or her. Be very honest.
DOMINGO What I like about you
is the great communication
you’ve had with me the whole
time we’ve been together, and
JOSEFA Me too. I’ve had a lot of
surprising moments with you,
and also all of the patience that
you’ve had with me, when I’ve
been sick, that you’ve taken care
of me with your whole heart.
I’ve never felt alone, I’ve always
felt that you are with me, by my
BARBARA PILGRIM, 88, AND
GERALDINE PILGRIM, 82
Together for 58 years.
How they met: They worked in
the same building and kept a
cordial relationship until Geraldine
sold Barbara a raincoat —
or better yet, lent one to her. “I
didn’t have the money at that
time, and she said, ‘All right. You
take it, and you can give me the
money when you get it.’” From
there on, they developed a friendship,
then something more.
What would constitute a perfect
day for you?
GERALDINE Laying with my
honey on a rainy day.
BARBARA You didn’t tell them
what I’d be doing.
GERALDINE I wouldn’t care as
long as I was with you.
BARBARA I would have to agree
with that because on rainy days
we’ve made it our business to
clear the house that’s kind of
half straight, and ironing to do.
And no checks to write out
because it means that we’ll be
close to one another. Don’t have
to be making out now. We’d just
For what in your life do you feel
BARBARA For my loving wife.
And I’m grateful now that I did
not have my breasts removed
because I’m still recovering
from breast cancer. And that you
will be with me for the rest of
GERALDINE I don’t know how to
put it into words really that I
will always love you. Always,