What Does a “Perfect Day” Look Like?

When Dr. John and I were in graduate school we took part in a study that was attempting to measure the accuracy of first impressions [1]. The study involved a group of undergraduate students who rated each other on dozens of personality variables (e.g., likeability, gregariousness, introversion, etc.) at an initial group meeting. Then the students would spend weeks and weeks together, kind of like some academic reality show, only to rate their peers again on the same variables at the end of the study.

At the time John and I were in our fourth year of graduate training so we were considered experts in personality. Our job was to watch hours of video tape showing the students interacting together, both in group settings and one-on-one dialogues. Based on what we watched we too rated the students on the same personality variables. Comparing the students’ initial takes on each other with both their later ratings as well as the “experts'” opinions would ideally shed some light on how accurate first impressions are.

John and I got together a few times per week in this small room (the “lab”) on the top floor of our university’s main building. We were actually in a tower and I would incessantly suggest that John let his long hair flow out the window like Rapunzel did. He never found it all that funny.

When we watched the tapes I put on a white lab coat that I had found in the closet. “You a real scientist now, Dobrenski?” John asked.


“I like to take my work seriously.”

“Me too. Hand me that six pack of Corona.”

We watched hours and hours of these ten or so students hanging out together. Even as they got to know one another, however, they all seemed pretty reserved and reticent. John hates that. He’s a social addict, a partier and, as we know, he wants to have sex with your mother. But he’s extremely happy and that’s not something that happens to a lot of us.

“These people are so fucking boring,” he said, cutting up a lime to go into his beer. He actually brought a cutting board to the lab.

“Maybe it gets more intimate when they do the one-on-ones.”

“I hope so. Some of the chicks aren’t all that bad.”

The one-on-ones were not, in fact, more intimate. Most of the guys tried to act like perfect gentlemen when talking to the ladies, and the women presented as demur and straight-laced.

“Maybe being filmed makes it hard for them to let their hair down.” I said. “Speaking of, why don’t you…”

“Will you please shut the fuck up about my hair and this Goddamn tower?”

Each person in the study had pre-scripted questions to ask during the one-on-ones. During one session a woman referred to her card and then asked the man sitting across from her, “What would be the most absolutely perfect day for you?”

The guy thought about it for what seemed like forever. “Well, I think I’d like to get up at a pretty early hour and go for a long run. Then I’d come home and take a hot shower, followed by a great breakfast out with my friends. Then we’d go kayaking for the afternoon. I’d come home and call my girlfriend and we’d go out for a nice dinner and maybe a movie.”

“That’s nice,” the woman said.

“Sounds like kind of a standard Sunday to me,” I said.

“What. The. Fuck?” John said.

“This is such bullshit,” he continued. “This guy has no clue how to live. A college kid, in his stupid Abercrombie and Fitch hat and popped-collar polo shirt, wants to have his perfect day involve rowing a boat and eating dinner.”

“He’s probably just holding out to not look stupid.”

“No way, this guy just doesn’t get it. She asked about his ‘absolutely perfect’ day. Not a good day, not a great day, not one of the best days ever. Perfect. This guy doesn’t know shit. How many lives does he thinks he gets to live?”

What would your perfect day be?” I asked.

John paused for a moment. “My perfect day would begin with a big, fat blowjob from that nursing student who won’t give me the time of day.”

“I see. A regular blowjob won’t cut it? It has to be big and fat?”

“Right. Then a masseuse would show up and work on me for about an hour, followed by some time in the sauna. If it were a Sunday in the fall I’d be on the 50-yard line for the most important football game of the year by early afternoon, drinking beer and talking with Steven Speilberg.”

“He likes football?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Who cares? It’s my perfect day and he’s my favorite director. So I’d catch an errantly thrown ball, which Steve would sign, and after the game he, Deion (Sanders) and I would hit the best restaurant in whatever city we were in. Then I’d get a call from Pamela…”

“Anderson?”

“Right. She’d call to ask me to go to over to Heff’s place for a small party with the bunnies. I’d have sex with all of them…”

“How many women would that involve?”

“Umm…nine.”

“All at once, like a 10-some, or separate experiences?”

“Both.”

“Fascinating.”

“Then Hugh would hit me up with a few C-notes for being so cool and I’d take a limo back to Pam’s place. She’d ask me to marry her that night and, although I’d decline because of my newfound status as a sex machine, I’d put her in my Rolodex for future encounters. She’d be perfectly happy with that.”

“I’m glad you’re so thoughtful toward her needs as well.”

“Damn straight,” he said, and threw back the last of his beer.

I knew from the day I met John that he was hard-core on many levels. But at 27 years old, having had been nothing but a student my whole life, I hadn’t lived all that much. At least not the way John did or how his fantasies suggested he wanted to live. Right then I wanted to be like him. Not because he was drinking beer during a research student or pissing on a student for having such a lame fantasy or because of the Playboy bunnies, but because of his brazen love of life.

Ten years later John continues to refuse to have hang-ups or live life on the brake pedal. He takes it all by the horns. And yet – perhaps miraculously given the exorbitant amount of alcohol he drinks – he simultaneously acknowledges his responsibilities. He loves his job as a shrink and does it quite well. In some ways he is a real-life version of the main character in Happy-Go-Lucky, save for the fact that John probably has Syphilis and she did not.

I never ended up being as hard-core as John, if only because of my fear of STD’s. But he did teach me that it’s difficult to experience real happiness without a complete absorption of life. In fact, without him, ShrinkTalk.Net probably would never have existed. I would have been too scared to put myself out there, to deal with colleagues and clients who frown upon my take on psychology. But John drove home a point that I knew only in a peripheral, intellectual way: you only get one life, make the most of it. So if you’re a fan of this site, join me now in a toast:

To John: may you have all the 10-somes your hard-core life will allow. Salut.

[1] I believe the study was abandoned midway through the academic year so I don’t have any results to report on it. This is unfortunate because it’s an interesting concept.

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18 Responses to “What Does a “Perfect Day” Look Like?”

  1. Wayland says:

    Rob, you do not disappoint.

  2. Tara says:

    Gotta love the John’s of the world. I don’t know that one can really strive to be like that – so incredibly wrapped up in experience and be damned the consequences. I really think that’s an inborn trait. We can all probably learn bits and pieces, but for me, at least, that little internal worrier/critic may always get in the way and prevent me from fully embracing experience.

  3. My perfect day would be to be completely and so utterly vulnerable that I wouldn’t be able to be uptight or hold back at all for anything or anyone. I wonder what that would be like, or what would come from such a change in my behavior. I started thinking about the movie ‘Yes Man’. I envy people who just DO. Forget the fantasies, forget the fears…and just live, because as John indicated… we only live once.

  4. Nadia says:

    Na zdrowie!
    Absolutely taking life for all it’s worth. He sounds cool; every day is another chance to get it right. It’s still as cool when the dreams are nerdier: writing, having kids, training killer whales — that sort of thing. Tamer, but genuine.

  5. Dyson004 says:

    Great post Dr. Rob.
    So, what is your idea of a perfect day?

  6. Rhett says:

    What Dyson said. I want to know what your perfect day would be Rob.
    This has me thinking about what my perfect day would be. Probably somewhere in between John’s and the Abercrombie douche. I don’t think I have enough for 9 women…haha

  7. Amber says:

    Gotta ask as well, your perfect day?
    See I’d just assume that Doc John’s perfect day just goes along with every other man’s….to some variation anyway.

  8. I love that he cut limes for his Corona! And well he was right that the dude didn’t know shit. I mean come on your perfect day involves a run and kayaking.. please! Dr. John’s perfect day is probably a lot closer for most men.

  9. Dammit, I want to be Dr. John.

  10. sandy says:

    New projective therapy question! Forget the old, “earliest memory” standard and go for the gusto.

  11. Jenna says:

    If I ever come to NY, I’d like to take you both out for a beer.

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  16. Alexis Martin says:

    John is the man…

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  18. David Begum says:

    i always love italian food, they are really tasty like indian foods.;~`