Skip to main content

‘Valentine’s Day Is For Fools’

February 14, 2023

Prof. Tess Wilkinson-Ryan L’05, G’06, PhD’08 wishes readers a “Happy Valentine’s Day, suckers,” with “utter affection” at The Washington Post.

Tess Wilkinson-Ryan L’05, G’06, PhD’08, Professor of Law and Psychology, explains why “Even more than April 1, Valentine’s Day is for Fools” at The Washington Post.

Wilkinson-Ryan’s new book, Fool Proof: How Our Fear of Playing the Sucker Shapes Our Selves and the Social Order — and What We Can Do About It, brings evidence from studies in psychology, sociology, and economics to show how the sucker construct surreptitiously motivates our decisions both big and small.

From The Washington Post:

Most people really (really, really) don’t want to feel like suckers. But Valentine’s Day is different. More so even than April 1, Feb. 14 is for suckers.

In romantic love, the fool gets the spotlight — star rather than stagehand. People in love are easy marks, and they’re not afraid to admit it, or at least to sing about it. Aretha Franklin joined a “chain of fools,” was a “fool for you” and threatened that her lover was “runnin’ out of fools.” Elvis was a fool rushing in. Bill Withers was a triumphant pawn in “Use Me.” One or more of the Jonas Brothers was a “sucker for you.” And “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” Because “Everybody Plays the Fool.”

Love reveals the fool’s game right from the start: Seduction is itself a kind of gentle scam. Is it okay to post a flattering picture on your Tinder profile? To present your best self early in a relationship? How can you tell if she loves you or just wants to live at Pemberley? The negotiation of intimacy is harrowing in part because of that constant vigilance for the con, even as we seek the rich, urgent rewards of human connection… .

Read the full piece at The Washington Post.