In a search for meaningful relationships in life, which is the better choice: a passionate engagement with a person who has obvious faults, ill-suited to your needs and temperament, or a calm and steady affection for someone who inspires little else?
UPDATE: This makes our little dinner sound like an episode of "Sex and the City," with Nina in the Carrie role, phrasing the over-arching question. Or I guess, it's more a parody of an episode of "Sex and the City," where Carrie went to Yale Law School and comes at her English language style -- like Nabokov -- via a foreign language.
MORE: I note that Carrie, like Nina, would go home after her encounters with her friends, get out her laptop, and compose a question that summarized their conversation. But Carrie wasn't blogging! She was writing a column for a newspaper. Isn't it obvious that if the show were being made today, Carrie would be a blogger?
STILL MORE: Please note that the question is specifically framed so that "both" is not an answer! You're not allowed to change the question into something that can be answered "both." Everyone knows the banal wish "I want it all!" Each of Nina's options contains a condition that is incompatible with the basic premise of the other option. Don't you realize Nina is a law professor? If this were a law school exam, and you changed the question like that you would get a terrible grade. And really "neither" is also not an answer, because the question is which is "better," as in: would you rather be buried alive or boiled in oil?
AND YET MORE: Actually, people are right to want reclaim control over the question. Obviously, Nina's stacked the deck, making everyone want to say neither or both. The real life question involves some combination of the two in the lover/friend mix -- how much of one without the other are you willing to accept and for how long? So maybe you'll accept 95% lover, 5% friend for one night, and 80% friend, 20% lover for a lifetime monogamy commitment. It's your call.
AND, FOR YOU "SEX AND THE CITY" FANS: 95% lover, 5% friend for one night = Samantha. 80% friend, 20% lover = Charlotte. I note that the characters on the show, other than Carrie, do not (except in the later seasons of the series) represent the way a real person would think, but one of the options the real person -- represented by Carrie -- would contemplate. Miranda was the just-say-no position. Miranda was what Carrie -- and you, the viewer! -- had to worry about turning into. That really did give you something to think about. Unreal though the show was in many respects, it laid out a very realistic relationship problem for women to use to think about their own lives.