Last week I gave this paragraph an airing, and it struck a chord with some of the readership. There was more to the original article, though, than the brief bit I reprinted, so I'm going back to that same well, with a bigger scoop this time.

Rather a long time ago, I came up with this:

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I would truly like to believe that there is actually someone for me after all. If this be a delusion — and there's no reason on earth to think that it isn't — would it be that difficult to let me hold on to it a little bit longer?

Or, as Nelson Muntz once said, "Some of us prefer illusion to despair." And as Heather B. notes, we're pretty sure it is illusion:

My friend JB once told me completely out of the blue that I would know when I met The One. This was back when I didn't believe in The One and I had already planned my life around my wants and needs and my future living in a gorgeous row house in Georgetown with four floors — since they are built to expand vertically — and a gym membership at the Four Seasons on M Street. She said that I wouldn't hem and haw about it. I would just show up for drinks with the girls and say "This is Joe. I love him and he's it" and my friends would clink glasses of red and white to my happiness because they know that it is something that I would be sure of. I laughed when she said this because we both knew that she was right. It would just happen.

Even under the most strenuous of circumstances, we cling to the belief. Twenty years ago, I was spending the summer in a mental-health facility, and for some reason they made us write. One of the therapeutic exercises: "Write down what you'd like to be in seven years." Which I did. And given my mental state of the moment, I felt compelled to write it in third person, because I had no real belief that I'd ever be this guy:

His relationship with Laura is curious. If you ask him, he'll tell you that it's purely physical, and will cite individual aspects of her body with relish. But that's a ruse, and without too much prompting, he'll admit that there is more to the lady than a wicked smile and fabulous legs. And if you dig a little deeper, he'll confess that he's never been able to understand how he and Laura got together in the first place — but he's not complaining.

How they met, of course, was simple: on queue at the Rialto for a screening of Otto Preminger's Laura. ("Good thing I wasn't going to see Willard," he quips.) For some reason, he began quoting some inane Woody Allen scene, and was thunderstruck when she responded in a dead-accurate Diane Keaton whine. They sat together in the theatre, and were holding hands before Waldo Lydecker ever got out of the bathtub.

There may be, somewhere, a study which compares flimsiness of belief to floridness of prose, and if there isn't, I think I've just suggested one. And the whole thing was almost frighteningly detailed, given my stated willingness a few weeks earlier to go driving into a bridge abutment and get it over with already.

Obviously none of these things really happened, and I'm not entirely sure that I missed them. Says Heather B.:

I don't know if I believe in soul mates. In fact, I know that I do not believe in them. But Lori and I once had a conversation when we relished in all of the things that made us similar and we both noted that as individuals, we are both pretty awesome. We both are the type of people who enjoy our alone time and are easily entertained and amused by our surroundings and who we are as people that we do not generally crave having someone else by our sides. While it might be nice, it doesn't feel necessary. When Lori met her husband though, she realized that he was someone that she could and would want to hang out with forever and ever and so they married. I loved that story because it is so very me. She wasn't looking for it, she never had, it just happened.

I've never thought of myself as being particularly awesome, but I have managed to learn, or at least to persuade myself, that being alone isn't all that bad. I would argue that life is chaotic enough, and the chaos increases with the square of the number of the interconnected individuals: a couple has four times the amount of potential agita available to a single person. (This is, incidentally, a pretty good argument for fidelity: introduce a third person into the mix, and suddenly you're at a factor of nine.)

There remains, though, one more question: how do you convince the cosmos that you're not really looking, and therefore make it possible for The One to materialize? Inasmuch as you can't BS that which is eternal, this would seem to be high on the list of Insoluble Problems. Then again, Fermat's last theorem was eventually proved — three centuries after Fermat's death. If I have any choice in the matter, I'd just as soon not wait so long.

The Vent

  24 August 2008

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