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Germane to my previous post on virginity/True love doesn’t wait, I want to say…. “true love” wasn’t a noun there, designating a destined mate. “True love” described a quality of love, the same usage as in “true love waits [for marriage to have sex].” I don’t believe that there is only one “true love” for a given person.

I don’t believe “true love” means finding “The One” you’re “supposed” to be with.

Because there is no “one.” That is a fairy tale. Fairy tales are great.

oh, my sweet Westly

Responsible for igniting my undying infatuation for boys with floppy, sandy hair and light eyes?

But fairy tales are myths. Our myths tell us, as a culture, what our hopes and fears are.

This line always gets annoyingly hidden at the top of the page after the jump.

“Traditional marriage” in western culture was a domestic contract that bound together a man and a woman (or women), for the purposes of producing heirs, consolidating wealth, forming alliances or any number of human social/bonding reasons, until the man got sick of her or one of them died. There was no expectation though, let alone guarantee, of romantic love.

Did you see Pride and Prejudice? Remember how it was a big fucking deal that Kiera Knightly wasn’t initially interested in Mr. Darcy, despite his wealth, because she didn’t like him? And all her sisters were like “bitch, you crazy” ? Because love wasn’t really expected to be part of the deal*.

So when older mythology includes romantic love or at least genuine attraction, it features as as the sweet sweet icing on the happy ending of marrying well. The Prince and Cinderella spent all evening talking and dancing, and he was so enchanted with Cinderella that he searched all over to find her. And she dreams for him to do so. But the happy ending is that she’s lifted out of poverty by marriage.

Nowadays, we hold the cultural expectation of romantic love for marriage, because most of its property/alliance purposes are defunct. [Hey, there, SCOTUS!] We’re not satisfied to end up with just anyone. Or even with just anyone stable. We want there to be love. And we fear that we will never find it. That we will end up all alone. Also, we want love to be easy. If we were really with The One, a good relationship would not be so much work. It would just work, like it’s supposed to. Because we’re supposed to be together.

So one of our current myths is that everyone has a “soul mate,” who is “The One.” We reassure ourselves that everyone has someone they’re “meant to be” with. We tell our children our marriage stories, saying that, “when you find The One, you’ll know.” Or we say that God has someONE planned for each of us. We say that our partners complete us, that we’re two halves of a whole. We have scores of movies about nervous men deciding to commit to something they’re previously never considered, marriage, because she’s clearly The One. We comfort each other after breakups by saying clearly ze wasn’t The One. And we clutch the mantra that there’s someONE out there for everybody.

We delay breaking up even really bad relationships, because what if he’s The One? Abusers know the power of this. They ask, “Do you think anyone else will ever love you?” “No one else will ever love you as I do.” “No one else will ever love you.” [You, person reading this, are lovable. And worthy of love. And the person that says that to you is an asshole.]

This myth of The One enforces a scarcity mentality, encouraging us to hoard scraps of love when we find it, for fear of missing out. Nobody wants to blow their chance to be with The One. What if ‘kinda bad with some ok spots’ is as good as it gets?

But that’s not reality. The reality is that there is no such thing as Fate and there is no such thing as The One.

  • because no one is perfect. No one is a perfect match, no one is a perfect 1. You round that shit up from 0.65 or 0.82, or w/e. [Hey there, Dan Savage!]
  • because there is more than one person you can be happy with.

There are 7 billion people on this earth. There is more than one person who you can build something good with. Don’t stay in a bad place because you’re afraid that’s as good as it gets.

Timing is kind of everything in this. I’ve met a small few men who I think I could have had something long and meaningful with. And I don’t think my husband and I would have liked each other much, if we’d have met when either of us was much younger.

But we met when we did, and though we lived across the country from each other at the time, both of our lives were in flexible places and we really liked each other, so we decided it was going to work.

And we’ve decided to make it work a bunch of times since then. We keep choosing each other. We don’t need each other, and we are both really cool people and I don’t think either of us would die alone if we split up. [because there is no “one.”] But we love each other and want to be together, so we keep making that choice. A long-term committed relationship means making that choice a lot of times, yo. It’s frequently infuriating, and kind of awesome.

Not incidentally, alongside My Funny Valentine, this is one of our songs:

(Lyrics to Tim Minchin’s “If I didn’t have you.”)

There is no Fate. Life is only what you make of it. There is no One. Love is also what you make of it. Don’t wait for something magical and don’t hold onto something marginal because you fear missing out. Whatever you might, hypothetically, be missing out on is not real. Be present now.
And pay attention to what is real.

 I hope that’s what you get too, Happily Ever After. A bit of sully in your sweet. Not perfection, but real love. Not what you imagine, but what you’d never dream.

Cheryl Strayed, writing as Dear Sugar.


Peter Pan Cary Elwes grew up. He looks pretty good for an old dude, though, no?

*[Sexual fidelity, for men, was also not an expectation for traditional marriage. Because fidelity was about assurance of paternity. Hellooo there again, virginity cult(ure).]