We’re inundated with the concept of The One. Books, movies, pop songs barrage us with the idea. Pop songs tell us The One will live and die for us, steal the sun from the sky for us (thanks Bon Jovi). Movies tell us The One will travel the globe to find us. Books tell us we met The One but (insert conflict here) we then wasted 20 years on a bunch of not The Ones before finding The One again. Because there is only one The One, obviously.
And it’s this drama – the drama of The One – that ruins romance for us. It makes us sad. It makes us sad to look and not find and it makes us sad to look, find and then realize there’s no such thing as being saved by another person. Why do we need that drama? Why do we need to be saved? Why is The One never the partner you simply like talking to and canoodling with on the regular?
Where does the idea of The One even come from?
I suggest it comes from religion; it comes from monogamy. But the lustiness and romance of The One – the truly unrealistic teat society has been sucking on – comes from damsel-in-distress-style fairytales where The One fixes us. Two quick examples:
- In Cinderella, the prince fixes our damsel’s living situation by searching high and low for her, his one criteria that her foot fit perfectly into a glass slipper.
- In Snow White, our damsel is fixed with a kiss from her one true love (and they both sing songs about meeting each other and the forever and oneness of it all).
Somehow we’ve turned these fairytales into a real life goal. We think that our prince is going to come along. We still think there’s a princess out there who is the perfect fit. Fairytales have become our dogma for love. If we’ve allowed religious literature to tell us how to be good (and I suggest we shouldn’t), we’ve also allowed fairytales to tell us how to find The One and “live happily ever after.” Unlike the lofty Ten Commandments, there are only three commandments to finding The One:
- Though shalt find someone who completes you.
- Though shalt find someone who completes only you.
- Though shalt find someone who completes only you forever.
That’s unrealistic. How exactly does a person complete you? And contrary to fairytales, to be complete in modern times we need more than to be rescued from our chores or to wake up. It seems we need The One to end our loneliness, fear, insecurity, sleepless nights, dreary days. We need to be saved. That’s what the perfect prince or princess does, right?
A little realism
Kyle Kinane has this comedy bit where he suggests we can have miracles all the time if we just lower our standards of what a miracle can be. It’s a story about laundry. And while it is hilarious, I think we can learn a little something here – we might need to loosen up our definition of The One.
Maybe The One doesn’t have to solve all of our problems? Maybe we can have more than one The One? Maybe we can aim for serial monogamy with a bunch of The Ones? Or a polyamourous situation with a few great The Ones?
I’m not trying to be facetious here. And I’m not suggesting that we lower our standards. I’m not advocating for anti-love. I’m not bitter. Or disillusioned. I love the love. I think looking for love and finding love is amazing. But I am trying to broaden the definition of The One because I feel it’s so constricting that it simply sets us up for failure and sadness because we’re looking for something unattainable.
For starters, how hard is it to find The One if there is only one The One? Hard. Needle in a haystack hard. One in 7.3 billion hard. We search and find, and go through the ups and downs. We’ve found a keeper, but then maybe we haven’t. The shoe never quite fits. The prince never arrives. It’s devastating. Tears are shed. Shitty books called The Rules are read. Prozac is prescribed. And despite feeling sad that we’re still alone, still unsaved, we remain committed to the dogma of finding The One who will solve all of our problems.
Chicken or the sadness?
Rob Gordon, our feckless leading man in High Fidelity, opens the film with a great monologue about how pop songs may have ruined his ability to be happy: "what came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"
So, I ask: Are we sad because we can’t find The One or are we looking for The One because we’re sad? And if we find a potential The One, and they don’t live up to our expectations, because how could one person possibly fix all of our problems – are we wrong because they weren’t really The One or are we wrong because we’re on the quest to find The One at all?
Co-brain credit: Shayn Yoe who, over cheese and wine, talked with me for a few hours about The One, helping to define ideas and discover new ones. Thanks Shayn!