Do you believe in finding The One? While opposites attract, you will in all likelihood settle for compatibility and shared values because life itself can be challenging and difficult.
The romantic in me used to think that there is a soulmate for everyone. As you experience life, from time to time you may meet a handful of likeminded people with whom you share some similar beliefs and values. They are not necessarily soulmates and certainly not people that you will end up romancing with. If you do meet kindred spirits whom you will call soulmates, that will be great and of course your soulmate could be The One. Growing up I had dreamt of romantic love greater than life like Romeo and Juliet but as you wise up you realise that many a time you had probably been in love with the notion of romantic love. First your heart flutters, dopamine and chemicals make you giddy in love and when all that adrenalin rush subsides, reality sets in, you may become closer and grow more fond of each other or it may be just a passing infatuation .
Here are three tales about romantic love: philosophically , scientifically and literarily speaking.
Philosophically speaking …
Four to Dinner ( 4 metà) is an Italian rom-com directed by Alessio Maria Federici, Prince Oak Oakleyski and Vitaly Sumis and written by Martino Coli that explores the concept of soulmates. At a dinner party, a debate ensues when the hosts and their dinner guests cannot agree on whether there is only one soulmate to every individual. According to Plato, the early humans were all hermaphrodites and the jealous Gods split them into two halves hence you have to find your soulmate. The dinner host Luca and his wife Sara decide to talk about four friends whom they had invited to dinner when they first got married. Luca had invited two guys while Sara had invited two female friends. The story is told from two different angles and it shows that there are four possible pairings. Luca and Sara believe that there is not just one soulmate for everyone.
Four to Dinner is Woody Allen, Nora Ephron Sliding Doors rolled in one. It is a delightful and understatedly beautiful film to catch if you are looking for something light and easy.
Scientifically speaking …..
I am all for serendipity call it destiny or fate but then with dating apps and all the social media sites, karmic energy is no longer limited to looking for The One IRL…. It is going to take time for some of us to get our head around to this innovation never mind that algorithms appear to know us better than we know ourselves.
As technology advances, families can be created via IVF , sperm and egg donation and surrogacy. Science has now made procreation possible with or without finding Mr or Ms Right and adoption is no longer the only way for an individual to become a parent. There are mating sites for wannabe parents to post their profiles and indicate their health and education. The unorthodox exercise does sound a tad transactional and calculating but elective co-parenting makes sense for those who cannot wait for The One to start a family.
Lucie Yi is Not a Romantic by Lauren Ho is a funny and fresh tale where the main character decides to take things in her hand when she wants to have a child of her own.
In Lucie Yi is Not a Romantic by Lauren Ho, Lucie Yi, thirty-seven, has ended a relationship and is focusing on her career working towards a partnership at a tax consultancy firm. She has been in New York for twenty months and will return home when the secondment ends. She feels that finding Mr Right is a myth but finding Mr Right good enough to have children with is the next best option. She signs herself up on a platonic co-parenting website. She meets Collin Read, a software engineer who loves dancing hiking yoga and does sudoku and puzzles but he is lactose intolerant and is very allergic to nuts ( he carries EpiPens with him all the time ). Lucie is Singaporean and Collin is Malaysian but spending most of his life living in America. His mother is Japanese Scottish American and his dad is Malaysian Peranakan with a dash of Malay and Chinese living in Singapore.As Lucie and Collin become acquainted with one another, they quickly get down to brass tacks and come up with some ground rules. Lucie asks Collin about his thoughts on death penalty and euthanasia and is pleasantly surprised when they get talking on the phone. Admittedly in an arrangement such as this, the bar is set lower than when you are looking for a romantic partner. She knows where he stands on so many issues and it is odd that these are the kinds of questions one should ask one another in a romantic relationship. Can we sum up who we are by providing answers in a questionnaire? I tend to think that often we are all too fluid and changeable, do we really know what we think? Can we trust the algorithms to decide on our matches?
As soon as Lucie and Collin have decided to take the leap, the process is set in motion. They decide to move back to Singapore to co-parent their child and thus the ride begins when they arrive home. Lucie meets Collin’s estranged dad and Lucie finds out more about Collin who seems laid back about everything else.
Collin meets Lucie’s parents who are very traditional. Ivy Chen and Yi Wei Liang find the whole situation totally unacceptable when Lucie is not planning to marry Collin. Although they do not quite approve of him, they feel that an illegitimate grandchild will bring shame to the family. To them it is about security and ‘face’ reasons and they reckon that all this will affect Lucie’s brother Anthony Yi who has political ambition. Enter her remorseful ex-fiancé who is bent on winning her back and together with her two bffs , Weina Ling ( a former investment banker now a stay-at-home mother of a five-year-old and newborn triplets ) and Sushila Mahmud aka Suzie ( divorced and best friend since primary school), you have the perfect rom-com that you want to sit back and read the book with a glass of wine or cocktail.
Lucie Yi is Not a Romantic by Lauren Ho is a story about taking a chance at love and knowing what you want and who you are. It is not just a fun read that you very much like to finish in one sitting, it is also thought-provoking and offers you insights about the decisions one has to make regarding parenthood. Lucie Yi is Not a Romantic is Lauren Ho’s second novel. Her debut, Last Tang Standing is another fabulous read.
Literarily speaking …….
In Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes , Geoffrey Braithwaite is a retired doctor whose wife has died and his adult children have their own lives. He is haunted by an obsession with the great French literary writer, Gustave Flaubert. Here a century and a few years later, he begins an investigative journey into finding the stuffed parrot Flaubert purportedly borrowed from the Museum of Rouen to help research one of his stories :’Un cœur simple’. From his travels to Rouen and notes from Gustave’s journal, we learn about Flaubert’s work, obsessions, family , lovers, health and thought processes.”
Underlying all his narratives ,we gradually learn about the doctor’s pains about his ambivalent love towards his wife who had lied to him about her secret life. But they were happy enough.
Here are some passages that illustrate his misgivings.
‘I loved Ellen, and I wanted to know the worst. I never provoked her, I was cautious and defensive, as is my habit ; I didn’t even ask questions; but I wanted to know the worst. Ellen never returned this caress. She was fond of me — she would automatically agree, as if the matter weren’t worth discussing, that she loved me – but she unquestioningly believed the best about me.
‘Ellen. My wife : someone I feel I understand less well than a foreign writer dead for a hundred years. Is this an aberration, or is it normal ? Books say :she did this because. Life says : she did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren’t, I’m not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people’s lives, never your own. ‘
Maxims for life. Les unions completes sont rares. You cannot change humanity, you can only know it. Happiness is a scarlet cloak whose lining is in tatters.‘
In the doctor’s voice:
‘A maxim upon maxims. Truths about writing can be framed before you’ve published a word; truths about life can be framed only when it’s too late to make any difference.‘
–Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes Chapter 13 Pure Story
Here is an interesting piece of information about a conversation between Flaubert and his surgeon father under the heading ‘Logic (with Medicine)
‘ Achille- Cléophas Flauber, jousting with his younger son, asked him to explain what literature was for. Gustave, turning the question back on his surgeon father, asked him to explain what the spleen was for : ‘ You know nothing about it, and neither do I , except that it is as indispensable to our bodily organism as poetry is to our mental organism.’ Dr Flaubert was defeated.’
–Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes Chapter 14 Examination Paper
Julian Barnes is an absolutely prolific writer. Flaubert’s Parrot is very much a non-fiction that gives a biographical account of Gustave Flaubert’s life and his opinions on matters and humanity. The narratives are through Geoffrey Braithwaite, a fiction character. Julian Barnes‘s prose is awesome.
After reading about Geoffrey and his investigative journey, it appears that Flaubert’s parrot is as elusive and mystifying as love.