I am an author, or in layman’s terms, a fraud. Let me explain. We’re the ones you (must) blame for the lofty ideas you have about love. The running-through-airports, kissing-in-the-rain, poetic confessions. Yep. All us. Neatly packaging that potent chemical in a harmless cover of sugar and cheese.
Pop culture and movies (and books of course) often teach us that love is supposed to feel like jumping off a cliff into the raging ocean below while passionately kissing your hero. Unbridled. Free. Until we learn on our own that love could also be standing at the edge of that cliff, looking down at the sheer terrifying drop and saying, “This is f***** nuts. Let’s get coffee instead?”
For me, this epiphany happened because of a journey. Almost everyone has a personal journey of self-discovery. And often it comes from undertaking very cool (and rather expensive) solo trips. ‘That one time I was in Santorini’. ‘That one time I went backpacking near Kilimanjaro’.
My ‘That One Time’ actually happened on my couch. Quite convenient, cost-effective, though, admittedly, not particularly riveting. A close friend was overwhelmed by the proposals every well-meaning nitwit was placing at her doorstep. Nothing seemed wrong with any of them on paper, but since so many people were involved, it became awkward to simply say no without stepping on egos. On a whim, she decided to join a dating app, and for some reason, roped me in to start an account as well so she wouldn’t feel alone. Granted, the logic was pretty rubbish but it’s the thought that counts. So I did it anyway.
Long story short, it worked out neat for her in the end. She found someone tailor-made for her and discovered that when she was in control, she could shed her shyness and solider on ruthlessly until she found ‘The One’.
She triumphed. Me? Not so much. I got stuck on the very first speedbump- setting up my profile. In retrospect, I’m glad I started out with OkCupid. Any other app would probably ask for my name, height, whatever and be done with it. But this app came for my whole sodding life! While answering their myriad questions to let their AI match me with greater accuracy I came to the startling discovery that I hardly knew myself at all. All those years spent trying to be all the people I was expected to be meant that I had layers of grime I had to scrape off to reach myself. No wonder I couldn’t find the boy I wanted because I obviously didn’t know what I wanted in the first place.
Let me explain how messed up this is. I often feel like a cheese board. Each flavour can be paired with a different wine.
Every single person you meet will have a different version of you committed to memory. A distant relative might recall you as extremely shy because you didn’t participate in their gossipy vitriol at the dinner table. A college roommate might think you’re a bit of a prude every time you walked in on her making out. A neighbour might think you’re a terrible influence to their neat little housing society just because she caught you sneaking in back home that one time. (It was one time Mrs Apt 601. Do an Elsa and let it go already.) Your mother thinks you’re the epitome of beauty and grace, your father thinks you’re the hole in the boat.
Now imagine all these people ganging up to find you, someone, to spend the rest of your life with. I say ‘ganging up’ because sometimes it does feel like you’re being packed off to be sent into a cult.
I’m sure they mean well, but they’re going to find me a partner based on what they think will match their version of me best. And since apparently everyone is a goddamn advertising guru, they make their ideals sound lucrative enough for me to actually aspire towards it. Never once stopping to think if it’s what I truly want. I’d only realise the grand blunder once the spark would fizzle out like a biscuit left too long in tea.
And even then, the first thing I’d do is probably blame myself. That, somehow, I’d failed. When in reality, all that happened was that their ‘ideal person’ was pretty un-ideal for me specifically.
Love is an emotion that has endured for aeons and can now manifest in various ways. It has many faces and different ways to attract you to it. It can be shiny, deeply troubled, mysterious, elusive.
The more questions I answered on OkCupid, the more I recognised the kind of love I crave. The quiet love. The love that stays. This sort of love is not Instagrammable. It’s not of the ‘proposal under the Eiffel Tower’, ‘fairy lights’, ‘backyard picnic’ variety. It’s the comforting sort you come back home to, retreat into. The one that slowly seeps into the nooks and crannies of your life. Nestles gently into the scratches the world has punctured into you. What’s wrong with wanting this kind of love?!
Kintsugi, that’s what the Japanese call it. The art of repairing broken things by pouring gold into the cracks. The person filled with the right sort of love, the real stuff, is left unchanged yet somehow more beautiful. Because this kind of love isn’t just about how good it looks from the outside – instead, it’s about how it makes you into the best version of yourself.
And once I discovered this is what I wanted, how could I settle for anything less? Or depend on another person to find it for me? No one knows me like I do (apart from this app clearly). I don’t think I’m looking for a partner just now, but this accidental journey did teach me something rather important – love should make you happy. Something we so easily forget.
But what do I know? I’m just another fraud.