Is there such a person as Mr Right? Sarah ponders whether believing in The One is such a good thing
Icould really do with a scapegoat at this moment. Husbands make wonderful scapegoats. My friend Diana blames hers for everything, from running out of toilet paper to rain on a camping trip. I’d love to vent my raging pain right now – but I don’t have a husband any more, and besides, if you have a shred of conscience, scapegoating is a wretched game. So instead I pace. Wildly, silently, with a hotwater bottle clamped to my face. At 6.59 I spring to the phone. At 7 am, I’m doing something I’ve never done before: calling on the dot of Opening Hours.
“Guten Morgen?” And I’m off, babbling in German from the side of my mouth like a Teutonic Humphrey Bogart. “So I need to come today!” I finish through my hotwater bottle.
The receptionist clatters and rustles in that mysterious receptionist’s way. “Can you come in… immediately?”
Immediately? Normally I’m completely allergic to that word. Now it’s music to my aching ears. I pull on my coat and I’m off, flying through the streets without caring that I’ve been up all night, am in my sweats, have bird’s nest hair and panda eyes. When you’re ready to rip your own head off, appearances become strangely irrelevant.
I speed through Prenzlauer Berg, a neighbourhood I detest for its organic prissiness, cobbled cutesiness and the latest terrifying phenomenon, a Mothers and Toddlers private members’ club. The most anarchic act you can hope for here is someone putting green glass in the clear glass recycling bin. But today something is different. Squinting through the blinding pain and dazzling sun, I see people are noticeably loosened up. Not only loosened, but smiling. And not only loose and smiley, but openly and blatantly eyeing each other up.
Even with my swollen jaw and my Worzel Gummidge hair, I’m given speculative smiles and second-glance stares. At first it’s unnerving but then I remember: this is the first month of summer. The time when Berliners burst out of their chrysalises into seductive colour – into hopeful butterfly courting mode.
According to an experiment first conducted 40 years ago, which has been much repeated with unvarying results, if a woman approaches a man on the street and asks him to go to bed with her, 60% of men say yes. The other 40% apologise for saying no. When a friend of mine heard these statistics, her lifelong belief in the One and Only was shattered. “How can I believe in a Mr Darcy,” she lamented, “when it’s all so random? So – so biological?”
Rushing towards my date with an electric drill, I see openness to sex all around me. It’s high-powered flirting in morning rush hour. Briefcases are swinging. Muscular workmen are posing under scaffolding appraising passers-by, who appraise them back. Unlike my friend, I don’t feel robbed by the realisation – I actually feel relieved. Perhaps my husband and I were not, in fact, ‘destined’ for each other but were just two people who met at an opportune time – which means that we didn’t run something written in the stars onto the rocks?
What enormous pressure is placed on us by fairytales and rom-coms. The lifelong emphasis on finding the ‘intended’ man, followed by soaring hopes and sky-high expectations, followed by disappointment and despair. What if instead, we just looked around and saw how many interesting and likeable people there are out there, instead of trying to create a Mr Darcy out of a Mr Ordinary?
Happenstance. Serendipity. The words chant in my head. Are these better and more realistic routes to happiness than a belief in an all-exclusive Fate?
One hour and one extracted tooth later, I reel out into the waiting room and sink down in a chair. My chipmunk cheek bulges with cotton wool. My lip is split; there are specks of blood on my chin. I glance at the man waiting to go in. He smiles at me – and his gaze lingers. Sure, he’s ordinary looking. But he’s nice looking. That is, he looks like a nice person. A regular, run of the mill possibility. A non-Darcy. And in spite of the pain, I smile back.
What enormous pressure is placed on us by fairytales and rom-coms