Divorce Di­aries

Is there such a per­son as Mr Right? Sarah pon­ders whether be­liev­ing in The One is such a good thing

NEXT (New Zealand) - - At A Glance - By Sarah Quigley

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

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