Photo: Getty Images/Phil Ashley
Courtesy of: Phil Ashley
Dear Future Soul Mate,
Forgive me for not using your actual name. You see, we haven't met yet. Tell you what -- how 'bout I just refer to you as Julie? I've always liked that name and I wouldn't be surprised if you ended up having it. Y'know, it feels strange expressing my deepest personal thoughts to a woman I haven't even seen, but I'm making an exception for you because, after all, we will eventually be together for the rest of our lives. Plus, just because we haven't met yet, doesn't mean we can't share our feelings, right? This way, when we finally do meet, we'll be that much farther along in the relationship. It'll be like our seventh date. Just think of the intimacy.
After many years of not being able to find you, Julie -- well, two years to be exact, the frustration of the endless search started to get to me. It seemed like I was right on track for turning into the male equivalent of the old spinster with seven cats and a passion only for crocheting sweaters for friends and relatives, and their pets, lucky enough to have found relationships. I felt myself beginning to experience the Seven Stages of No Soul Mate Grief.
First, there was shock -- the horrifying realization that we may never meet. It seemed as though every woman I met had a giant neon NOT YOUR SOUL MATE sign atop her head. Oh, sure, some of them were attracted to me and it wouldn't have been difficult to have comforted myself with a series of meaningless, superficial sexual encounters. But that's not what I wanted; that's not me, ultimately that's not even satisfying, in case my mother is reading this.
Denial followed shock. All evidence to the contrary, Julie, I informed anyone who asked about it, that it was simply a question of time and luck before I'd meet my soul mate. Those to whom I'd say this would nod and give me a half-smile, attempting to be supportive, but, oh yes, I could see the pity in their eyes. It was the exact same look my parents gave me when I informed them that rather than going to law school, I was going to give stand-up comedy a try.
As I moved into the bargaining stage, I attempted to cope with my loss of soul mate hope by making a deal with God. "Lord, if You allow me to meet my soul mate, I'll become a better person. I'll attend temple more often, I'll be kinder to people, I'll make donations to charity even if they don't send the personalized, self-sticking address labels, I'll stop taking your name in vain when the driver in front of me is too slow to make it through the yellow light, I'll subscribe to PBS. I'll floss."
Of course, the guilt stage was no big shocker to me, as I was quite experienced in that arena. It took the form of multiple "If onlys." If only all the relationship wisdom I'd read about and received from others had sunk in. If only I hadn't turned Kathy down just because when she laughed, she sounded like a goat. If only Pam hadn't caught me trying on her underwear. (Hey, come on, it was research. Okay, I was just curious. Oh, all right, it was a very stressful period in my life and there was no chocolate around.)
It's no wonder I reached the anger stage. I was angry at life for forcing me to keep paying monthly fees to online dating websites rather than the much easier and far more economical method of simply accidentally bumping into my soul mate in an elevator or supermarket, with appropriate Phil Collins or Elton John soundtrack music, just like in the movies. I was angry at myself for not having developed whatever relationship skills might turn me into a babe magnet. I was angry at my parents for not having given me more superficial genetic gifts and fewer tendencies to self-analyze.
Depression followed closely upon anger, Julie. Look what you did to me and you didn't even know me. I lost interest in meeting my soul mate, much less dating at all. I sounded as though all the life and energy had been drained from my voice. I slumped. I couldn't even motivate myself to call a depression hotline. And here's how I realized I was truly, deeply depressed -- I watched daytime TV. Three days in a row. Do you know how deeply depressed a man has to be to watch daytime TV?
Finally, I became resigned to the fact that some people just aren't meant to meet their soul mates and apparently I was one of them -- the few, the lonely, the man doomed for the rest of his life to face a restaurant maitre d' who, while the Muzak is playing Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely," looks at him pityingly and asks, "Table for one?", and then shines a spotlight on him as all eyes follow him to his solitary table, offering looks of sympathy as the waiter removes one of the place settings and he finally cries out in anguish, "Please, for the love of God, look away, I am alone and hideous!"
So, how, you may wonder, did things turn out relatively well? How did I finally arrive at the last of the Seven Stages of No Soul Mate Grief -- the stage of Acceptance and Hope? Well, Julie, you see, there's some good news. I met someone. Finally. Which to me pretty much constitutes proof of God's existence. The walking on water thing? Nah. Changing water into wine? Uh-uh. Finding a woman who I like as much as she likes me? Bingo. And I really like her. I even got rid of all my chocolate for her. Well, not totally; it's wrapped securely in the third cabinet on the left. You never know.
Is this woman my soul mate, Julie? Who knows? At this point, I'm not even sure what it would feel like to have a soul mate. I mean, come on, her name isn't even Julie. Perhaps that's a red flag. It's just that... maybe if you find someone you really like, who seems to like you, is pretty and smart and doesn't seem to mind your flaws and smells good and doesn't even bring up the subject of restraining orders, that's soul mate enough for any man. Even me. Now, if you'll excuse me, Julie, I need to go floss and get ready for temple.