Selenium 1962: What do you think of the idea of "the One?
Anouchka: Dear Selenium 1962,
I think it's a highly mathematical problem. If some people annoy you more than others, while others please you greatly, it must be the case that there's one person in the world who has fewest of the qualities that displease you, and the highest number of qualities you like. Of course it may also be the case that they don't feel the same way about you. If that's so, then they aren't the One. To find the One, you would need to locate all the people at the pleasing end of the spectrum and count backwards from the most pleasing until you came to one who liked you. They would be the One for you, although it's still mathematically possible that there might be other people in the world who would please them more than you do. This would be an extremely expensive activity to organise, but what's a bit of money spent on the quest for True Love?
The next step would be negotiating the tricky issue of whether it's more enjoyable to be the lover or the beloved. Would you rather be the One for someone else, and just put up with the fact that they aren't exactly the One for you, although you still like them? Or do you think it would be better to have the perfect One for you and accept the risk that there might be other people out there they'd like to be with better?
Lacan and Spinoza would seem to agree that being the lover is preferable, but that the good news is you can turn it around. The ultimate act of romantic generosity takes place when the beloved begins to act like the lover.
If the idea of a romantic power imbalance is too unbearable, you will just have to keep counting backwards from the most perfect to the least perfect until you strike a balance in the middle; you find someone who likes you exactly as much as you like them. Of course it will be a matter of luck whether this happens near the top or near the bottom. By aiming for parity, you may end up with a mutually lukewarm relationship. Or even a relationship built on mild dislike. Given that this is easy enough to organise without the expense of a huge, global psycho-mathematical experiment, you might as well stop worrying about the One and just go out with whoever seems nice at the time.
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girlnextdoor: I've been best friends with a man for years, but I've suddenly started to fancy him (I'm a woman, by the way!). Why have I never felt that way about him before? Am I just being stupid?
Anouchka: Dear girlnextdoor,
No, you aren't being stupid; you are being human. You are also conveniently illustrating how unsubtle all those dreary neurobiological theses about love are. If the neuro-bods were as correct about everything as they sometimes pretend to be, situations like this would never happen. If we really fell in love at the first whiff of a genetically suitable pheromone, then why didn't you notice your biological compatibility before? Have you always had a blocked nose in your friend's presence? Or has he recently stopped wearing extra strong antiperspirant? Or maybe you've only ever previously met online? No? Then it must be that you are exhibiting your commendable human complexity, and I wish you very well.
It seems in your case that it would be far more helpful to watch When Harry Met Sally than to look to any of the currently fashionable but horribly reductive scientific theories about love and human sexuality.
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national velvet: What did you do on Valentine's day?
Anouchka: Dear national velvet,
I stayed in and worked while my boyfriend went out for a pizza with his mother. It was romantic in the extreme.
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uniquely piqued: Do you have any tips on dealing with jealousy?
Anouchka: Dear uniquely piqued,
Is it you that gets jealous or your partner? In either case it's usually a good idea to think about the jealous person and their relation to the third party. Why are you/they jealous of that person?
Of course a jealous person is liable to claim that it's all the fault of someone else. "You were flirting with them!" "They were flirting with you!" Blah, blah, blah, etc. But surely the main reason they are feeling this way is that they have spotted something about this supposed interloper and have decided that their partner will be drawn to it. In other words, it's them that fancies the person, not you (or vice-versa).
In heterosexual relationships an overload of jealousy can point to a strong current of latent homosexuality. Your boyfriend, say, can't admit to himself that he sometimes finds men attractive, so whenever it happens he projects it onto you. And if your same-sex partner suspects you of being interested in people of the wrong gender the same can be said in reverse.
I'm sure it's good to treat jealous people humanely though — unless they are being truly horrible. It's a very unpleasant thing to find oneself feeling.