People think that soulmates are like cake, or pie, when in fact, they’re actually much more like cookies. See, when you indulge in a cake you can have as much of it as you want. Finish it or don’t. It won’t matter because you’ve already nailed the flavor in your first several bites. The taste won’t change. You might like it, you might absolutely love it, it might be the capstone of birthday cakes, but when you’re done eating you’ve satiated your fifth sense with just one, comprehensive taste.
With cookies, you get the opportunity to bask in variety. You don’t have to choose a chocolate chip cookie over a sugar cookie or a macadamia nut. You can be finicky about your selection and then rest assured that unlike with cake, you can have your cookies and eat them too.
When considering soulmates, the supposition is always that there is one per person. That after you’ve found your one, your search is over, that your existence has been complimented and can therefore be rendered complete. But what if at the tender age of 23, you’ve already fulfilled this “duty.” Where does that leave you and the anticipatory years of exploration you imagine lay ahead?
Probably eating one uniform loaf of cake.
According to Wikipedia, the layman interpretation of soulmate is “a person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity.”
The historical context dates back to a theory culled by Plato that suggests in addition to the male and female genders, there was another: the “Androgynous” — a powerful and therefore highly threatening group that boasted both male and female genitals betwixt their legs. To eliminate competition and double the number of human worship, head honcho Zeus split the Androgynous down the middle so that each one got either a penis or a vagina, not both. The separated humans would then forever pine for his or her other half.
Another theory states that the androgynous gender was divided as a karmic testament to the gluttonous nature of their habits on earth. As the story goes, if and when the karmic debt is paid, the separate parts come back together.
Evidently, Match.com has found a loophole to predate the post-payment consolidation process. How? Watch one commercial — just one — and count the times these human affirmations will effusively declare, “I found my soulmate!”
You will cringe, I will too. But there’s trouble in that because at its core, Match.com is a selfless, endearing service aimed at helping to locate the thing we all presumably search for: happiness. That we look for happiness in the prospect of a partner, of course, presents another issue, but the relationship stories that come out of the website have, I am positive, affected at least a handful of people you know personally and maybe even taken you off the ledge of lonely.
Online dating is no longer a stigma. If you don’t have time to loiter around bars, there’s literally an app for that. If you’re not sure whether he’s is looking for his Mrs. Right, you can rest assured there is a place where you will know. So why are we cringing?
Because they’re calling each other soulmates! Duh! How corny is that? But why did the poor old compound word, made up of two seemingly diffident, one syllable nouns become such a hallmark of misplaced sentimentality?
It could be popular culture’s fault. After all, it turned the act of finding your soulmate into a violently platitudinal state of existence that describes two romantically involved parties who have become annoyingly happy and irrevocably in love preachers of the old adage, “Don’t worry, you’ll find your lid.”
My friend Sophie e-mailed me on Monday to ask about my stance on the topic of soulmates. I would imagine she thought I was the right person to ask because I’ve already chosen my cake, so to speak. But here’s the thing: heteronormality mandates that your soulmate should be your life companion, and the assumption when considering life companionship is that this “lobster” (as one Phoebe Buffet once put it when explaining the rubberband effect that was Ross and Rachel’s relationship), can only be your seafood of choice romantically. But does that have to be the case? Can’t a partner just be a partner? A really good one, who gets you, who likes you just as much as you like him or her, who stimulates you intellectually and as a bonus, offers athletic value to your bedroom-rooted exercise regiment?
Friendship is powerful. In spite of how much I love my partner-in-sex, when I think about my friends, I’m almost positive that I reap all the intrinsic benefits of a “soulmate” from the girls who have become my sisters. I feel the same way when I think about my mom, who gets me to a degree that I don’t even get myself. Sometimes, in fact, when I’m seated in that cushy leather chair, staring into a mirror while the man behind me rests his chin an inch above my crown and says “You need to go shorter,” I think my hairdresser might be my soulmate, too. Of course, the latter relationships are devoid of sexual stimulation but guess what? I have another, very reliable battery operated “soulmate” for that.
So why can’t my mom or best friend or hairdresser be my fresh-baked batch of soulmates while my husband just functions as my, you know, American Pie?
Illustration by Charlotte Fassler