“How did you know he was your soulmate?”
“You know, your true love? Your destiny.”
“Um… erm… I don’t believe in that kind of thing.”
“Oh… so you settled.”
“I didn’t settle. I just don’t believe that relationships work that way.”
“It’s okay. You can be honest. He’s not the One. Not every one is lucky like me and my husband. We complete each other. He always supports me.”
When I was eleven and puberty hit, the girls at my school were already talking about getting boyfriends in our class and going on dates. Discussions broke out over who was the most desirable guy. A girl with glasses mentioned the transfer kid, Ryan, and that he was “kinda cute”. Then another added, “He is so cute!” And more followed. I witnessed firsthand a mirroring as suddenly all the girls wanted Ryan. It seemed to happen when they knew enough of the others wanted him. Now the girl that had Ryan would be envied. Ryan was her ticket to attention and envy. There must be something special and unique about the girl that Ryan would choose.
Something that made her better than everyone.
Ryan was suddenly showered in female attention and gifts. He had only started puberty, but already flocks of girl followed him everywhere on the playground. He had never been short of friends, now he was a “hero” to the boys who wanted to know how he did it. How did he get the girls falling over themselves to be in his orbit? The boys wanted to know his secret? They wanted to learn from Obi-Ryan.
They were certain that Ryan must have some secret ability that attracted the girls, one he could teach to them if they stayed in his orbit. His soaring popularity soon affected his mother. Since all the daughters wanted Ryan to come to their events or on Play-Dates, his mother’s phone started blowing up. The other mothers wanted to be her friend, and then of course they’d guarantee their daughters’ access to Ryan. Access to Ryan meant access to popularity.
Where Ryan went, so too did everyone.
Conversations went like this:
“Guess what, you guys! My mom told me Ryan is coming to my Birthday Party!”
“Whaaaat? Ryan? Omg, I want to go! Please invite me!”
You could watch the girl’s smile grow and her chest puff out as the girls begged to go to her events and parties. Competition for Ryan’s time became fierce. Ryan became selective and soon only went to the parties of a handful. They became the popular girls (they were before and this added to their power).
I left school in fifth grade, studying at home, and did not return until university. I moved out of my parents’ house, an extremely shy girl, and into my dorm. I thought that the grade school stuff was over.
I was wrong.
Now the Boy Wars were a refined art.
I chose to hang out at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Club. There was this boy, Craig, who was kind of handsome and charismatic. I was eating pizza with some of the women in the club when one piped up, “Isn’t Craig kinda cute?” Then another agreed. Another followed. And it started again.
A club for geeky obsessions attracted quite a few women who came to compete for Craig because whoever got him was better than the others. With that many attractive women, more men followed. The club swelled in numbers as the women hung off Craig.
Craig was my first real crush, and my first heartbreak.
I hung out with Craig’s group of friend. I spent whole evenings, even weekends with him and his friends watching them play video games and Trogdor videos and play board games. It was like living out an episode of The Big Bang Theory. I wasn’t alone. Lots of the other women also came. We were all in a war for Craig’s attention. His friends tried to pick off some of us to be their “girlfriends”, but their overtures were only tolerated. They weren’t Craig. Craig was the prize.
My friend became Craig’s girlfriend. I learned about it in the car with my other friend, Laila, as we followed behind Craig’s car. I was heartbroken. She giggled to me, “Those two are holding hands”. I had never experienced this before, this sinking feeling of failure.
I had lost.
I can’t even remember what I liked about Craig back then. I’ve seen photos of him now and he looks very different. He has a prominent gut now and his glasses are a lot thicker. All I remember now is the heartbreak of not getting the one you wanted. He no longer looks attractive at all. It’s weird trying to remember what drove my behavior all those years ago. Was it really Craig I wanted or something else?
I had been sure at the time that Craig was The One.
Once Craig had a girlfriend, the club’s numbers disintegrated as all the single women flocked elsewhere. With most of the women gone, most of the boys left. Craig getting a partner was the worst thing that could have happened to the SF club at my university. Soon all the remained was a very small core group, even Craig no longer came since his girlfriend consumed most of his free time.
I stopped going as well. A once thriving club that averaged thirty members a week, now struggled to attract four or five. It had collapsed without Craig there.
At the time I felt sure I had lost The One and would never experience True Love.
I am sad to say that I even stopped talking to Craig’s girlfriend, who I rekindled friendship with years later and who did go on to become Craig’s wife after several break-ups and make-ups between the pair. When I finally spoke to her again she asked me, “Why did you disappear?”
And I had no answer for that. I couldn’t tell her, “Because you got Craig“.
Most of the women cut her out or became “busy” after those two became an item. I guess there is a price to winning “the One”. I didn’t know about that. I thought it was just me putting distance from her and Craig to protect my feelings. I had no idea most of our female friends who had a crush on Craig were doing the same.
A couple years later I fell in love again and this one with someone who reciprocated my feelings. We broke after an intense three month relationship. It broke my heart. I thought we were perfect. I had believed he might be The One.
At the time most of my friends were in “happy” relationships, and I asked them “How did you know he was the One?”
“Well, I just knew,” was the common answer. “You just know,” they promised.
Only one of them stayed with those guys they claimed at the time were “their everything”. At the time though they reminded everyone of their perfect love stories and how lucky they were to meet the One.
I moved to Japan and met the group of JETs in my prefecture. The women went off in their own group and while sitting there, one asked slyly, “So… what do you think of the guys?”
The others kept looking around at the others. One chimed, “They’re all right.”
Then someone said, “I think Phil is kinda cool”
“Oh Phil?” another said quickly. “He’s really sweet.”
While not as extreme as in grade school and university, Phil became popular. He seemed surprised by the attention since women had never wanted him that much in university. Now he was desired.
I watched from afar. Phil never attracted me, and I met Mr. W soon after.
By the time I had a serious boyfriend most of my friends were in relationships. I was sure we were past the Boy Wars.
As I sat with a group of dating or married women, one asked me, “So how did you know Mr. W was The One? I knew Tom was mine. I just knew right away. We clicked from the start. It was the same for you, right?”
“Um…” I said sheepishly. “I don’t believe that stuff anymore. I don’t think that’s how love and relationships work.”
She quirked an eyebrow, giving me a sad look. “Oh honey, is he not The One?”
“What?” I looked at her in surprise. “No, of course, were in love. I just think people get caught up in this Hollywood idea of True Love. They expect too much. I’ve met too many people who were so sure they had met the One, and were disappointed in the end. I was there. I think it’s unrealistic.”
Her eyes glazed over as I talked, and when she came back she said with a smile plastered on, “You know, there’s nothing wrong with settling. Not everyone meets their special person.”
I gaped at her. I tried to explain that rejecting the idea of Soulmates and True Love did not mean I wasn’t deeply in love with Mr. W. He and I clicked. We got each other, but I didn’t believe in this Disney Fairy Tale idea of love. That’s all. There was no convincing her and several others who insisted “You wouldn’t say that if you had met The One.”
I slowly realized that the idea of The One was the new Craig/ Ryan/ Phil.
True Love was the workaround for the committed women to say she’d won the prize. It conferred a status on her for others to envy.
Claiming you had found A Love Written In The Stars was a way of claiming superiority to other relationships, and attracting women to ask “How did you do that?” and to accumulate envy.
The worst case was from a young woman I once knew who always posted on social media about her “special man”. These posts were often of them cuddled together, kissing, or tightly embraced with messages like, “Love is grand” and “This man completes me” and “See? True love is real. Never stop believing that your special someone is out there. We’re the proof!”
Back when we were still friends, she was gushing on and on to me how he was her soulmate and that she had always believed she would fine The One. She then asked, “How did you know your husband was The One?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. We clicked, but to be honest I don’t believe in that idea of true love or soulmates.”
From her face I might have just burned the Bible in front of her. She paled and looked shaken. Then a dullness filled her eyes and she was very quiet. When she came back, she smiled at me and said, “You sound kind of bitter. Well, not everyone meets the love of their life. My husband and I were lucky, I guess.”
I felt tight in my chest as her words sank in. I knew what she was implying. I had taken a dagger to what made her better than others, including me. Throughout our previous conversations she had implied this idea. I had felt her always trying to push me into complaining about my husband and talking up how wonderful her husband was. Back then, I had been too clueless to realize it until she took on this ugly tone.
The idea of True Love would not be insulted.
This young woman was envied on social media for her love story. Her fans flocked to her writing, “I want a love story like yours!” or “I want a man like him!” or “You are the most adorkable couple ever! I want that.”
She loved basking in their praise of her finding the One. It was like she had gotten Craig/ Ryan/ Phil. She loved their envy and attention.
Nowadays when I get that question of “How did you know Mr. W was your Soulmate?” or any other version of it, I often answer with a snarky, “Well, when he rode it on the white horse it was sort of a dead giveaway…”
Or I say, “I just knew…”
It’s easier that way.
What’s your story? How did you know he/ she was The One?