The animals walked into the ark two by two. A child is the product of a mother and a father. We are taught that marriage is the ultimate act of love because it means two people are joining into one.
As a society, we are obsessed with feeling whole, and on the whole, that means finding someone to kiss our wounds and insecurities goodbye in the dark hours of the night. Our partners become our ‘other halves’.
Films, music and novels condition us to love a romance. Oasis croon us with the idea that we can be someone’s Wonderwall. Chuck and Blair ended up together because of some higher magnetism that ‘pulled them in’. As did Ross and Rachel; Jack and Rose; Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, even Jane Eyre was pulled in by the creepy Mr Rochester because she psychically hears his voice calling to her across the country.
Soulmates. Is there even such a thing? It is time we recognised the power of the individual.
This is something that the sarcastic, gritty sci-fi thriller The Lobster (2015) challenged. “It’s really nice to be on your own. There’s no one tying you down, you can listen to music whenever you like, you can masturbate whenever you want,” lead character, and loner, David (Colin Farrell) concludes, against a society forcing him to be in a couple to stay alive.
Anxiety arises in trying to find someone else. We worry about biological clocks, or how our insecurities might make us weak. We tell ourselves that we feel lonely with no one to hold at night.
12 million Tinder matches are made every day due to this overwhelming need to connect with someone, either temporarily or on a more long term basis. It is difficult to appreciate how wonderful it can be just to be an individual. To be self-reliant and entirely independent. To look to no one but ourselves in the search for happiness.
Japanese culture has changed in recent years. The low birth rate is indicative of the many people who are choosing to reject romantic relationships to improve their career prospects, or just to enjoy a single lifestyle.
Similarly, couples are no longer just about procreation, or forming a secure family unit for a child.
Judith Butler’s research that gender is a construct has freed anatomically-defined males and females to explore whether they identify as, for example, masculine females or feminine males. Similarly, homosexual relationships and the growing number of people who identify as transgender have finally broken down the outdated definition of a couple being formed of a man and woman.
This newfound sexual freedom is empowering: couples are less two people becoming one, but two entirely solo-defined individuals finding a partner that allows them to express and celebrate who they are alone, IF they so choose.
Similarly, men and women who desire children, but refuse to compromise their self-belief to be in an unhappy partnership, now have access to sperm and egg donors. Single parent families, by choice, are actually on the rise.
The traditional idea of a couple has been eradicated. Why should we condition ourselves to want to be one half of someone else, rather than just being one whole self on our own? Being in love and being in a couple can be wonderful, yes. But so is just being the raw, magnificently flawed and independent YOU.
Our early twenties is the time to be exploring what it can be like to be an individual, as well as a couple. It is empowering to have no one to wait on to send us a text. It is empowering to make choices about our bodies: how we want to look, how we want to identify, and who we want to share them with. It is exciting to not just be one person’s – who more often than not is not worthy of us - ‘other half’.
Although it can be scary to be a singular pronoun, it is freeing to be part of a society where being an ‘I’ is just as acceptable as, if not more than, being a ‘we’.