November 18th, 2015


Love, Hotel Transylvania, and why soulmates are bullshit

My kids love this movie "Hotel Transylvania". I like the goth feel and it has funny lines but I hate the message it sends about love, relationships, and (duhn duhn DUUUUHN) SOULMATES.

In the movie, the daughter Mavis is coming of age and meets a boy she adores. Her single dad tries to split them up. She discovers a message left by her dead mother about how her mother and father fell in love at first sight with a ZING and how... get this... you only get one ZING.

Yes, the mother's one message left behind for her daughter who would grow up with out her was that if you fall in love, that's it. Better make it work because it won't happen again. It literally says, "You only get one ZING."

So I hate this movie, and the whole idea, and think it's downright awful to tell kids that love works this way.

You know how many terrible breakups I had in college because one or both of us was convinced that dammit this was IT and we are meant to be because 75% of this relationship works so surely we're supposed to work hard enough to get to 100%! What we have is so special and irreplaceable! We love each other! This amazing (okay, at least pretty darn good) relationship is not something to throw away!

Then one person decides no, it's not worth fighting for, and rather than say "Okay it wasn't meant to be" the other person CANNOT let go because they're convinced that we're supposed to fight for every relationship because... soulmates.

I came to realize that it's really a mark of immaturity, not loyalty, to say "well this person isn't that great now but we all change and what if they're going to be the perfect person to me in five years?"

We have the opportunity to meet thousands or millions of people in our lives. Every person you date, you calibrate your brain to make a decision about what you're looking for in a person. You're going to meet thousands, maybe millions, in your life. Your odds of making great decisions with zero calibration data are very, very low.

When I was 24 or 25 I had a breakup and was telling everyone that we were actually okay, the guy wasn't flipping out, I was like "this is awesome, how can I date more non-psychos, how can I make sure all my relationships give me this freedom to get out if it's just not right?" and my friends said, "You know why this happened? Because someone has broken up with him before and he knows it's going to be okay. You want it to happen again? Date people who are over 23!"

In early relationships, we pick our dates very randomly, and then tend to stay with them out of fear because we're scared to pick another one. Later, we pick our dates more strategically, knowing a few red flags to look for, and we stay in because we realize hey, this person has something really rare and wonderful that the last person didn't have. We know good reasons to stay. There's less fear because we've learned that yes, another bus will come along in 15 minutes. All decisions are smarter.

I read a great article about divorce in fundamentalist Christian communities called Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed. The author initially thought that each teenager should marry his or her first love and that it was "traditional". Then he learned that his grandparents, who had successful marriages, actually grew up in households where they were forbidden to date the same person twice in a row! They were forced to get out there and meet different people to make a smart evaluation about who to marry. Then they got married. Again - smarter decisions.

Which brings me back to my beef about soulmates: I think the idea of soulmates leads to unsmart decisions. We should teach kids that first loves are great, but they pale in comparison to third loves, trust me. Maybe it'll take ten. Don't count. Just learn.

Dear daughters - if I'm not around to give you advice but I can leave you this note, have this one. I'm not going to tell you to treasure your first love. If that first committed relationship doesn't work out? GOOD. Trust me. Good!