In Search of a Soulmate
By Shaun Hutchinson
With Angie Le Mar’s hit show, The Brothers, recently finishing a second sell-out stint, men and relationships are again in the news. Most women’s magazines include a token men’s column; women’s magazine, Essence, has published a “what men think” section for the past few months.
Women want to explore our minds. And contrary to received wisdom we do have one separate from that which guides the equipment in our boxers.
If you’ve got cable or satellite TV you’ll probably know Girlfriends. Each character is an ‘everywoman’ figure symbolising the dreams and concerns of the typical or stereotypical Black woman. Through sharp-witted comedy the twists and turns of relationships are explored. The four women have one thing in common - the search for a soulmate.
So what’s it all about? Are women genetically programmed for an obsessive quest for this mythical being? Is it a woman’s default status – the dream of a five decade long monogamous relationship with a soulmate? Not according to a recent Britain’s University of Durham study on online dating. The study titled Love on the Net, suggested that women who use this method choose partners to match different stages in their lives.
Nevertheless these are questions I ponder having come through a tough period – relationship wise. But that’s another story. For now I’m looking at soulmates.
I always linked the concept with what I call the Oprah Winfrey School of human relationship - a fairy-tale, Hollywood romance fantasy.
Think of Damon Wayans ‘My Wife and Kids’. A perfect family where counselling solves matrimonial strife. According to this vision it’s a global symbol of male-female relations. There's even a massive industry devoted to ensnaring women in this dream state. So women are reduced to the role of fashion-victims, the fair sex, dealing with relationships and nurturing.
I thought that women’s quest for the mythical 'soulmate' could be part of that outdated framework. I assumed that women, given the option of fashion and relationships, left men to rule the world - badly.
But maybe I was wrong. Not only The Brothers, but Patrick August in Babyfather, Mike Gayle in his series of relationships novels and Eric Jerome Dickey all dramatise men’s angst.
Omar Tyree in his best seller A Do Right Man describes the soulmate union as “a perfect and equal match between man and woman where their spirits, emotions and morale are either similar or complementary, forming a blissful and fulfilling bond between the two life energies”.
But men can’t get away from the seduction factor and a sister friend, an aspiring writer, said to me: “It isn’t necessarily a once only thing; neither is it only connected to romance”.
So what's the basis of the soulmate? Is it one of those possession-based notions of individual love?
Not according to Pauline a media professional, who thinks that:”Soulmates can just be a platonic friend. Someone who knows exactly where you're coming from at all times; someone, who gets angry with you; but never fed up.”
If that’s the case then there are more questions. Does it have to be a sexual relationship - or can it be a human relationship. Where does one get one, what is the selection criteria and how does such a relationship manifest?
Is it a spiritual bond, empathy, similarity - in taste, likes, dislikes; feeling completely at ease, wanting to be together but respecting space, collaborating on shared dreams, being partners, guides and mentors for each other, reciprocal confidantes?
Is it a recognition that one may wish to spend life together, to make dreams and plans together, and to be part of each others lives.
With all these uncertainties in my mind I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe its men who are genetically programmed to seek multiple partners and for women to discover a long-term mate. But can men see further than choosing a partner for carnal urges as well as for friendship. The women I spoke to think men can and should.
As for me – well I’m doing the field work. And I’m enjoying the search.
Shaun Hutchinson is The New Black Magazine's arts editor.
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