A few days ago, the movie “Timer” appeared on my Netflix suggestions. Intrigued by the description (and that it starred Anya from Buffy), I started to watch. It’s not a stellar movie by any means, but the plot got me thinking.
The basic concept of the movie is this: in the not-too-distant future, Science (probably the aliens at Google — did you see that Google guitar last week?) finds a way to identify a person’s soul mate. Everyone in the world gets a chip implanted into their arm that is set to countdown until they first make eye contact with the person they’re meant to be with.
For most people, this is great news. Their timer is set to go off at a reasonable age (when they’re in their 30s) and they are able to have carefree 20s. They have fun, without worrying about the ups and downs of dating, because they know from the onset that the flings they pursue in their 20s will never go anywhere. In many ways, the chip is liberating.
For others, the news is not so joyous. Some meet their soul mate at 13, other won’t meet them until they’re in their 60s or 70s. Some are already married, only to learn that they did not marry the person they should have. And for a precious few, when that timer is implanted, no clock starts counting down, no soul mate is waiting for them.
There’s a part of this that appeals to me, both on a personal level and in the ways in which I interact with my friends. Personally, I’d love to bypass the concept of reading signs (a skill I will never acquire) and situation-appropriate flirting. There’s a comfort in having an idea of what will happen when, and I think the whole thing might make me a little less socially awkward.
There are also times when I know my friends are dating people completely wrong for them. And, try as I might, I am unable to help them see that something different, something better, is out there waiting for them. It might be nice to be able to point to a chip in their hand and convince them to throw this fish back in the pond.
But then, of course, the argument can be made that these romantic mishaps we face make us into the people we become. I know that I am better in new relationships because of the lessons I learned from old ones. More than that, I enjoy the initial stages of meeting someone. I like wondering what he’s thinking, what will happen, what the future might hold. There’s a beauty in the mystery of meeting someone new, and I don’t know if I’d be willing to give that up for the comfort I feel in the safety of knowing.
Without the ups and downs and unexpectedness of love and rejection, would we have anything to occupy song lyrics, books or the lines of a poem? What would Taylor Swift sing about? How would teenage girls fill the pages of their diaries? What in the would would we gchat about? A world without romantic mystery is a world I’m not sure I want to live in, despite how comforting it may be.
And now I’ll pose the question to you: if you could forgo the entire dating process — if you could know the moment you’d meet the person meant for you — would you?
Joy Engel lives and works in Portland, Maine where she tweets far too much and solves the occasional murder-mystery while riding around on a bicycle. Everything she writes is her personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of her employer or its clients.