Soul mates. Other halves. Isn’t it funny how in a world that champions the individual, we were potty-trained to believe that we’re incomplete and have thus to spend our lives looking for the person that will make us feel whole again?
No matter how deep I delve into marketing, first and foremost, I’m a linguist. One of the pure joys in my life (mind the person who once told me “anything in its pure form is boring”) is language. How it’s used. How it’s shaped. What its structure and its components reveal about the hearts and minds of the people who speak, think, sing, write, love and grow in it.
In Greek, we use the term “other half”. This is why when I first moved to Germany, I was infatuated when I discovered the notion of “die bessere Hälfte” (en. the better half), something completely new to me. [Apparently it’s new to Duden, the bulky German dictionary, as well since even their online version still lacks a definition.]
In English, the expression “the better half” is used solely to refer to somebody’s wife, husband or partner; their significant other. Solely a way to address people? This shall not pass. What about reading between, over and around the lines and deciding that there should be a further, more poetic understanding of the term?
What if by referring to someone as your “better half” assumed someone who is a positive force in your life and brings out the better in you? Someone you can look up to and think “This person is so much better at [insert activity of your choice, e.g. baking red velvet cake] but this is not to be considered ground for comparison, confusion and/or bitterness; this person simply inspires me to become better at baking red velvet cake myself. Then after I’ve mastered that skill, I’ll continue hustling until I mastered the art of dark chocolate Guinness cake. And then…”
Until you are Sophie Faldo (or someone else from seasons 1 to 7) and win the Great British Bake Off. Sorry, I meant to write life.
Perhaps I’m overly sentimental because I’ve just finished reading Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked (2009), where we witness a borderline middle-aged couple, Annie and Duncan, going through a borderline middle-age crisis. Kind of. Amongst other things, Annie comes to the realisation that they have been hindering each other from making any type of progress in their lives: they live in a town they hate, working jobs they’re not passionate about and have no chance to turn into careers, trapped in a relationship that in a scale from one to ten scores negative when it comes to excitement. They have stuck with each other – for no apparent reason, based on the book – and this emotional quicksand is swallowing down every single aspect of their lives.
Are they each other’s “better halves”?
As a result, do they end up staying together?
Thank God, no. [Oops, spoiler alert.]
Back to the person with the mad red velvet cake baking skills. What if this person is not a romantic partner? What if it’s a friend, a parent, a sibling or something entirely different? What if there plenty of them? All inspiring you to become a better version of yourself? Mind the word; we’re going for improvement, not perfection.
Sometimes you meet someone and it’s so clear that the two of you, on some level connect, belong together. The Thelma to your Louise, the Simon to your Garfunkel, the Batman to your Robin, the Bonnie to your Clyde, the Michael Scott to your Dwight Schrute. You go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong. The same way creatives in advertising, screenwriters for TV shows, musicians, etc., work together in couples. You meet these people throughout your life, out of nowhere, under the strangest circumstances, and they help you feel alive. And you cannot help but think “I don’t know if that makes me believe in coincidence, but it definitely makes me believe in something.”
I have a few people like that in my life and no one of them is a romantic partner. On the contrary, they have outlasted all of my romantic partners and interests. They are all wonderfully – but devastatingly – different from each other. However, they still bring out the best of me (or different parts of it at least) and I’d like to hope that it works the same way for them too. This is why I’d urge you to keep your eyes open when it comes to your better halves. The three fourths of my family that are mathematicians would strongly disagree with the following statement but, trust me on this – you’ve got more than one.