the ugly earring

ug‧ly [uhg-lee] offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance

Category: hermaphrodites

soul searching



(photos by man ray)

if there was one book that is most often pulled from the bookshelf it is plato’s symposium. Recently, royal quiet deluxe‘s ongoing pursuit of the soul mate theory inspired a skim through this masterpiece. There are so many great passages,  Diotima of Mantineia’s explanation of love, for example, is my new favorite:

No god is a philosopher. or seeker after wisdom, for he is wise already; nor does any man who is wise seek after wisdom. Neither do the ignorant seek after Wisdom. For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.” “But-who then, Diotima,” I said, “are the lovers of wisdom, if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?” “A child may answer that question,” she replied; “they are those who are in a mean between the two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher: or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant. And of this too his birth is the cause; for his father is wealthy and wise, and his mother poor and foolish. Such, my dear Socrates, is the nature of the spirit Love. The error in your conception of him was very natural, and as I imagine from what you say, has arisen out of a confusion of love and the beloved, which made you think that love was all beautiful. For the beloved is the truly beautiful, and delicate, and perfect, and blessed; but the principle of love is of another nature, and is such as I have described.”

But back on point, RQD’s posts reminded me of Aristophanes description of love–that the search for “a soul mate” is a longing to be reunited with our other half. According to Aristophanes, we once roamed as man, woman and the union of the two. The “androgynous” ones ironically were the most powerful and attempted to overthrow the gods:

Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three;-and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round: like their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, dared to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods.

Zeus cut them in half. His reasoning:

“Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.” He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair…”

and so begins the search for our other half:

After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one…

And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover’s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.


why plato’s hermaphrodites don’t exist

I have a girlfriend who believes that romance is like a two-hour romantic comedy film. That a man must woo and bring daffodils, that he’ll error–perhaps in Las Vegas where he gets a little whacky with his bachelor buddies–she’ll find out, and he’ll lose the girl. He’ll later realize how worthless his life is without her, and that she is forever gone. He’ll chase her to oblivion–ultimately winning her forgiveness, confessing that his loins and heart belong to only her. Afterward, an engagement and a happy ending. All this in two hours and 23 minutes.It’s no wonder that she is constantly broken-hearted and disappointed when the reality of her affair slips after two months of courtship and falls into a sadistic world of his “I-don’t-know-what-I-want” and unreturned phone calls. Her confidence shattered, she blames herself for his disappearance. “What’s wrong with me?” she’ll ask. Soon, she’ll become infatuated with her spinning class; she’ll fall asleep to her Netflix rentals or the imaginary bohunk that has entertained her many lonely nights.

Perhaps this is the result of years sitting in front of the television, of being brainwashed to the point that “entertainment” is reality, and reality is just not good enough. A man is unable to commit. A woman must tell herself, “Give a little but not too much. Play the game like a man. Wear a mask and never expose the real you just in case he decides to leave. A defense mechanism. He leaves because of the face you wear and not because of you, the real you.”

Many search for that heightened sense of the first kiss, that magical moment at the end of the film when the two are reunited passionately. After all, this is what romance is supposed to feel like. Or is it?

Just a couple of months ago, the friend read me excerpts from He’s Just Not That into You by Greg Behrendt, which had become her bedside manifesto. Suddenly, the day-dreamy ideals that she developed during years of watching Jennifer Aniston movies became more far-fetched and separated from reality. She says to me, for example, “I want to find a chiseled 6’2 male who doesn’t cheat, who doesn’t look at other women, who’s a successful artist, who is rich and says ‘I will support you; I’ll pay off your debts. Please go and pursue your painting….I’ll take care of everything.’ He also cleans the bathtub, has a great sense of humor, won’t like porn, won’t care if my thighs are chunky, enjoys shopping and likes to cuddle, will buy me gifts on Valentine’s day and after two years of dating he’ll propose in Hawaii, and it will be the happiest day of my life!”

Consumed with her ideal of Mr. Wonderful, she searches for him, dates around but realizes that she’ll never be satisfied with Mr. Normal when Mr. Perfect is what she deserves. She decides to stop dating because fate will bring him to her. Yes, he will appear on her front porch randomly one evening as she’s flopped on the couch with another re-run of Seinfeld.

She’ll watch as the many nights she spent waiting for him have now passed–the last ones of her twenties. She’ll sink into a deeper loneliness. She’ll discover her strongest traits are bitterness and jealousy.

I could tell her that love isn’t the things that are locked up in her heart pendant–that the road to a healthy relationship is sometimes crooked and dysfunctional and not even close to the daily events that are conjured up in her daydream or her favorite film. But, she refuses to turn off her television and hand over Mr. Perfect.

I wonder if she’ll ever leave her self open enough to experience a partner that is not only a lover but an annoying brother, a best friend and an enemy? A partner who becomes her other half–who catches her when she stumbles but is also the culprit behind her fall.

I confess to her that in most relationships there are wars declared behind bedroom doors, and peace treaties signed over vegan lasagna and a clean kitchen. She looks at me blankly and responds, “Isn’t it tragic that Brad left Jennifer for Angelina Jolie?”

A gift for you realists and those who have found their other half:

“If we have the strength to take a relationship as far as it will go. To discard the false masks, to live through the outbursts of hatred and violence, to confront honestly our full range of feelings, we may discover and emotional capacity that is much deeper and richer than we expect. The doubts are never quieted, the struggle is never over, the confusion is never eliminated, but the imperfect love comforts and survives.”

–Ingmar Bergman