Dating in the Multiverse

When the angry commenters on YouTube are kind of right

Credit: Grandfailure/iStock/Getty Images Plus

I knew what I was getting into when I decided to read the YouTube comments on the film I made about love and dating. “Ignore the comments,” DUST’s programming director warned me a few days before the film’s release. “People can get really nasty behind avatars.”

I didn’t listen. My film, Multiverse Dating for Beginners, is about a woman who suffers many broken hearts while struggling to secure a date with the guy she likes. She jumps through several parallel universes in attempts to get it right. In doing so, she notices how differently he responds in each situation. Specifically, she notices that he responds positively if she “plays it cool” and negatively if she shows him interest. It’s a brutally honest story that’s 95 percent true to my personal experiences.

Hours after the film’s release, I took a deep breath and began to scroll. I was expecting the comments to be rude, mean, and violent, and a lot of them were: “Neurotic, insecure…” “A perfect example of how toxic modern western females are.” “The typical needy nutcase…” “Fellas, avoid women like her.”

Both women and men are taught that love is magic and out of our control.

But while they were cruel, I also felt like many of the comments rang true. Amidst the vitriol, I couldn’t help but admit: The Angry Men of YouTube were right. Or not “right,” per se. But some of their criticisms were valid. We don’t live in a singular universe where everyone holds the same beliefs and plays by the same rules. There is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to opinions. And because we live in an infinite multiverse where every individual experiences a slightly different reality from the next, everything is subjective.

Don’t get me wrong; many of the comments on my film are awful, crazy, and straight up suspect. “I’d rather date a Klingon” comes to mind. You do you, sir. But many of the comments hold a grain of truth that explains what’s missing from our conversations about love and dating: We’ve been socialized to act the way we act and think the way we think. This is why we continue to fail in securing the love we’ve been told we deserve.

In the simplest terms: We need to stop blaming each other and start getting angry with — and subsequently dismantling — the culture that taught us to be this way.

Here’s the truth: I am a needy, neurotic, often insecure woman who operates from a place of what one commenter referred to as “toxic, modern, western beliefs.” While he was likely referring to our current feminist culture, I think his frustration is born from the same place as mine: He believed the stories he was told.

This is neither of our faults. It’s not my fault that I internalized the princess myth and that — despite rationally knowing otherwise — I still believe that I can’t be truly happy unless I’m partnered up with a man. It’s not his fault that he fell for the manic pixie dream girl trope and believes women will magically appear to spend the rest of their lives inspiring and taking care of him. We’re both slowly deprogramming the stories we were told. Well, I’m deprogramming and he’s trolling YouTube. But no judgement. We’re all on our own paths.

Women are taught from day one that their primary purpose in life is to find a husband. Men are taught that it’s a woman’s job to serve them. Both women and men are taught that love is magic and out of our control. Our culture is filled with stories that enforce these ideologies. They’re the stories I believed in and they’re toxic.

I know the Angry Men of YouTube believed in these stories, too. In fact, I think they got burned by these stories more than anyone. Unlike the men I dated, I don’t think the men who commented on my film ran when they encountered needy women. I think they believed that the chemistry, attachment, and magic they felt was real love. I think they jumped in with two feet.

Kelly Tatham rehearsing with actors William Vaughan and Sara Canning. Photo: Livio Maynard

I say this because as I parsed through the feed, I began to notice a secondary theme. After the “crazy bitch” comments, the commenters started to say things like, “You get the feeling that no matter how many multiverses she popped in and out of, she’d never be happy” and “She’ll never be satisfied and she’ll never be loyal to anyone.”

At first, I was confused. All I wanted was loyalty! Happiness was contingent on commitment! But then it occurred to me: After the heartbreak of each failed relationship passed, in the beautiful clarity that comes with hindsight, I would realize that the men I was “in love” with, the men I so desperately wanted to be with, weren’t right for me. I felt deeply grateful that I hadn’t settled down with any of them.

So the Angry Men of YouTube were right: I would not have been satisfied in the long term. Clouded by chemistry and driven by my ability to see infinite potential in people, I fell in love with those men. But in hindsight, I understood that not long after securing the commitment I so desired, I would have left them.

There was always a reason: The sex was mediocre, or he wasn’t a traveler, or he didn’t like dogs. All of those men had non-negotiable flaws that I ignored because I felt like I was in love. I believed love was the most important thing. I was a fool for the feeling of love and a fool for the possibility of partnership.

And all of those men, the ones who were lashing out all over the Internet, were fools once, too. They believed in love and got burned. You don’t spend your days posting negative comments on the Internet unless you’ve been hurt and you’re carrying immense pain in your heart.

I made this film as an attempt to write my way out of the toxic stories I was told. And though my beliefs about love have changed and grown in the time since I wrote it, I stand by everything I shared. It was my truth at the time.

But it wasn’t all true. Five percent of my film is a lie. I wanted to deliver an uplifting ending so I fudged the truth. I couldn’t help myself; I wrote the ending I needed, not the ending that was true. At the end of the film, after all her ranting, thoughts, feelings, and truth, she asks him, “You still wanna go on that date?”

“I kind of do, actually,” he replies.

She smiles and the universe shakes, shifts, and crumbles. We go into the final scene with a sense of hope and forward momentum.

I needed that lie then, but if I were writing the film now, I wouldn’t write it in the same way.

Because the honest truth is that a man has never said those words to me. A man has never agreed to date me after I’ve shown him all of my truth, neuroses, hope, and pain.

I needed that lie then, but if I were writing the film now, I wouldn’t write it in the same way. I wouldn’t let him say no because I still need the possibility of a yes, but I wouldn’t have him say yes, either. I would let the universe shake, shiver, and shift before he could answer. Then I’d leave it up to the audience to decide the ending for themselves.

The very last scene would remain the same, though. She would walk away alone. There would be no man, no date, and no second-guessing. She would retain her power and stride away on a journey of speaking her truth. She would seek a deeper understanding of who she is and live a life beyond the stories that she was told.

Fugitive. Systemsthinker. Saving the world is easier than we think. There is no world.

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