All’s Well That Ends


Let us begin with a mathematical axiom: all relationships end. Even the most successful ones reach a conclusion when one of the two parties dies. Okay, yes, I suppose there are those stories about the couples who are together for fifty or sixty years and who die within hours or days of each other – or couples who die together under more tragic circumstances (thanks, Shakespeare) – and I suppose for them it could be said that the relationship never ended because even though it technically did, from their perspective it didn’t end so much as everything ended… so okay, fine. Let us begin with a revised axiom: 99.9% of relationships end.

Though this sounds like a cynical statement, endings in themselves are not inherently bad; they just are. Certainly, some endings are terrible: Rhett walking out on Scarlett just after she finally comes around; Robert Downey Jr. walking out on Ally McBeal to go back to rehab (and forcing that bizarre donated-egg-daughter season); every relationship at the center of any Lifetime movie. Even the good endings are usually sad in the moment. But since most of us will experience significantly more relationships that do end than relationships that don’t (a number limited to one), we might as well accept that things will (probably) fall apart.

I find that after the end of every relationship, I experience a little moment of relief. Usually, it is a few days after all of the talking, crying, hair tearing, and chest thumping is over. Once the dust of the ending has settled, I’ll find myself out driving, or walking, and I’ll let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding and think, “Ah. So that’s how that ends.”

It is almost as if I have been waiting to find out how it ends, or frustrated by the unknown of it all. Actually, the truth is worse. From the moment I even consider pursuing a relationship with a guy, I am actively speculating how it is likely to end.

Sometimes the picture is great! He and I will both be successful artists; we’ll have smart and creative children, start a family band, and live to the end of our days the envy of all we know. Usually, these scenarios go along with me pining away for years after some narcissistic writer or musician who would barely notice if I dropped out of his life entirely – which I eventually do. That’s how those actually end.

With some people you just know from day one that you are going to have to end it. Maybe you nip it in the bud right then, or maybe you keep him around for a bit out of affection, or cowardice, or because he is cute and you might as well get a few more good make-out sessions in before you bring down the hammer. No matter the details, you know the end will be some form of “we have to talk,” and you just hope that it won’t also involve the strong desire to punch him in the face.

A couple of times, I have been pretty sure he was going to die young. This was liberating, because the pressure was off to feel he was “the one”. If he wasn’t, I’d probably have a second chance down the road as a young widow. For better or for worse, my own health issues stopped me from pulling the trigger on those relationships, and now that I am older any possible second chance is more and more likely to involve an artificial hip.

My most relaxing experience was the relationship that I knew would end in one of two ways: either amicably once we were a few years older (we loved each other but were never going to marry each other), or because he snapped and murdered me in my sleep. Sure, I hoped for option A, but either way I wasn’t going to have to be the bad guy.

The worst are those relationships that you just know are too good to be true. You’re crazy about him, but the odds are definitely not in your favor, so you know they will end, but have no idea how. Maybe he’s young, or you’re young; one of you is too-recently out of a major relationship, or both of you; he’s anti-marriage, or anti-family; or every single one of his ex-girlfriend stories involves them being psycho – which means he is the problem. In the best-case scenario, this guy turns out to be an asshole and you are free to hate him. Worst case, everything you knew would be a problem turns out to be a problem and you both wind up with broken hearts.

Still, it occurs to me that, while I have experienced all of these endings (and more), I don’t wish that I hadn’t. Not even a little. What, then, is the point of the mental exercise? Self-protection? Cynicism? Just the compulsion of a story-telling mind?

I love stories that involve time travel, if only because it is entertaining to watch their authors try to deal with the paradoxical problems inherent in stories about time travel. But one I read recently also made me think about two big questions. First, if I knew for sure how a relationship was going to end, would I do it anyway? And second, how does knowledge of a possible future affect my behavior?

The first question is easy – probably. When you’re in a relationship, you are in it presumably because it is making you happy, and as a species we humans do enjoyable things that we know won’t end well all the time. Like eating spicy food, or getting drunk, or having unprotected sex. Often all in the same night! We also have the emotional bravery to face unpleasant experiences in exchange for the benefit at the end. Experiences like law school, boot camp, and child birth.

Even if I knew about my most painful breakups in advance, I probably wouldn’t have sacrificed the relationships that preceded them, because the worst breakups usually end the best relationships. And also, despite the evidence of everything I have written so far in this piece, I am a stubborn optimist. You tell me this relationship is going down in flames, I am going to work that much harder to show you it doesn’t have to – and I will probably win just to spite you. Go ask my mother.

Which leaves the second, more difficult question: what effect does future knowledge have on current behavior? This is a big problem for time-travel stories, because once something new is known, the knower is slightly changed and thus her future is also changed. Unless the future result was already contingent on the player’s prior knowledge of it, in which case the question becomes which came first, the future result or the past knowledge? And that’s when our heads start to spin.

But even in this world, where I cannot know the future, how much does believing I know it change my outcome? There have certainly been friendships that I have not pursued further because my expectation that the relationship would end meant risking the friendship too. By not exploring the path, maybe I saved a friendship, or maybe I missed a possible “one that doesn’t end.”

More upsetting to me is the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. If I go into a relationship with a certain expectation or prediction for its ending, doesn’t that make it more likely to come true? Heck, how many times have I not even started because I was so certain it would never work out in the end? Sure, you have to trust your gut, and with most of these guys I was probably right, but there is something to be said for the merits of our criminal justice system; perhaps I should operate under the idea that I’d rather see several guilty men get dates than one innocent man left with a self-protective rejection.

Plus, the time has come for me to recalculate the odds. When I was nineteen and in love, the odds of it working out were pretty low. Frankly, I would have been disappointed if I had ended up with my first love – story-wise, it’s pretty boring. But I am nowhere near nineteen anymore, and I have already had many relationships that came to an end. To think that the next one could be my “one that doesn’t” is not that big a gamble anymore. Instead of listening to the warnings of my future self, I think the time has come that I finally take that bet.


Something Wicked Awesome This Way Comes


By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked awesome this way comes – and I am not referring to the vernacular of my east-coast ‘80’s childhood or my bastardization of the Bard. I have been asked to serve as blogger/dramaturge for the upcoming Sci-Fest (, LA’s first-ever festival of science-fiction plays, and a whole month of science-themed theatre sounds pretty awesome to me.

Between now and the festival (which is in May), I will be adding the occasional “bonus blog” inspired by some of the concepts explored in the nine pieces, seven of which will be world premieres. Yeah, that’s right. Seven of Nine. It is a sci-fi fest indeed!

At first blush, science and theatre don’t seem like natural bedfellows (although they do both tend to involve a lot of experimentation). But what seems at first to be a pairing destined to be less peanut butter-and-chocolate and more grapefruit juice-and-milk is actually quite exciting and long overdue. How do I know? Because Ray Bradbury showed me.

Bradbury’s 1940’s short story (later a play) Kaleidoscope will be the centerpiece of the festival, and the producers could not have chosen a better ambassador to bridge the two worlds. On the surface, he is a natural: he is a Grand Master of science fiction, an explorer of many genres including the theatre, and he did most of his writing in various haunts across Los Angeles. (Muscle Beach being my favorite of his choices – where better to be inspired about life on other planets?) But what makes Ray Bradbury a perfect representative of the festival is the same thing that makes him one of the greatest American writers of any genre: he understood that science fiction isn’t really about the science at all.

Science fiction, which Bradbury called the “robot child” of fantasy, was not an easy nut for him to crack at first, despite his love for the supernatural and fantastic. It wasn’t until his twenties that he cracked the code with “King of the Grey Spaces”, a story rejected by every science-fiction magazine at the time (it was published instead in Famous Fantastic Mysteries) because it was “a science-fiction story that was not a science-fiction story,” but rather a tale of a tested friendship. It so happened that the test in this case was space travel, but what Bradbury had discovered was that the best writing was rooted in his own human experience, with the occasional science-y thing sprinkled in. He would later write, in a 1980 essay, that “all science fiction is an attempt to solve problems by pretending to look the other way.”

Great science fiction is more emotional exploration than technological. It is problem solving through experimentation. Or, to again turn to the words of the master, “we are all science-fictional children dreaming ourselves into new ways of survival.” What is more dramatic – more theatrical – than that?! In Kaleidoscope, the setting is space, but the story is death. Accepting it, fearing it, fighting it, mourning it… The beauty of putting such a story on the stage is that nothing else comes close to the power of feeling another human experience such visceral emotions in the same room as you, only a few yards from your face.

As visually spectacular as the movie Gravity is, I found myself (spoiler alert!) barely batting an eye when George Clooney floated away into space. Are you kidding me? It’s George freakin’ Clooney. I should have wanted to run down the aisle toward the screen and throw myself after him Viking funeral-style. But when your brain is too busy trying to process the how-the-crap-did-they-do-that technology of it all, it’s hard to get emotionally attached. Even to the (once and forever) sexiest man alive.

Which brings me to the last reason I am so excited about the idea of science fiction on stage: because it IS still science fiction, after all. Kaleidoscope does revolve around (70-year-old spoiler alert!) seven actors floating in space, and that definitely presents a bit of a challenge when done live. I have absolutely no idea how the minds behind the festival are going to pull it off, but I am certain it is going to be fun to see them try! Will they achieve Superman-level feats and make me “believe a man can fly”? I suppose there’s a chance, but that’s not the point. The magic of theatre is that it is magic we make ourselves; theatre – like science fiction – is a group exercise in imagination. Who needs Sandra Bullock’s hair to stand on end?

Once again, the great Ray Bradbury himself said it best when he cautioned not to get too precious about the details of story or genre, for fear of losing the larger goal. “Let us remain childlike,” he wrote, “borrowing such telescopes, rockets, or magic carpets as may be needed to hurry us along to miracles of physics as well as dream.” Man, that guy could write.

Quantum Leaping


The other day, a girlfriend and I were discussing the defining challenges we all face in each decade of life. You know, in the first ten years it is mastering the basics, like walking, talking, and not soiling yourself; in the next ten it is navigating social situations and surviving high school (again, without soiling yourself); and in your twenties it is coming to understand that you have not actually figured it all out and that you really are still kind of a shit. Now in our thirties, we decided that the major lesson we are fighting to learn is the challenge of letting it all go – not worrying so much about how we are perceived and instead just living the life we want to live.

This is a challenge facing all people, but definitely one that is significantly harder for women. Our fearless leader, Barbara Streisand, summed it up nicely when, after a decade and a half spent pushing the rock that was Yentl up the Hollywood hills only to be vilified for it, she said, “Why is it men are permitted to be obsessed about their work, but women are only permitted to be obsessed about men?” At my first job after college, I can remember the frustration of feeling this double standard but not being able to define it. When I defended one of my ideas in a meeting, I was invariably chided for “taking things personally”, while my male colleagues who did the same were praised as “passionate” and “assertive”. The societal expectations for women are far more defined and far less forgiving – and it really doesn’t help that random estrogen surges occasionally make us cry for no reason at all.

So my girlfriend and I started talking about how often we let the judgment of society (or even the potential judgment) have more say in our behavior than our own desires. Do I want to be starting a family? No, but I feel like I should. Do I want to cut this negative person out of my life? Yes, but I am afraid she will hate me. Do I want to tell this story or voice this opinion? Yes, but what if they call me a bitch? Even with Tina Fey declaring “bitch is the new black,” that one still hurts. But we need to stop letting ourselves be so limited, and instead allow ourselves to reach our full potential. In other words, we need to unleash our inner quantum.

The Theory of Quantum Mechanics exists because over the years scientists have come to understand that, at the atomic level, particles operate in far more interesting and liberated ways than boring solid objects do in the real world. The marquee headline being that atomic particles can and do exist in two states at once. Why? Because of quantum. Duh.

Regardless of why or how, the big problem for many scientists (and other logical types) is the idea that there are separate rules for particles and objects. After all, objects are made of particles, so shouldn’t things be able to act just as “quantumly” as their parts? That little syllogism is probably why so many of us – you too, don’t pretend – believe deep in our bones that quantum tunneling, teleportation, time travel, and all those sci-fi fantasies must be possible.

One of these scientists, Aaron O’Connell, was so certain the logic must follow that he became the first person to actually get a solid object to be in two places at once. No kidding. For a fully respectable explanation of his breakthrough, check out O’Connell’s 2011 TED talk (Making Sense of a Visible Quantum Object), but for now let me hit you with the highlights. To achieve his result, O’Connell had to figure out what it takes for a physical object to “unleash its inner quantum” (my silliness, not his). The answer tuned out to be… nothing.

Literally nothing, in this case. O’Connell created a tiny piece of metal that he then suspended over a void in a containment device that allowed him to remove all light, sound, and air, and lower the temperature to just above absolute zero. When completely free of any interference, the tiny object began to “breathe”. More precisely, they found that it was both still and vibrating simultaneously – which means its various particles were both stationary and bouncing around like pong at the same time. Two states, one object. Whoa.

The analogy O’Connell uses to explain is an elevator. As solid objects, we basically live life in a crowded elevator, with lots of other things to keep us company and keep us acting “normal”. But just like you and I are way more likely to get jiggy wit the Muzak when there are no other passengers or visible security cameras (admit it – I am not the only one), solid objects are more likely to behave quantum mechanically when they are alone.

On a practical level, I am pretty sure that this means Aaron O’Connell has proven the show Quantum Leap to be entirely accurate, except for the fact that Sam could see, hear, breathe, and didn’t boil to death in a freezing vacuum. On a broader level, though, his discovery is important because it reinforces the idea that the more we can kick out of the elevators that are our heads, the closer we can come to operating at our full potential.

For us, it is a matter of shutting out the light of all the eyes that are watching and judging, banishing the inner sounds of self-doubt and pride, ignoring the winds of both criticism and praise, and not feeling the heat of embarrassment or fear. If we can boot all of that interference out of our elevator, maybe we can finally start to live quantumly – both remaining solid (the person we are, the qualities we cannot change) and at the same time vibrating freely (quantum leaping like fools to the Muzak of our souls).

Or, maybe we’ll just invent time travel, which would be pretty cool too. Oh, boy!

The Data-ing Game


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a certain age and a computer, must be in want of an online dating service. Or so I have been told seemingly every day of my life since man first invented the emoticon-driven booty call. And every time, I have adamantly rejected my friend or parent’s well-meant suggestion with the same proud prejudice Lizzie threw at Mr. Darcy’s initial advances. But why? I have always known in my gut that I have no interest in online dating, but when pressed for an explanation I have been unable to provide.

Could it be stubborn prejudice, driven by long-held resentment toward the two computer-science majors who lived next door to me senior year of college? They invented a matchmaking site that eventually became one of the more popular dating services, but they also refused to curb their rampant partying the night before I took my LSAT. No one knocks my score down a few percentiles and lives to be forgiven. Jeopardizing my future just to spite two people who likely have no recollection I exist is not at all beneath me, but somehow I think my reluctance is more complicated than that.

Maybe I am just old fashioned. My Luddite tendencies do run deep, so perhaps internet romance is my version of the test-tube baby or car phone. It is true that I think “we met online” falls a bit flat in terms of a romantic origin story, but I have married friends who connected on Match and JDate, and their relationships don’t seem any less special to me.

Of course, it could purely be the fear talking – the curse of a too-proud soul. But since I can’t afford the therapy for that to be true, we’re just going to have to say that it isn’t. No, my aversion to entering the internet dating pool is so strong I know there has to be a solid reason behind it. After a great deal of contemplation, I think I have finally found the answer in physics: mechanical resonance. To put it bluntly, moving the dating ritual into cyberspace results in a pairing that amplifies all of the bad aspects of dating, making them even worse.

It took me more than 25 years to figure out that dating required active involvement on my part. Which is not to say I didn’t date – I had boyfriends in high school and college, including serious relationships. But like many awkward and socially timid people, my sole criterion for a mate was, “Does he like me?” The boys I liked remained silently adored from afar unless they liked me back. (Okay, once I sent a secret admirer card to a crush, but he never guessed it was me and I didn’t reveal myself until six years later, a few weeks before high school graduation, when it was safely too late.) Until college, it was pretty much the case that if a boy liked me, had the nerve to say it, and wasn’t gross, I was his. (This trifecta was only hit a few times.)

In college I asked a guy out for the first time, but it was completely accidental. He was one of a half-dozen fellow bandies I offered a spare ticket for a play that night (a friend had bailed), but he didn’t hear me ask the other five. A few weeks later, when he asked me on our first date, he told me he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about me – in part because he had never been asked out by a girl before. He thought I was ballsy and he liked it. I pretended to know what he was talking about, and that is how I got together with my first love.

That relationship was doomed, but the experience emboldened me ask out two whole other boys over the course of college. Both times they ran screaming, but years in the theatre had already prepared me well for the rejection. Still, even with my new-found ability to say, “I like you,” my relationships remained pretty solidly one-way streets. “You like me? Well, you’re a good person who deserves to be happy; sure, I’ll be your girlfriend.”

Not until my late twenties, after two very long-term relationships with great guys I loved without being in love, did it occur to me that my wants might matter too. The first time I uttered the phrase, “I’m just not sure he’s enough for me,” it was so shocking to my friends in the room that they both hugged me. I had finally figured it out: successful coupling requires the question, “What do I want?”

Immediately after reaching this new level of enlightenment, I became painfully aware of another revelation: I am terrible at knowing what is good for me. The ancient Chinese curse “may you find what you are looking for” is no joke – my empowerment led me to choose an impressive string of narcissists, assholes, and asshole narcissists. (With a “nice guy” sprinkled in here and there – old habits die hard.) I’ll save analysis of why selfish partners are so appealing for another time, but suffice it to say, I have a type.

While my lifetime of mistakes has given me a solid understanding of what I do not want in a potential mate, I am clearly still far from able to identify what I should want. Much like the Supreme Court regarding obscenity, I am pretty sure I will never be able to define it, but will know it when I see it. The Stones remind us that you can’t always get what you want, but the problem with online dating is that a lot of the time you can. And so far, the only thing I know about what I want, is that I don’t want what it is I tend to want, but rather want what it is I need. Whatever that is.

In the real world, I only have to fight against wanting the narcissists once or twice a day. Online, there are millions of them.

Once you welcome your own desires to the party, dating goes from being a lottery to a hunt – and therein lies problem number two. When hunting in the wild, the lioness tends to catch the weakest in the herd. (Especially if she is not a very good hunter, which I think at this point has been pretty well established.) In life, my poor hunting is mitigated by the physical size of the herd and the relatively small number of available runts. Online, the runts shall inherit the cloud.

To be safe, it is best not to hunt at all, really. I don’t mean be a hermit, but it is one thing to live life open to whatever possibilities or chance encounters come along, and something entirely different to be actively pursuing a mate. Since most of the time we can get what we go after, proactive behavior toward coupling can be dangerous. You want a specific career? Go after it; you’ll probably get it, which is great. You want a relationship? Go after it and you’ll probably get one of those too – but a relationship is not the same thing as love.

This is why I don’t go hang out at bars, or do singles mixers, or any other activity where the sole purpose is to couple up. Online dating is basically going to the biggest bar in the world.

Finally, there is the issue of the date itself. I recently heard a producer on a film set marvel at how poorly an actress was doing after she had been so great in the audition. This producer wondered how that could be the case, and I thought, “Because the audition is a date, whereas the performance is a relationship.” In both cases, the two skills are entirely different. Many Oscar winners will tell you they are horrible at auditions, just like some people are great at dating but never seem to have anything last.

Back when I was an actor, I was always more comfortable in performance than on auditions, and it probably speaks to where my strengths are. Both performing and relationships require you to be comfortable in a natural, emotionally honest state for a long time, while both auditioning and dating require you to be able to put on a show. PT Barnum I am not, and my date self is nowhere close to the greatest show on Earth.

For me, then, dating is an unnatural, uncomfortable experience. Not only am I self-conscious of and lacking confidence in my own performance, but I am also acutely aware that the other person is doing his best one-man circus as well. Neither of us is getting to know the other in any real sense, and I find the lack of honesty both depressing and a bit scary. Online, the lying only gets easier – and more creative.

Ideally, I prefer getting to know a potential mate in a more natural setting, like at a party or on a job or through mutual friends. But if blind or “cold” dates must occur – as they inevitably must – it is much better if the initial interactions happen face-to-face, rather than through online profiles, façade-to-façade.

So, there you have it friends, not-so-friends, and concerned family. Now you know why I don’t want to date online. My compass points Asshole, I can’t audition worth a damn, and I have no interest in subsisting on a diet of sickly wildebeest. But if you promise to stop insisting I give the internet a try, I promise you can engrave that last sentence on my tombstone after I die alone.

Love is a Cancer


The three most significant relationships in my life thus far all involved men with birthdays in early July. Now, I’m not one to buy into the idea of astrological fatalism, but my horoscope says my energetic Scorpio mind is drawn to research, so I had no choice but to investigate.

Cancer #1 arrived in my life when we were both 18. We met in Washington D.C. as part of a national program celebrating nerdy teenagers, and despite having nothing in common other than over-achievement and home states that started with “New” (Hampshire for me, Mexico for him), we immediately determined that we were soul mates. Apparently, this was inevitable, since Cancers and Scorpios are both emotional water signs, and our positioning 120 degrees apart from each other on the Zodiac wheel makes us ideally compatible. Sharing an element (water, air, fire…) but not a sign gives two people enough similarities for deep understanding but sufficient differences to keep it interesting, which increases the chance for a strong bond and – hello – unlimited passion and compassion. How could Cancer #1 and I not have fallen for each other instantly? I blame my mother, for not forcing me out of the womb on my original due date (which would have made me a Libra).

When we met, my astrological Mr. Right and I were about to embark on the college adventure, so we were destined to be apart for at least the next four years. This made our short week together that much more intense; it was just like Romeo and Juliet, only without the warring families or any of the dying. As it turned out, we would remain in separate schools, states, or countries for the next seven years, but through it all we remained devoted pen pals and idealized romantic fantasies for each other. Had I known then that the powerful initial attraction between our sun signs also brings great emotional pain at separation, would I have thought twice about the romantic fantasy? Probably not, because teenagers are stupid no matter their birth dates. In our first seven years, he and I spent a grand total of 14 days together over four visits, and his immense pain at our separations must be the reason he, with religious devotion, began a relationship with someone else immediately after each one. Twice with someone else named Kate.

Finally, at the age of 25, both of our life paths led us (for different reasons) to Los Angeles. Two star-sign-crossed lovers coming together at last.  I raced to his new apartment, reveling in the idea of us actually sharing the same longitude and latitude, and he joyously introduced me to the woman who is now his wife.

The basic personality profile of the male Cancer states that they are highly emotional creatures who protect themselves with an outer image of care-free confidence. It’s why their symbol is the crab – all soft and squishy inside, with a hard candy shell. Scorpios are interested in all things deep and mysterious, which makes us not only obsessively attracted to masked personalities like Cancers, but also good at puzzles. Clearly, I had some work to do in solving human puzzles, as I had managed to miss every red flag in my first Cancer relationship. My favorite is this: during our last romantic tryst – a five-day adventure in London a few months before we both moved to LA – he repeatedly played the song “Brick” by Ben Folds Five. I love Ben Folds (not a Cancer), but if a guy thinks of that song as the theme to your relationship, it is not going to end well.

Cancer #2 and I were doomed from the start, really. He was seven years my junior, just a year out of college, but I didn’t care because he had all of those wonderful Cancer qualities: quiet self confidence, a sharp intellect, a strong sense of humor, and the classic easy-going personality. In other words, he was The Dude. Astrology posits that when Cancers become successful, it is almost entirely due to a natural charm rather than any particular skill or work ethic. My Cancers were all smart, but Cancer #1 was a proudly apathetic genius who majored in four subjects over ten years and only dated girls who made the first move, while Cancer #2 described our ideal relationship as one where I would be around whenever he wanted but didn’t require any effort on his part to plan ahead or even think about me the rest of the time. His commitment to detachment was aspirational.

As it turns out, dreaming big is a quality shared by both Cancers and Scorpios, but Cancer #2 was way better at it than I was. I am an optimist who goes all in when in love, and I have faith in the power of that love to overcome many relationship obstacles, like an age gap, or religious differences, or chest hair. But this guy put me to shame; his idea of love was beyond utopian. About a year in, it came out in conversation that I was, in fact, in love with him – a surprising moment, but not unexpected. We’d both said “I love you” very quickly, actually, as we’d been good friends for a year before dating, so I figured we’d probably been in love for a while and this was just the first time it was getting articulated. Apparently not. Exactly 24 hours later, he informed me that he’d thought about it, and he figured he must not be in love with me. Why? Because, “Sometimes, you annoy me.” For Cancer #2, being in love meant never having to say, “You bug me.” I imagine he is off somewhere still searching for his impossibly friction-less someone, and I wish him the best of luck.

We Scorpios tend to be melodramatic, and true to form I remained single for four years after Cancer #2. According to my research, one of the reasons Cancer-Scorpio relationships are so successful (clearly) is because “the Cancer man will allow the Scorpio woman to care and trust others again.” Sure enough, it was Cancer #3 who got me over the relationship hump at the end of those four years. The third time appeared to be the charm, as this Cancer possessed to the greatest degree yet my favorite of the Cancer character traits: “a streaking sophistication”. I have no idea what that is actually supposed to mean, but to me it beautifully captures the dichotomy of Cancer #3 emulating the rat pack and old-school British movie stars while also storing his underwear in random piles on his bedroom floor. At age 40.

Cancer men tend to seek out a stable emotional home base (i.e. this sucker) to use as an anchor for their wandering spirits. Cancer #3 was a quintessential explorer, trying on new hobbies, seeking out quirky corners of the city, and traveling around the world for fun and adventure; I loved it. He was the perfect complement to my dark-dwelling scorpion soul. We were the definitive Cancer/Scorpio match made in heaven – for about six months. The dark side to the adventurous Cancer is that he is often too restless to create a permanent home, and unwilling to compromise. Combine this with the Cancer’s desire to avoid confrontation at all costs, and our relationship soon became a game of passive-aggressive cat and obsequious mouse. One night, I suggested we watch a movie that I had recently seen and knew he would find hilarious. Instead of simply saying he wasn’t in the mood, this grown man spent the next fifteen minutes suggesting every movie he owned in his library until I finally gave in and picked one. Soon, every aspect of our relationship operated this way, including his ultimate decision to behave increasingly aloof until I finally threw in the towel – break up by technical knockout.

Has my exploration of the zodiac taught me anything? Yes. For one, astrology is bullshit. For every instance of my Cancers being emotional, easy-going, imaginative, and sensitive, I can cite just as many times when they were cold-hearted, stubborn, devoid of any sense of wonder, and even cruel. In all my research, the description of Cancer that comes closest to capturing the magic of our relationships is the one I found in the dictionary: “something malignant that spreads destructively.”

But that in itself is enlightening. Much like in fighting a real cancer, I came out alive by cutting the negative out of my life, stripping down most of my defenses, and rebuilding myself from the bottom up. And I have come out wiser for it. My Cancers taught me that you will have more success if you are sometimes willing to make the first move; that people who are in their twenties will think like people in their twenties, no matter how mature they may seem; and that sometimes people in their forties also think and act like people in their twenties. Most of all, my three bouts with Cancer have taught me that, no matter how much you believe in the perfect pairing of zodiac signs, Patty Smyth and Don Henley were still right: sometimes, love just ain’t enough. Which is why I have started researching love potions.