El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
24 November 2003
"Ladies and Gentlemen. We live in the world of the quick fix. Does something ail you? Then there's someone over there who can cure you of it - provided, of course, that you have the necessary funds. A headache, Madam? May I recommend some brand-name Ibuprofen. Can't sleep? Not to worry, a small dose of Valium will send you on your way to Slumberland. Erectile dysfunction for the gentleman in the felt hat? This magic blue rhomboid will put you back on track.
"Even the most abstract, intangible problems can be solved. Consider the emotion of guilt - perhaps the main evolutionary flaw in the development of humankind, preventing our ultimate ascent to total supremacy on this planet - can be assuaged, albeit temporarily. Those who feel (irrationally, to my mind, but let us ignore my feelings on the matter) some sort of pang that their hard work and occasional opportunism has brought them success, power and wealth beyond that of their peers, can purchase momentary relief from their conscience from any number of street vendors, be they box-rattlers collecting for the latest terminal disease or homelesses begging for Tennents tokens. A quick exchange, and a temporary burst of self-love and goodwill is theirs.
"But what of that most dangerous and potentially destructive of human emotions: Love? We sacrifice our jobs, we risk our dignity and reputations on something so transient and intangible no one has yet proved its existence. And when the non-existent condition ends for one party (if it ever existed), the remaining partner is devastated, hollow. Not being a subscriber to this practice, I set about analysing the various causes and symptoms evident in these infatuations, in a bid to find the cure that would free us from frippery forever.
"First, I looked at the symptoms of love. Insomnia; coronary palpitations; obsessive behaviour; an inability to focus on anything else. All of which are eminently curable with current methods and medicines. The rush of endorphins that generally accompany thoughts of the 'beloved' could be easily compensated should this be deemed necessary. After experimenting with various levels of dosage, with varying effects, we finally embarked on a year-long, intensive test programme.
"The results were greater than we could have anticipated. We took multiple fledgling couples, half of whom were given the drug, the other half of whom were given a placebo. No clue was given as to the nature of the drug on offer. The former developed tempestuous relationships, most which ended after varying lengths of time; for the entire period of the relationship, and for a not inconsiderable period following its end, other areas of their life - work, friendships, leisure activities - suffered noticeably. In contrast, while the 'success' ratio of the relationships (did they stay together) in the control cases was not significantly greater, a degree of perspective was kept by both parties with regard to other areas of their life. Decisions to continue or end the relationship were based on purely practical reasons such as compatibility of background and lifestyle, suitability of the partner for raising a child in the future etc. Projection of the results of this study suggests that relationships would, on the whole, have a thirty percent greater chance of long-term success, with considerable benefits such as success in other areas of life and well-balanced offspring.
"We therefore consider these trials to be a resounding success, and are looking to bring our product to the market. Considerable interest from leading pharmaceutical distributors has followed. We therefore ask you to join us as we usher in a new age of logic and practicality, free from obsession and heartache, with the global release of Balance in chemists worldwide. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the world seen through the eyes of the truly rational."
I've never known a reception like it. Of course, my interest wasn't in the product that would turn our youth into sallow-faced automata. I was hanging around to see if they'd isolated active ingredients that would have the opposite effect; I quite fancied cornering the market in the one and only true love potion. There's got to be a lot more money in it.