Love Me Tender, Love Me True

“She is the perfect woman. Stunningly attractive. Has a nice laugh. And an even nicer physique. She is your dream wife. You can’t stalk her. But we can.” An eerie beginning to the web site for Coincidence Design, a Chicago-based company that promises to exhaustively research the woman of your dreams and arrange a succession of seemingly chance encounters, with the ultimate goal of marriage between you and the chased individual. The catch? You must shell out $80,000 to have experienced detectives implement their scheme.

Although the price of this project and its clientele restrictions (Coincidence Design only serves heterosexual male clients) severely limit those who may seek such a service, it still has a deep underlying problem. Splurging $80,000 to potentially acquire a dream mate through an artificial amount of luck, charm and personality follows the disturbing trend where individuals deliberately change who they are to attract others. Women are just as guilty as men. Pick up any edition of Cosmopolitan and one can find the monthly installment of tried and proven pick-up tips or captions telling women the essential personality traits they need to possess to be like those golden girls who transcend ordinary looks.

Unfortunately, this trend extends into our own Harvard community where scores of type-A students often start the search for someone to love. It is well known that telnet commands and the Internet hold enlightening background information about many a desired object. Although figuring out someone’s schedule is an understandable means of increasing the “chance” of a rendezvous, changing oneself based on knowledge of that person to become more interesting to him or her erodes a fundamental basis of love—honesty.

In a world where love seems so hard to find, what is to be done? We can find clues in the myths surrounding the man we celebrate today, Saint Valentine. One legend has it that Valentine, incensed at Roman Emperor Claudius II’s wartime decree outlawing marriage for young able-bodied men, disobeyed and continued to perform marriages, furtively securing the affections of young lovers. Another tale follows that while in prison, Valentine fell in love with the warden’s daughter who visited him from time to time. Before his death, Valentine wrote her a love letter signed “from your Valentine.” Although we still maintain this letter writing tradition, we have forgotten to heed the more important lesson of Valentine’s actions, integrity in love. Certainly men who must hire detectives to spy on women have forgotten this essential truth.

The most disturbing aspect of Coincidence Design is that a man seeking romance would be willing to sacrifice his own internal values for a woman’s external looks. Yet many of us succumb to similarly anti-Valentine behavior and sacrifice our own steadfast integrity for a perception of perfection in someone else, a perception that unquestionably fades over time.

So this Valentine’s Day please do a service to those you love, or seek to love, and revel in your distinctive personality.

Oh yeah, and if prince (or princess) charming comes along, be just a bit skeptical.

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