How learned pressures can bury us before death

Dissecting The Lobster (or explaining why you shouldn’t stress about finding love).


Ethan Hermann, Senior Reporter

If you don’t find a partner within the next few weeks, you will be dead.
Well, not exactly, but the pressures of finding love can certainly make you feel this way, and it is the premise of Yorgos Lanthimos’ darkly comedic romance film, “The Lobster.” Taking on the weight of spurious socially supposed necessities purported through the idealized perception of others can be scary. “The Lobster” takes the complex anxieties from loneliness and the unhealthy habits of forcing love and simplifies them as an absurdist, didactic story. 

In a dystopia that parallels our world analogically, adults are forced to find a mate within 45 days or be punished by being turned into an animal of their choosing. For some, this isn’t much of a challenge, for others, their fate is seemingly already set. Forming connections with strangers isn’t always instant, so, without time as an ally, the capability of calculated ingratiation is essentially the determinant of life or death. People are falling for each other because they’re compelled to, not because they want to. 

Now, a threat of being turned into an animal probably isn’t anywhere on your list of reasons to find true love (hopefully), but you’re not alone if you’re feeling some tense inclination to propitiate some degree of society’s subliminal directives that assure you that you’re essentially better off dead than single. You’re not. While single people aren’t being subjected to life-risking trials that force them into relationships, there is an invisible timer pushing us to the same goal and it only finishes once you’ve achieved the goal or when it’s too late and you’re dead.  

The presentation of these ideas is a bit bleak, and I know how onerous it can feel to perceive it this way, so I’ll offer some optimism. The aforementioned clock isn’t real; there is no trial. I know, I know, with all 19 years worth of my wisdom, you could say I’ve become a bit of an expert on the topic of relationships. I mean, thank you, it’s very kind of you to say (and you’d be right) but that’s not where I’m trying to come from or what I want you to take away from this.  In the real world of deleterious standards and performative social pulchritude, the world of vicarious living and accustomed instant gratification, perceived intrapersonal value and interpersonal consternation is what you make of it. 

This isn’t to say that your feelings are illegitimate, they are absolutely real. Everyone understands that animals have a natural inclination to breed but that’s not the point. You’re not swiping through Tinder at 1 a.m. or burning through your self-esteem by obsessing over your desirability because biology told you to. The innate desire for companionship and/or procreation is healthy; the subconsciously inherited compulsion to replicate what others appear to derive pleasure from is not. It’s the “maybe if I look the right way?” It’s the “maybe if I just said the right thing!” It’s the “they didn’t like me, so I’m a failure.” When you see people happy in relationships then you’re likely to convince yourself that that’s what you need to be happy. Relationships are dope, but if you make it your goal to resolve whatever is creating a hole in you by filling it with an ideal of another person then you’ll only make the hole deeper. You’ll drain your energy and frustrate yourself before you’ll ever be happy. If you want love, the love has to come from you, not an idea.

My goal isn’t to preach the “right” way to go about things because, as shocking as this may sound, I actually am not an expert. I’m writing this with that special intensity of your average sleep-deprived college student on the off chance that it prevents one of you from becoming the lobster. So, here’s something else that’s true. People are just people. The next time you’re on a date or talking to your next Tinder match make sure you keep that simple fact in mind. Part of what’s so pernicious about the certain social reflection I talked about earlier is that it seeps into every facet of your social being. “Okay, that’s all fine and dandy but you never explained how this is what we make of it.” Hold on, I’m getting to that. It’s easy to fall into a habit of treating the pursuit of connection like it’s the 45-day retreat from “The Lobster”, but you don’t have to. If you don’t instantly fall in love on your first date, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO TURN INTO A LOBSTER. You’re not a failure if you don’t find success right away. If things don’t just work out, it just means that there was no chemistry with that particular person. But there are other people and you have so much time. When you make love out to be this life or death game then it will be a life or death game. Take it from me, the guy with 19 years worth of wisdom.