There once lived two sisters. One was named Sadness, the other, Happiness. Sadness was tall, skipped instead of walked where she was going, and always had a smile on her face. Happiness, on the other hand, was short, never skipped, and always scowled. If ever there was a case in which names didn’t matter, this seemed to be one. Still, people like names, and they weren’t about to let something like reality get in their way, which brings us to a young man named L.
(L was not really his name, but that is what we’ll call him since he was as lonely as lonely gets.)
For a while, L. put the feeling off. He didn’t like admitting to his condition because he noticed that even though loneliness was not contagious, people seemed to act as if it were. So for a while, he suffered in silence. Until one day, he couldn’t take it any longer. He wasn’t sleeping well. (It should be said that L. loved sleep more than most things.)
After a week’s worth of bad nights, L. paid money to an online dating service. He had his doubts. After answering a lot of questions that he thought were too personal, he found that he had to write his own profile. This caused him a lot of anguish, though not as much as his loneliness, so he went on. Still, he didn’t know what to write.
He noticed that on the site there were a lot of not-so-clever young men trying to sound clever and then there were others who took the “honest and sincere” approach. The first group of young men sounded dumb, and the second, sounded lonely, which made L. feel both queasy and sad for now he understood why others had recoiled from him for all those years before. In the end, he wrote what he thought was a simple yet honest answer to what it was he was looking for. He wrote, “I am looking for Happiness.”
Now, something to keep in mind: first off, L. committed a grammatical faux pas here. Like the other young men, he thought he was being clever. He thought that by capitalizing a common noun he was showing how for him, happiness was and should always be Happiness with a capital-H. But if ever there were a case for correct grammar, this was definitely one because the good people at the on-line dating service saw his profile and they did what anyone would expect: they fed the information into the algorithms and lo and behold, the best pick, the top of the top, the cream of the crop was none other than Happiness, the sad sister.
Even though she was not who he expected, there was no point in arguing the matter with L. He believed in fate. And fate via a Google-like algorithm, said that Happiness was who he should date, so L. accepted the decree and put in a good amount of work to make sure his first date went well.
He rented a Zipcar, checked out a list of restaurants on Yelp, joined FourSquare so he could see if other wonderful and not lonely people were hanging out in any of these places. He compiled a list for himself of ten restaurants, started a blog called The Countdown to Companionship and asked for feedback. However, he got very little help from readers.
Still, L. made plans and he picked up Happiness from her home. Sadness first opened the door and she was smiling and tall and lovely, and for a moment, L. thought that maybe the algorithms were wrong. But then he thought there was also the names to consider. Maybe algorithms can get it wrong, but a name is a name. You just can’t get around that.
It’s true that when L. first met Happiness, and they shook hands, he couldn’t help that there was something sour about her, not just her face or the way she moved. If truth be told, the first thought that came to L.’s mind was an image from childhood when he would stick six or seven lemonheads in his mouth and chomp down on them. The sourness was existential, and that was the same feeling he had after seeing Happiness and spending time with her, which he did for the next six months until he married her.
She was his lemonhead. He would say that to her, each time hoping she might smile, but gravity being what it is, the corners of her mouth could never find any uplift, so the best Happiness could do was to look at him and not say anything mean.
Now, if this sounds like a sad love story, think again.
L and Happiness married and had children and they died an old couple. It wasn’t just that L. liked lemonheads, which even in old age, he did. He also liked irony and the unexpected things in life. There was something absolutely wonderful, he thought, about being married to a woman named Happiness who was the saddest person he’d ever met. And this paradox made him Happy.
Yes, that’s right. Happy with a capital-H.