The Future For Curious People shines a spotlight on the worst kind of breakup. While it’s easy to break up with a horrible partner, cutting ties with a perfectly nice but not-quite-right partner is much worse.
The Future For Curious People imagines a world where people can visit envisionists to get a peek at their romantic futures. As readers, we’ve almost been to our own envisionist. It’s clear from the very beginning that Evelyn and Adrien, Godfrey and Madge are going to swap partners. There’s no doubt that Evelyn and Godfrey will fall madly in love and ride off into the sunset together, with a gentle veil over Godfrey awkwardly moving his things out of Madge’s apartment. (Hey, we don’t need an envisionist to know she’s going to keep the apartment. Poor Godfrey was lucky to get the ring back.), but The Future For Curious People takes us on a ride through romance, relationships, and insecurity first.
The Future For Curious People shines a spotlight on the worst kind of breakup. While it’s easy to break up with a horrible partner, cutting ties with a perfectly nice but not-quite-right partner is much harder, and even more tragic in a way. Each person looks at their relationship and wonders, is this the best I can do? Maybe if I try harder, we’ll be kinda okay. I’m not happy with this person, but I’m not really unhappy either.
But these characters can briefly look into the future, rather than stewing endlessly about feeling not-unhappy, and they can glimpse how their lives would turn out with different partners. Bart and Amy, Godfrey’s smug-coupled friends, see their future selves happily sailing on a boat, and are reassured that they’ve made their right choice. But in most cases, the future scenes portray more of the not-unhappy feelings in the present-day relationship. Bickering about nothing, or living separately under the same roof, with realistic hopelessness.
Godfrey wishes he and Madge could have married almost immediately after meeting, creating a wave of relationship optimism. Their relationship counselor, Dr. A . Plotnik, tells them to recount all the positive moments after they met to create a happy relationship mythology. Godfrey also tries to force a meet-cute with Evelyn and a pear-shaped brooch, only to have it unfold in an entirely different way.
There are dozens of partners who would make us happy-enough, the narrative tells us, but we find our true love in constantly re-choosing them as our love. The Future For Curious People takes a wander through could-have-beens and depressing relationships and ends with a hopeful insistence that love is real. Although, in cases of true love, there may be some equipment malfunctions.
Originally written for Yahoo, May 2014