Angst and the deep sea angler fish

...Fairly romantic, right? After all, relentless pursuit followed by life-long commitment is the definition of fairy-tale romance. With the possible exception of the biting, anglerfish love is what my ski-hat and I have been dreaming of, isn’t it?

Not so fast. This endless anglerfish union quickly devolves into exactly (well, maybe not exactly) the kind of situation that fills perpetually-single folks like myself with doubt and commitment-related terror. As soon as the male attaches himself to his mate, she begins to slowly absorb him (men, this part may sound familiar). Eventually, his lips grow into the skin of her side, his mouth and eyes disappear, his circulatory system ties itself to hers and he becomes a permanent appendage, dependent on her for food, protection, and a ride. He becomes little more than a reproductive organ, the sex act his only purpose (ladies, I’m sure this part sounds familiar). Two perfectly good individuals fusing into a codependent chimera…suddenly my book doesn’t sound that bad.

But who am I kidding. I know I’d still smear myself with meat tenderizer if I thought it would make life-long love bite onto me. And, too be fair, the anglerfish system of extreme monogamy seems to work for them. Aside from the total loss of individuality and freedom, the male thrives as a parasite, ballooning up to six inches in length. The female goes about her business and yearly spawning – and the perpetuation of the species – is assured. They certainly never have to find another date.

So yeah, I can embrace the wisdom of the anglerfish. Much like me, they live in a vast dark abyss where chances to meet a mate are few and far between. After generations, they know that once you find someone, you’ve got to hang on to them. Just one caveat: don’t forget, on occasion, to loosen your grip. r

illustration by joshua love