Lesser-known incident in Pyramus and Thisbe saga. After conversing for 9 years, Pyramus attempts to close gap in wall.     Anti-Woo
Stephen Potter


The cautious avoidance of love as a general rule

The subject of not being in love is so well known and so much a part of almost everybody’s life that until we made the break-through it was becoming impossible to mention it. By some sort of unspoken international agreement, although plays and poems and anthologies about falling in love appear every day, falling out of love, by contrast, is given an extraordinarily poor showing. In the same way, we are brought up to believe that ‘all the world loves a lover’: yet the truth is that people in love are unreliable, incapable of relaxing, anxious to give embarrassing proofs that their characters have changed for the better, and incapable of concentrating for more than twenty seconds (the record is said to be 36 seconds). Moreover, because things are always going either (a) tremendously well with them or (b) appallingly badly, they must tell somebody about it immediately or burst.

By contrast, the happiness of not being in love is like coming out of a rush-hour Underground in a hot August and stepping straight into the loneliness of leafy country, with a couple of old retired horses vaguely munching in the distance.

How, then, to avoid the supposedly unavoidable? And if unavoidable how to back out bloodlessly? An exhausting handicap of being in love is the absence of dead water. One of the pair is always a little more so than the other, and this includes vice versa. Hence the difficulties of graceful detachment. The first gentle step backwards is a starting gun for an all-out chase by the other party.

These problems are universal, yet hitherto there has been no Encyclopaedia to present everything historically, no Baedeker to triple star more favoured methods, no Guide Michelin to rehabilitation centres, no de Brett to regulate the hierarchy of leading non-lovers, no Wisden to codify the details and give lists of record scores. We are said to have fought for the Four Freedoms: but in the shelves of our public libraries there is no space for the fifth, freedom from loving.

Wrong. Comic drawing inappropriately inserted by Gattling-Fenn in his goodbye letter.

Not falling in love at first sight is perhaps the commonest experience of the modern world: yet the student of anti-woo should learn to recognize quickly signs, situations and latent inter-personality sequences wherein the future possibility of woo must be comprehended and avoided.

Stephen Potter, Anti-Woo, 1965

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