Oh, the ultimate test. The clue to finding true love. I really didn’t try consciously to devise a way to vet candidates, partly because I believe in love, not some messed up recruitmentesque interview process – fill in a form, explain your CV, tell me what you’re gonna do for us.
I stumbled across this test during the winter, the looong winter, the one that lasts so long it makes dreary January nights in Scotland seem like a picnic in the park in comparison.
Three things kept me alive during my second winter in Sweden:
A) Hours spent on the exercise bike (not spinning classes, never, there is a cult-like, fascist aspect to spinning I’ve never been able to shake – in short, I don’t like health nuts yelling at me).
B) Vitamin D pills. (If there ain’t no sunshine, fake it)
C) The Walking Dead… everyone loves zombies right? They remind you of the worst aspects of humanity – the aggression, the mindlessness, the hunger, the over-consumption, the herd behaviour.
And while the sheriff and his mötley crew of ragtag survivors battle their way out of moving-corpse infested woods, and clear underground passages from snarling buffoons, they also have to try to get along with each other while doing it. The latter being the aspect that fascinates me more than anything.
If you could choose three people to join you on a quest to survive the zombie apocalyse, who would they be? If there was truly no room for sentiment (i.e. you can’t pick your mum, or your kid) but just survival, who would you bring?
My list takes shape pretty quickly in my mind, and has me seriously doubting if I deserve the epithet feminist. They’re all boys!
I’ll bring along my dad, a DIY fetischist and a former chemistry teacher. He also likes poetry, which may be useful when you wonder why you are trying to survive. Because words, music and beauty is why humans are not just overgrown apes who lost their hair, or zombies, for that matter.
I will also, I realize, bring along my marathon-running brother-in-law who is also an emergency room nurse. He can outrun any snarler, stitch any wound, plus he’s funny. There’s a reason the court jester survives so much political turmoil, laughter is an anti-dote to much ill in the world.
I do consider bringing another in-law who’s a doctor, but as his side of the family has a history of heart failure, I strike him off the list. Sorry.
Finally, my dear brother. The kendo-sword wielding, wrist-twisting, body-builder gym member Hamish.
Hamish is an anarcho-capitalist, he believes in nothing but the voluntary association of people. He thinks that the social contract is bogus, that taxes are theft, that the census is surveillance, and that Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand are the perfect bedfellows in a world where no one has a moral obligation to care for anyone else.
He does, however, remain loyally faithful to me despite my moralizing tirades about big business, and the need for collective ownership in banking, and the ethical imperative to support small and medium-sized business.
Once, during an unusually heavy snowfall in Edinburgh, the higher-level students swooped down on us middle schoolers and turned the school yard into mayhem – snowball war mayhem! A boy in my class yelled out that I was a turncoat slut (because my best friend Mathilda and I changed sides to the higher-level students, not because they were winning (which they were) or were bigger (which they were) but because they were cooler, and because I idolized my brother and I wanted to fight on his side). My brother almost drowned the boy who called me a slut in a nearby snow bank.
So… Hamish could kill a zombie with a snowball. Easy.
What’s all this got to do with love then, ey?
Well, because I once upon a time I used the “What would you do if you won ten million in the lottery?” as a way to find out what my friends and my dates were thinking, who they were, their dreams, etc… but nowadays I simply ask:
“If you had to choose three people to bring along to survive the zombie apocalypse, who’d they be?”
The theory: Imagining a hypothetical post-Armageddon scenario gives access to the furthest reaches of the soul and the crumpled corners of a person’s value system.
Methodology: Apply it on date number five with…
Case study: He’s a cop, he’s older, he’s cute as a button and a wee bit overweight, yet when I touch his arm during dinner, I realize he’s made of muscles. Let’s nickname him Constable Cute.
I want him to sling me over his shoulder and carry me home, cave-man style. Some (including myself) may think I have a problem with authority, but this law enforcer makes me want to whisper Yes, Sir. Repeatedly.
Result: He chooses two other cops to go with him on his zombie-survival mission, and I think that despite the muscle and my general impression of having stumbled across a genuinely good and fearless guy, he may be a bit boring? Who picks colleagues to go with them on such a trek?
But then, he explains why. It’s the knowledge, and the problem solving and the good sense of these men that attracts him to them. They’d be good in a crisis.
Goodness, for all I know they may have survived a real crisis together. Sure, the mean streets of Stockholm aren’t so mean in a global comparison, but I’m sure Swedish cops have to get to grips with some seriously heinous stuff too.
Then comes the joker in the getting-to-know-him deck of cards. Constable Cute chooses Plura to be his third musketeer. Plura? Don’t worry, I had no idea who he was either, but Constable Cute took to explaining it all. Here’s the short version: Plura is a survivor from the earliest days of Swedish rock. As singer of Eldkvarn, he grabbed a place in the heart of most Swedes. He has some kind of cooking programme on tv, and has been convicted for his cocaine use.
Constable Cute, however, is rather vanilla, in a (you guessed it) cute way. So I’m rather befuddled why he’d pick a cocaine-snorter to go with him?
“You gotta have a good time too,” Constable Cute offers (I presume he means Plura’s attitude in general, not the coke habit).
“I mean, what’s the point of surviving the zombie apocalypse if you have nothing to live for?”
I look at him over our steak tartares and our pints of Guinness. There’s tartan on the wall. We could live in this pub together if the zombies attack, I think to myself as my heart melts a tiny bit.
I pick up a chip, smear it with raw meat and try to get the capers to stick in the egg yolk. I say that I know what he means.
“Didn’t Churchill say you had to have culture during the second world war?” I ask.
Constable Cute nods.
“Yes, because if you don’t, what are you fighting for.”
I sling Constable Cute over my shoulder (well, we take a taxi) and take him home.
Emilia Millicent works in finance in Stockholm and has lived in Sweden for the past two and a half years.