The Red String Chronicles–finding true love online

“The Red String Chronicles” by Aaron Milavec & Elena Maringelli

Synopsis: Aaron Milavec lives in Cincinnati and is already in his 70s when he decides to quit his single life and pursue his final true love using a new dating platform. Within a few days, he unexpectedly gets a message from Elena, an Italian woman, who appears to live within a reachable distance (Chicago). After the exchange of a dozen romantic emails, both discover something between them what they call the “red string” – an invisible cord linking two people meant for each other. But first a huge crisis awaits Aaron as he discovers that Elena is based in Shanghai. . . .


About the author: Aaron Milavec is a free lance writer who came to Shanghai in February 2017 in pursuit of Elena, a woman he met online three months earlier. The Red String Chronicles is Aaron’s first novel, which pioneers a whole new form of transparency for online daters. It offers a very personal story, filled with laughter and tears, with pitfalls, and moments of unexpected grace, as the “red string”–the mysterious cord linking Aaron and Elena–sometimes gets stretched and tangled due to cultural and linguistic barriers but never breaks. This eBook ( and soft cover ( are an inspiration and testimony that it is never too late for true love and that regardless of separations of place, time, and circumstances love can happen at any time and at any age.


Introduction to my autobiographical story: The heart is a lonely hunter and, after all is said and done, my life will not have been worth living until I have discovered my final true love.


I met Elena on an online dating site. Elena contacted me first. This is a novelty and I like this. When it comes to online dating, the men usually take the initiative. So I quickly open her online profile and her banner headline shines forth: “La vita é bella!”


Elena is Italian and, for her, “Life is beautiful!” What a lovely way to begin! Here is what she writes in her profile:


Bold and bright Italian who left her mother country to pursue dreams of happiness and riches in China. Lover of dogs and untamed nature, explorer and knowledge pursuer.


I immediately think of Marco Polo. I read his entire journals some years back, and I was mightily impressed. Accordingly, here are the first words that I send to Elena:


Ciao Elena,

I’m pleased that you reached out to me. But please tell me “why did you choose me?”

Your sense of adventure attracts me. . . . Are you the modern day Marco Polo? Have you read his journals?

Pace e bene,


Elena replies the following day:

I have [read the journals]. Marco Polo was my hero when I was a kid. I wanted to be just like him and I did it!

I have no logical explanation for reaching out [to you], I just went with “I like this guy’s face.”


Ah, so Marco Polo was her teenage hero. But when she says, “I like this guy’s face,” I feel disappointed. How so? She didn’t bother to read my profile. That is not a good sign.

So I go back and examine her profile again and find these words:

I don’t suffer a lot these days but, if I do, I tend to do that in solitude; hopefully I will learn to share more about those boxes full of pain that I hid in the attic.

That is interesting to me as it is so unusual. There is some heartbreak in Elena’s past and she is very brave to let the world know about it. I have not yet read a profile where a woman revealed anything of her dark side. So I quote her words and add rather presumptuously:

The fact that you say this to the world means you are ripe for a breakthrough in this arena that will bless the rest of your life. As it happens, this is one of my specialities–surfacing and healing painful memories.


To this, Elena responds:

My boxes of pain are hidden but not neglected. I dust them off frequently and check their content. They remain mainly unshared but tended to, as they deserve to be. What kind of work would you [do] to them?


Nice comeback. In my response, I suggest that I, too, have my own “boxes of pain” that I’d be willing to share with Elena along with the process of “healing of memories.” This touches a responsive cord in Elena and we begin to tentatively plan to get together on a weekend.



Elena lists her city as “Chicago, IL”; hence, I am imagining that Elena explored China in her youth but that she finally settled for establishing herself in Chicago. But then she drops her first bomb:


I’d love a weekend of healing with you.
Maybe I’ll be back to the USA soon or you’ll come to China.


I had just decided that it was useless to do any online dating with anyone more than 150 km away. And this Italian babe is 15000 km away. So, feeling abused, I dash off a harsh response:


OK, you’re going to get your weekend of healing, but it’s not because you string me along with a series of lies. Rather, it’s because you get back to telling the unvarnished truth, no matter what. . . . So how about something like this?

#1 To begin with, I’d want to have us promise to seek honest transparency combined with lots of loving acceptance. Better to say “I’m not ready to reveal that about myself” than to invent something that is not true. What do you say to this?

#2 I need to learn much about you. How can I learn to cherish you AS YOU ARE, if I don’t know who you truly are? So, right from the beginning, I want to communicate with you as I would to a cherished and trusted friend. Would you be willing to do the same for me?

#3 I’m a Professor of Gender Studies and World Religions, an adventurer, a writer, a cook, a masseur, a gardener, a potter, a canoer, a naturalist, a warrior; but, most of all, there is an affectionate lover hidden within me aching to get out. Would you enjoy the mission of making this happen?


This is a bold challenge so early in our relationship. But, given the deception regarding her location, I judged that I had to clarify what would be the only ground whereby I would come to China. As it turns out, my anger was a catalyst. We both pledged ourselves to complete transparency. We both stopped trying to impress each other. Elena eagerly took on the mission to release the wild lover in my heart, and I took on the mission that she assigned to me. All was well!


Well–not quite! In the second week, a second bomb drops. . . .



During our third week, Elena used the taming of the fox taken from the classic, The Little Prince, as her metaphor for how she had become my “smitten kitten.” While the metaphor appealed to me at first, I quickly found it to be too restrictive, and I wrote this poem by way of giving voice to my discontent:


I am surely not like those other men
who want their women to be tamed.

I want to preserve your wild side
and to shiver at your ferocious growls.

I want you to wrestle naked with me
and to unleash your unbounded fury.

I don’t want you always to be a gentle lover,
but to seize and ripe out my heart sometimes.

I want to bleed when you squeeze me
and pull me apart and suck the marrow from my bones.

I want to cry with you and laugh with you once each day
and to make silly faces and tickle you on Saturday mornings.

I am surely not like those other men
who want their women to be tamed.


Elena was swept away by my poem. This propelled me to take the best and boldest step that I have every taken in my life. I booked a flight to Shanghai and arrived for Valentine’s Day 2017. I had to meet this fantasy woman in the flesh. . . .

To read a large excerpt of this book or to order it online, go to

The title is rooted in Chinese folklore. The “red string” (simplified Chinese: 姻缘红线; traditional Chinese: 姻緣紅線; pinyin: Yīnyuán hóngxiàn) symbolizes the invisible cord that predisposes a couple to become true lovers regardless of obstacles posed by separations of place, time, and circumstances.

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