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How To Jive and Wail | 2010 | Sick Bed

02.10.10 12:34 a.m.

A broken heart is what makes life so wonderful - five years later.  

-Phyllis Battelle


Perfect Couples

We all - by which I mean, I - have these couples we place our faith in. They aren't always best friends or even those we know nearly as well as we would like to, but we are aware enough of them to let them unwittingly shoulder the burden of our unmentioned devotion. I do not doubt that this paragraph alone has brought to mind couples in your own life who have filled this role for however little time, couples on whom you hung your hope.

After Emily dumped me, Dan Kessler informed me that we were this couple for him, the ones who seemed idyllic from the outside, who made him believe that coupledom was something feasible in the long term. I told him that there were internal issues I thought better than to share with even my closest friends, and that there was much I only let myself consciously acknowledge after she had left. There is a novelty in having others admire your relationship, and I wasn't about to spoil that, even to myself. In rereading old entries last year, I saw how hard I tried, though, hoping that I would finally accept that we weren't a perfect couple before the rug was pulled out from under me.

That is one of the more alluring deceptions of perfect coupledom: that two people who are great on their own and who you like as individuals make sense in a relationship. It seems like it should be true, after all. So often, your friends date people whom you find obnoxious at the very least, people in whom you can't even imagine attraction. Should they happen to finally have the good sense to kiss someone you happen to like and respect, should this kissing lead to further commitment, you may think you have it made. You can silently assure yourself that you have found your newest perfect couple.

In addition to sausages and laws, those who wish to idealize them should not examine too closely how these "perfect" relationships are made. When we are given the reason for eventual dissolution, we can't help but feel a disappointed. The curtain is pulled back and sometimes we don't even have a fraud pretending to be a wizard. It is just empty, as it always was beneath our lacquer. It isn't the couple's fault, we are the ones projecting, infusing into mortals the mantles of gods and praying our hope doesn't tip them off.

In a way, this disillusionment is good (for us, if not for the couple), because it brings us back to reality. We don't compare ourselves against the so-called "perfect couple" because we realize that they, too, have flaws, some fatal. Many of us are constantly dissatisfied with life and love because media has told us what to want, and writers tend to edit out the three hours a couple spends just cuddling together watching a movie or grumbling over doing dishes (mostly because, as a writer, I know you are conditioned to put my book down if I draw out the toilet-scrubbing scenes). We see only what is most extreme, we see the propaganda that will lead us to the conclusion expected of us. But we cheat ourselves by not seeing the whole truth, as unflattering or unseemly as it can be.

Typically when they break up, it isn't because they stopped loving one another or even liking one another. It is because life got in the way or one corner of a foundation showed wear and they just couldn't fathom another patch job without addressing what caused the stresses. They return to being simply people, who are allowed to be flawed.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, persecution via fallen limbs.

last watched: Life On Mars
reading: Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion
listening: Mark & James

How To Jive and Wail | 2010 | Sick Bed

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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