When I married the perfect man a dozen years ago, I felt pretty smart for not messing up the biggest decision of my life. He was and is intelligent, interesting, kind and funny. What I didn’t foresee was one small drawback: he kind of makes me look bad.
I promise I am not being too hard on myself here. I have good qualities. But I have a lot of obvious defects. I can be cranky and impatient. I’m always late. I yell too much at the kids.
And many wise people agree that my husband is perfect. His mom, certainly. My mom. And they would also agree that while I have good qualities – I am generous, I cook great food, I’m really useful for tech support – being perfect is not one of them.
My friend Celeste laments wryly that people used to think she was funny before she married her amusing husband Jeff. She’s as funny as ever, but between them he nudges her out as the funny one. Jeff took away her identity as a funny person. Now she’s just a great girl married to the funny guy.
A pair of anything calls out for comparison, whether it’s two spouses, two siblings or two tomatoes. One is bigger, one smaller. Between two people, one is inevitably smarter, louder, nicer, thinner, more obnoxious, messier. The other looks less so in comparison. Even if the difference is small, two points by definition mark ends of a spectrum, and in this way they make each other look more extreme. My parents, for example, are two of the most frugal people I know. But compared to my dad, my mom is Imelda Marcos.
Sometimes I think hopefully that maybe I’m not as grumpy as I look compared to my husband. Maybe my normal ups and downs just appear moody next to his extreme sunniness. Maybe if I married a real curmudgeon, I’d be Little Miss Sunshine. And if he married a fast-food junkie, he’d look like Jacques Pepin.
But I’m happy to have it this way. When people gush, as they inevitably do, “I love your husband! He is so nice! He is so funny!” I laugh at their enthusiasm and agree. I don’t mind looking dim next to a brighter bulb. He lights up rooms. I’m…atmospheric. Most of all, I’m the smart girl that married the perfect guy.