After much soul searching and unnecessary heartache, I think I might have finally come to an understanding of the pattern and modus operandi (MO) of my past relationships. I have a stadium-sized ego cushioned for comfort with several layers of pride. With that combination, I had for the longest time imagined my life's purpose was to take on a man who looked and acted like a train wreck and "decorate" his life as beautifully as possible.
No lesser challenge was good enough for my larger than life sense of my own greatness. I had no interest in any man who wasn't desperately in need of being saved. I am sure there is an official nomenclature for my condition, but whatever it is, sure as hell it is painful to live with.
Like they say, if you want something bad enough in life, you end up getting it. I was blessed with the kind of man I sought not once, not twice, but thrice. That is what it took for me to understand the fatal flaw of my ways. One marriage and two significant relationships repeated the same pattern. The first two times I at least had the discernment to know I was dealing with men who were completely out of the "normal" range in all respects, most notably with regard to raw intelligence.
They managed to awe me with their brains to the point where the train wreck started to look like a thing of unsurpassable beauty. So, there I was, head over heels in "love" or more accurately in high alert mode to stage the rescue that would free these very deserving men from their constricting circumstances and propel them to the heights they belonged.
R was, in my mind, C-level executive material languishing in a low end IT drone job that insulted his intelligence every day. It was my mission to set him on the right career track so he could make CXO before age 35. I set to work in sober earnest while our marriage was still in honeymoon mode. It's a whole different thing that R wanted that to be the permanent state of our marriage - "no staleness, no boredom, no sameness" was his mantra, but I digress.
I am glad to report he is almost there, just a year behind schedule with every chance of making the grade in short order. I am vain enough to imagine he could not meet the before-35 timeline because we are no longer together.
Malhar, my first significant relationship after calling it quits with R, was doing almost as well as he should have career-wise, so there was not much I could bring to the table. What a crushing disappointment that had been! Being that he managed mergers, acquisitions, and such other arcana for a living, there was precious little I knew that could further the cause of his career. There was, however, a role for me in his life. He was a rescue-worthy project beyond the shadow of a doubt.
His two adorable little boys needed a mother just like me because their own mom was too self-absorbed to be there for them. Apparently it would be love at first sight between the pint sized brats and me, and J — with whom I had been pregnant — would fit right in the mix. In a matter of weeks Malhar had proselytized me into accepting the blended family as the ultimate Utopia. Up until then, my position had been "It will be a cold day in hell before I get into his kids', my kids', and their kids' situation." Apparently, with Malhar coming into my life, hell had frozen over quite nicely.
Then there was "the great Indian novel" he was working on. It had been a work in progress for a few years at the time of our meeting. His passion for it was akin to mine for J when I was pregnant with her. I could easily relate. I knew at once I could help push it out the door and, God willing, with cryptic a dedication like "To the beautiful seashell that washed up to my shore one summer" on its flyleaf, a Pulitzer might have "washed up" as well. I thought he had what it took. In other words, I was suffering from fantastic illusions of grandeur.
We parted ways too soon for any of that to happen, but he persisted with me via anonymous phone calls for a whole year after he was officially with someone else. Our breakup had been nothing short of hysterical, as can be imagined -what with my life's grand design being taken away and handed over to someone who was my exact opposite in every way. How did that make any sense?
What did that giggly cow in Wal-Mart couture know about uses of iambic pentameter in expressing feelings of love and loss? In hindsight there was significant jealousy in pronouncing that verdict upon the over-endowed, but bland-looking new woman in Malhar's life. Here was a man who had shown impeccable taste in marrying who he had the first time around. She was smart, charming, stylish, sophisticated and had versatile interests. The fact that she was doing great professionally was only an interesting side note. Did I mention she was quite a looker? The man had everything going for him.
Post-ex, he may have done better than the Wal-Mart couture-cow he chose to be his lawfully wedded second wife. In his defense, Malhar would say as he often did to me "You are like Jolt cola. I want to be with a woman around whom I can relax and just be myself. I don't always need cerebral stimulation and I don't want to keep up with someone like you and worry about what might happen if you got bored."
With cow firmly tethered to the post, he threw little baits my way to see if I would bite. After a year he gave up and just settled into what I imagine must be perfectly bovine domesticity. I imagine a placid couple sitting on the couch, chewing cud and watching Hindi soaps on cable TV. While I can't see myself in that frame of reference, neither can I picture Malhar in it - he just wasn't the type. I felt a great sense of solidarity with his ex who, like me, lacked the bovinity Malhar sought in a wife.
The third time was not nearly as dramatic as R or Malhar. H was smart enough, but not nearly in the same league as R or even Malhar. He looked as train-wrecked as a man might look like if, after five years of marriage, the wife, on the pretext of going home for a vacation, just flies the coop. Other than that he was reasonably, if not somewhat dangerously normal; but then what I find normal would intimidate most people.
A couple of months into this "vacation" that was happening back in India, H tries to find out when she may be returning home, to which she responds "Never." Any other woman in my shoes would have panicked enough by this point to consider running as fast and as far away from H as she could. Not I. I soldiered along, knowing in my bones that I had landed myself a mega-project truly worthy of my greatness.
So what if R and Malhar could not recognize my potential? Our friend H would surely not miss the obvious when it stared at him in the face. I liked the quirky sense of humor, the passion for all things dangerous, the vigorous work ethic, and not so much the fact that dinner was often two slices of bread with "Kannadiga gun powder" for spread accompanied by Kamchatka Vodka or Rum and Pepsi.
Just for the record, I am a health freak. One major bone of contention between R and me was our dietary preferences. For those who ask "Then why?" I would answer that a worthy cause is worth the supreme sacrifice. With me in his life, H would magically be weaned off his drinks and gravitate of his own free will to Odwalla carrot juice. I just know these things to be self-evident despite all evidences to the contrary from past experience.
There was so much work ahead that I could not wait to get started. H needed to be rescued from the ghosts of the past and the closet full of his wife's clothes that he held on to for close to two years, saying all the time, "The purge will need to happen." That was aptly dramatic for me.
It came as no surprise that he dated this woman long distance when they were both in India and his phone bill ran to forty-five thousand Indian rupees in a month. On their first date, he drove 20 kilometers to the nearest pharmacy to buy condoms because she said she had gotten in the mood. I was as impressed as I needed to be. It did not bother me that the same woman lost interest in sex even before the ink on the marriage certificate had dried.
This was clearly a go as far as I was concerned. Before I forget to mention, his divorce was not yet granted when we met. It was in the works in India, pending the seal of the judge on papers they had signed and the Domestic Violence laws had just been passed. This was getting to be more challenging by the minute and all the way up my alley. Neither R nor Malhar had come with some many challenges. Every once in a while H would send me links to articles on mental health and its relationship to marital happiness. I would read them out of curiosity and wonder about their relevance to our situation. Surely, he did not think my mental health was lacking.
According to him, his wife suffered from chronic depression and he did everything in his power to help her. Even after she locked herself up in their bedroom with the biggest kitchen knife threatening to kill herself, he persisted with her. Loyalty and grace under pressure scores big with me, ergo H was a keeper without a question.
Breaking up with H was a long, drawn-out and tedious process not in the least because I was loath to see a lifetime opportunity of being a man's savior go to hell in a hand basket. To his credit he maintained dignified silence to the end, but I felt drained emotionally because he just was not letting go in the mind. While we had reached logical closure in the relationship, it had to end in a symbolic way for us to be fully freed of each other.
Thanks to H, I have come to realize that a man suggesting we could meet inside Victoria's Secret, while quaint and quirky, may not necessarily signal a chance of life-long marital bliss. Offering to buy me a toy of choice, so that waiting for "the one" was not so onerous, may be more than a friendly gesture of concern and perhaps needs to be viewed as such.