Monday, May 10, 2010

Talking Perfection

A few months ago, I ran into a girl I went to high school with at the mall. I was amazed that she was even able to recognize me after all these years. Once she told me who she was, I was able to as well but would have not done so otherwise. Her son is a year younger than J and was there along with her husband. After introductions were made, we found a place to sit and chat while the husband watched the kids.
She and I were acquaintances at best back then and the passage of time had certainly not done anything to either of us to be able to turn that to real friendship. Since she is plugged and connected via Facebook, Orkut and the like, she brought me up to speed on our former classmates - who lived and worked where, who they were married to, how many kids they had and more. We exchanged emails and phone number and promised to stay in touch.
One evening, a few days ago she called me and I have to admit I was surprised. The status update had already happened - she knew my co-ordinates and about my marital status. I did not think there was anything else about me that she may find worth knowing about. Surely, it must have been passed around on the grapevine by now and the network was just as well-informed as she was. I had assumed they had collectively moved on to others who were still not on the radar.
After some talk about the weather, she launched into the topic of the day. For close to two hours, I was regaled with anecdotes about her prodigiously gifted seven year old. It seemed to me that the stories grew more and more embellished as she rolled along. At first he was reading five years ahead of his grade level, then he was trilingual and then he learned new languages all by himself, was a science and math whiz, played several musical instruments, wise beyond belief - and much more. There was no end to the child's innate perfection. It is completely possible that all that she had to say about her son is true - I have had the good fortune of knowing several exceptionally wonderful children myself. I could however sense an undertone to this recitative.
The day we had met, she kept telling me how lucky I was to have the courage to leave R (my ex) and strike out on my own. Not every woman in the same situation could do that. I happened to tell her how for over a year of my marriage I deluded myself and people close to me that I was incredibly happy, living with a man who was beyond perfect for me.
I was just lucky to have an epiphany before it was too late. Any time I see a woman gushing about how incredibly happy she is with her man, I feel a twinge of anxiety because I know how that ended up for me. The best marriages tend to be understated - there is not a lot of exhibitionism or playing to the gallery. The couple exudes a sense of peace and belonging together. They would very likely not make a spectacle of their marital bliss like I once did and like I see many do.
Notably, she made no mention of husband or marriage but focused obsessively on her son for two whole hours she was on the phone. If she was trying to prove that she had won the mommy sweepstakes, she did not have to try so hard. I am perfectly willing to believe that there are the most amazing kids in the world and there is no reason why she and her husband could not have given birth to one. While it makes them very lucky, it is also a big responsibility because that amount of talent is not easy to harness guide and in a positive direction.
If I could have given her a piece of advise, I might have told her not to obsesses over the perfection of her child to the point he believed that the love of his mother was contingent on his ability to meet or exceed her expectations. There was not one funny or cute baby story she had to share - everything was about exceptional intelligence and achievement. Even the most perfect child cannot become recompense for a less than satisfactory marriage - the two are different things and cannot be used to offset the effects of each other. I got the sense that she was deeply disappointed for not getting the reaction from me that she had hoped for - one of jealousy or incredulity. If I know anything about human nature, I will not hear from her again.


Uma said...

This is iteresting. Did she call?

You have a point about 'the love of his mother being contingent on his ability to meet or exceed her expectations' and being able to drect all that genius in the right direction...

ggop said...

Normally I feel like sending such moms a link to STFU Parents but there is something more to it than meets the eye like you guessed! Overcompensating much?

Heartcrossings said...

Uma - No she did not call again :)

ggop - Hard to imagine it was not overcompensation,

Anu said...

I came across your blog only very recently. Really like your style of writing :)