Monday, April 11, 2005

Grading on a Curve

Warning: This post is not worth reading. It is yet another futile attempt to explain my current heartache. To make it seem normal.

When I was in school, I was almost always that kid who scored 100% on an exam, throwing off the curve for everyone else. Luckily for me (so I wouldn't be hated all the time), the grading system was usually pretty straightforward. If you scored anywhere in the 90s, it was an A. In the 80s, a B. And so on. You had to score below 60 to fail.

Being the type-A that I am, this kind of rigid scale has always worked for me. Always made sense. There is logic. Constancy. Objectivity. Absolution. The possibility of actual perfection. Which is why I always preferred the true A to the inflated grades one receives when a curve is used. Why I didn't feel bad when I threw off said curve for the others who didn't study as fastidiously as I.

But in life, and most specifically in love, I find that the scale is nowhere near as predictable or precise. It is fickle. Complex. Multi-faceted. There is no formula for perfection. No single right answer. No proof of why things are as they are. There is a curve that is based on others' expectations of you, which are based on their opinion of and respect for you, which is often based on nothing solid at all. Or there is something of a reverse curve, where 99% is actually much worse than, say, 50%. Let me explain...

J and I dated for nearly four years. We were practically perfect for each other. Practically. There was just one thing that was missing. I have been assured that I will never know what that one thing was, so for the sake of making my point, I'll assign it a point value of 1. Which takes us from 100% to 99%.

D seemed at first to be wonderful. He treated me like a queen. But, as it turned out, he was a compulsive liar. Now, this is a major character flaw, so I'll take off extra points. Let's say 25. 75% - generally considered an average score, so I'm being generous here.

JT was fantastic. He was honest. He was fun. He was intelligent. But he, too, had a fatal flaw. He is in town for roughly 12 hours every month. Total. And sometimes those hours are not consecutive. A relationship is impossible when you only see each other once a month, so he lost 10 points. 90% - still an A by most standards.

M was honest, too. He worked nearby. Even lived close. But there was no chemistry. This is a big problem, so he lost 15 points. 85%.

JS was seemingly perfect. (And, yes, I know that this being the most recent of them all, I'm bound to feel this way. And I promise that at some point, hopefully soon, I'll shut up about him. But for today, just go with me on this one.) He was intelligent. Funny. Honest. Communicative. Affectionate. Spiritual. Lived and worked within 25 miles of my home. There was chemistry. But he was occasionally and temporarily emotionally disabled. Minus 5. 95%.

There are many others I could use to illustrate the point I'm about to make, but my dating stories aren't even interesting to me anymore, so I'll spare you the details.

The thing is, in all of these relationships, I was mostly happy. Mostly fulfilled. They were mostly good. Often great. Nearly perfect. But it's that one thing that isn't right, that one thing that you can't live with (or in some cases without), that one inadequacy that takes you from 100% to anything else, however small the variance, that makes it fail in the end.

And when something is so close to perfect and then it doesn't work out, it is sharply more painful than if it was much further off the mark. Because you were hopeful. Sure, even. That the long and laborious search might finally be over. That the right person and the right timing may have finally come together. Which is why I say that in love, 50% would be so much better than 99%. At least you'd know to expect failure. But who expects failure when something is 99% great? And is it even possible to find something worthy of an uninflated 100%? I, for one, have my doubts.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

I don't think there is any relationship that is 100%. It's just realizing whether the percentages that don't make it perfect are worth living with/without. Hang in there.