Little Miss Perfect and the List of Pros and Cons

Years ago, when not much time had passed since I’d been booted off the marriage bus, I started dating a man who was smart, laid-back, funny. This would have gone on the “pro” half of the pros and cons list I made when trying to figure out whether I should keep dating him. Also, tons of fun. He could make a party come to life. That probably went on the pros list, too. Thoughtful. Good-hearted. Affectionate.

But of course, there was a reason I was making a pros and cons list—because there were cons: temperamental, at times, for one. But I’m only going to list that one because it isn’t fair for me to list a bunch of things about him when I was not exactly Miss Perfect. I would guess, had he been making a pros and cons list, my cons might have been: selfish, careless, too sensitive. And those would have been fair. Also: kind of a drag. I was pretty unhappy at the time in general, and this man never made me feel badly about it. He never said, “Cheer up, crazy lady.” Instead he watched movies with me, made me dinner. 

See? More pros.

When we had fun, we had immense fun, but when we weren't having fun, we were arguing. There seemed to be no in-between. Our arguments consumed a lot of time, more and more as the weeks marched on. I remember being at work and our having an argument on the phone, and his driving over to my workplace so we could argue in the parking lot. That was fun. I was often caught off-guard by our arguments, not understanding how they got started, why he was angry. I didn’t like arguing—which perhaps you could say is one of my cons, still. I like peace, and I will go to great lengths sometimes to keep it, and this might or might not have contributed to my being booted off the marriage bus. But I digress. The point is no matter how hard I tried, my efforts didn’t stop the arguments from happening with the man I was dating.

Which is why, one day, I sat down at my desk and wrote out a pros and cons list. Making a pros and cons list about whether you should be dating someone is perhaps, maybe, possibly a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy clue that it’s time to get out. But I wasn’t good at clues or listening to my gut or any of those foolish things. I had a list! And I am guessing the list had more pros than cons—or I wanted it to have more pros than cons, or I was just too scared of losing one more thing in my life, or the thought of breaking it off just made me even more unhappy—because we kept on, not that much longer, but long enough, and I am sorry about that to this day because he didn't deserve that.

The point is—well, you’ll get to the point if you keep on reading, and hopefully you’ll get to it sooner than I did, which was an amount of time one could classify as “dense.”

Last spring, I was offered a publishing contract for my memoir. I felt overjoyed and on a high for all of ten minutes when I started to get this nagging feeling, enough that I decided to take some time and think about it. I happened to be about to undergo some major medical “stuff,” and I chalked up the nagging feeling I had to feeling overwhelmed with the medical stuff. I thought if I could get that behind me, and heal fully, I could think properly. A few days after the surgery, as I was recuperating and still not home, I remember taking out a piece of paper and making a pros and cons list. I knew even then I was trying to talk myself into saying yes, when I knew all along I should say no. Not that the publisher wasn’t and isn’t the right fit for many authors: it just wasn’t the right fit for me. And I was afraid of losing it, afraid another one might never come along. 

I withdrew the memoir anyway. I had decided the manuscript needed an overhaul, so I put all my energy and focus on that in the months that followed before sending it out again.

Last fall, I was offered a contract with a publisher, Platypus Press. I made a list of questions to ask them, but I knew even then, as I was making the list, that there was nothing that they could answer that could change the feeling I had inside, which was a calm, peaceful, sure-of-itself yes.

The Going and Goodbye is available for pre-order, in paperback and on Kindle. Platypus Press is offering an exclusive giveaway to those who purchase the paperback version during its pre-order period: you will receive a short story of mine via email after your order is placed. “The Snowstorm,” (Zone 3) follows Flavia and Seymour as they navigate the turbulent horizon of their relationship. (You can read more about the making of that story here if you missed it.) The Going and Goodbye will be released June 30, 2017.