Not So Perfect

CAUTION: This post may contain spoilers!

I recently finished Julie Metz’s Perfection, which is a memoir about the author’s husband’s untimely death and its aftermath. While Metz was in the process of dealing with her husband’s death and parenting her little girl by herself, she learned the devastating fact that he had multiple affairs during their marriage.

At first, I liked and sympathized with the author; she reminded me of myself: an introverted writer whose roots are in both upstate New York and Manhattan. I loved how she tore into one of the women her husband had an affair with—a woman who had previously been one of her best friends. That must have taken some guts.

Metz has a wonderful writing style. She crafted the memoir so it read like a novel; the tiny details she chose to highlight added to the bigger picture of the book’s symbolism. Life really can be cinematic sometimes.

However, I was a little bothered by how blind Metz was to her husband’s infidelity and lack of confidence. How could she really believe that all of his flirtations with women were innocent? I also found it hard to believe because she herself had an affair with a married man before she married her husband. Perhaps that was sort of like a “karma” thing, but I don’t believe anyone deserves to be cheated on.

Much of the book chronicled Metz’s search for love after her husband’s death, and this mostly seemed to lead to a bunch of guys she slept with but to whom she had no commitment. I suppose that’s how one searches for the right person in the modern age, but I don’t see how sleeping with someone without having any intention of commitment is a good dating strategy, and I think Metz admitted as such in the book. Perhaps it was just an odd way of grieving.

By the end of the book, she did end up with another man who loved and respected her and, more importantly, was interested in and good at helping her raise her young daughter.

I found Perfection to be an entertaining read, but I didn’t particularly have admiration for the author or her choices by the end of it. She seemed to have learned and grown a lot from her experience, so maybe she published her memoir to warn other women about the ways of men. On the other hand, I imagine it would be difficult to advise another person not to date someone who will cheat on you, as you never know if or when that might happen, and there is little one can do to prevent it.

Metz’s husband was in fact diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, which essentially means his self-esteem was so low that he had constructed a falsely confident image of himself. He never liked to be left alone and always surrounded himself with people who would flatter him—notably women. Knowing that he had a bonafide disorder made me feel sorry for the guy but also made me wonder if Metz would have stayed with him and had sympathy for him had he still been alive when she found out about his affairs. She had said multiple times throughout the book that she wouldn’t have, but it still raised an interesting question for me: Can infidelity really be attributed to a personality disorder? Can it then be cured or possibly rehabilitated with cognitive behavioral therapy?

Even the woman Metz’s husband cheated on her with supposedly had borderline personality disorder, which caused her to be extremely clingy, emotionally volatile, and attention-seeking. By the end of the book, Metz hadn’t forgiven her and definitely hadn’t extended the hand of friendship again. I suppose it would be easier to forgive someone your husband slept with if you knew they had a legitimate problem, rather than if they cheated simply out of spite or because they just wanted to get in your husband’s pants because they were having a midlife crisis.

I’d read Perfection if you wanted a real-life soap opera to get involved in and wanted to ponder the intricacies of human relationships. But if you were looking for advice on relationships, I’d look elsewhere.