Another thing about my fiancée: She has to be the best at everything she puts her mind to.
I had no conception of what it is like to be around someone like that. (Although she says I’m like that, too.)
It is frightening.
Her drive to be the best isn’t a competition with anyone but herself. She doesn’t want to beat anyone. She just wants to be the best. It’s natural. She doesn’t even know that’s the way she is. If she ever sees this, she’ll deny it.
When I was growing up, one of my heroes was Eugenio Monti. Monti was one of the greatest bobsledders, ever. But that’s not why he was – and is – my hero.
At the 1964 Winter Olympics,
Realizing that British bobsledders Tony Nash and Robin Dixon had broken a bolt on their sled, Monti lent them the bolt off his sled. The Britons won the gold medal in the 2-man bobsled, while Monti and his teammate took the bronze medal. Answering critics from the home press, Monti told them “Nash didn’t win because I gave him the bolt. He won because he had the fastest run.” Monti also showed his act of selfless generosity in the four-man competition. There, the Canadian team of Vic Emery had damaged their sled’s axle and would have been disqualified had not Monti and his mechanics come to the rescue. The sled was repaired and the Canadian team went on to win the gold medal, while Monti’s team took bronze.
— Wikipedia, Eugenio Monti
That’s my fiancée. Finishing first isn’t important. Being the best is important. One is only the best if one is better than everyone else at their best.
It’s not just that she couldn’t live with herself if she hindered a competitor. She could not even conceive of doing anything that would hinder a competitor. She couldn’t even conceive of not helping a competitor be her best. She doesn’t even see it as competition.
Her high school friends say she didn’t compete with them – and they didn’t try to compete with her. Everyone (except, apparently, my fiancée) knew that she was the smartest person ever to come out of the valley. She helped everyone else at every opportunity, with Literature, Writing, Mathematics, Science. She helped them with their college application essays, giving them ideas and commenting on their drafts.
My Love’s Mother (to me): You know she got perfect scores on the college boards.
My Love: I did not!
My Love’s Mother: OK. I’m exaggerating. She got a 780 [out of a possible 800] on the Physics test. But that was before she took Physics. And she got 800s on everything else.
My Love: I only got a 790 on the Math SAT! I didn’t think I’d get into [her college of choice] without a perfect score.
She went East to one of the best colleges in the world. She initially felt inferior: She was from a broken-down little rural high school, surrounded by girls who had graduated at the top of elite prep and public schools. Her school didn’t have AP courses or other courses for advanced students; too few students and too few teachers. (My school didn’t have those courses, either.) The other girls had every advantage. They had seen the world; lived in the great cities, visited the great museums, seen the great plays, heard the great opera.
My fiancée’s sister says those girls changed my fiancée. She went to college a laid-back hick. She came back at Christmas break ferocious to prove to the elite coastal girls that she was as well educated, as cultured, as they were. One of her college friends told me that by the end of her first year, my fiancée was helping every girl in the dorm with at least one subject.
Looking for a challenge, she elected Mathematics. Her high school didn’t teach Calculus. (Neither did mine.) She entered college a year behind in the Calculus/Real Analysis sequence. However, as a curious teenager, she had taught herself a good deal of rigorous, abstract Mathematics: Number Theory, Non-Euclidian Geometry, Logic and Set Theory, Group and Field Theory. She had taught herself to program (in C). That prepared her better for pure Mathematics than a high school Calculus course would have.
In the middle of her second year, one of her Math professors told her that she had promise. She shouldn’t bother with undergraduate courses. She should transfer to a school where she could take graduate courses. She did, and took four graduate Math courses per term. She graduated summa cum laude and entered one of the top graduate Math programs in the world.
She proved to everyone’s satisfaction that she was one of the best of the best, particularly in the most abstract disciplines. But she realized she didn’t have the temperament to be an academic. She wanted the rough-and-tumble of the commercial world.
She needed experience and capital to do what she wanted to do: apply quantitative tools to analyze and predict the outcome of business decisions. She worked for a securities firm for a few years, then started her firm.
She doesn’t want to compete with anyone. Being the best isn’t about beating someone else.
She doesn’t consciously try to be the best. It’s instinct. It’s just how she is.
And nobody around her – including those she’s competing against – thinks she is competing with them.
I didn’t know any of that when I started dating her. She seemed a polite, reserved, intelligent, hard-working woman, succeeding in an extremely competitive environment.
Her potty-mouthed smartass sister was the first person to warn me:
Are you ready to be the target of a woman who has to be the best at everything important to her? She will have to be the best lesbian, ever. The best lover. The best wife. Are you ready for that?
It is frightening.