I am a cynical cliché of a man. And, like most misanthropes, what has fueled my pessimism -- ironically -- is my optimism. When you go through life expecting intelligence, honesty and fairness, but you get the Tea Party, McSalads, and Prop 8... you tend to become a bitter grump.
Even more insane has been my belief in the myth of love. My life-long childish desire -- and failure -- to find that one special person that would catapult me out of my ridiculous self-indulgent self, into the Platonic ideal of Love.
Chasing the love-unicorn through my 20's and 30's was absurd. It led me into relationships with some women who clearly only wanted to date other women. It saw me dating mean-angry girls (one of whom started "brianfinkelsteinisanasshole.com"). Hell, my quest for the love-yeti even brought me to India, where I went to watch a woman I was in love with marry her first cousin in an arranged Muslim wedding.
Then, a few years ago, right when I gave up on the idea of the 'perfect-woman-for-me,' I met her. Her name was Jean, and she was smart and beautiful and funny and interesting and she can fly (just making sure you were paying attention). What was surprising -- to me -- was that she also loved me. And what was surprising -- to everyone else -- was that she was age appropriate.
The optimistic side of my brain said, "You waited a long time but you found the right person. You are very lucky." Then the pessimistic side of my brain said, "There's got to be something very wrong with her. Run!"
I didn't run; I proposed. And our wedding was the best night of my life. Jean was my love-Laelaps -- a mythological female dog destined always to catch its prey (and I mean that in a good way, Jean) -- and I was ready for 'happily ever after.'
Then, one day, we started joking about our friends who have kids. Jean said that if we had any, we wouldn't be weird LA parents who never say, "No," or "Can't." We laughed, deciding we'd only say, "No," or "Can't." "NO! CAN'T! NO! CAN'T!"
We decided that we would raise our kids the way we were raised: with discipline and shame. Before long, the joking became a conversation. We both wanted a family. And -- in our minds -- being in the perfect family meant having kids.
Then, despite our middle-agedness, the very first time we tried, MAGIC! Jean got pregnant.
The optimistic side of my brain said, "Amazing! We'll make great parents and have a perfect family." Whereas, the pessimistic side of my brain said, "Jean will be an amazing mom but you, Brian, will suck as a dad. You're insane. You will never love that kid as much as you love yourself. What if your kid gets bullied or is like you and all anxious? What if he's stupid or she's a jerk or he's a terrorist or she's a Republican or he's a vegan or a serial killer...."
For the next three months we did what all the books say to do and kept quiet. Then we went to New York and told our families at a big Italian restaurant. I got stuck collecting the money, and of course we were short; I don't think my brother put any money in, but still, it was a great time. We were happy.
The night we got back from NY, I woke up at 5:00 AM when I heard Jean crying, "Something's wrong!"
The next whole year sucked. There were hospital bills, depressing Facebook posts of friends' NEW babies, unsolicited bad advice, ovulation-cycle iPhone apps... and, all told, there were three miscarriages.
One of them was so bad that the day we got home from the hospital Jean collapsed on our bedroom floor. She just lay still with her eyes open and for a few seconds -- that seemed like an eternity -- I was convinced that I just saw my wife die.
But here we are. Still trying. To which the optimistic side of my brain says, "Who knows if we will have kids? Either way we'll be okay. And sure, yes, neither one of us is perfect; I mean, Jean's downstairs right now anxiety-baking more chocolate chip cookies than two people could possibly eat. Hell, it's almost 10pm and I have yet to put on pants today. But despite our individual imperfections, whether we stay a two-person family or become a three, four, or nine-person one, as a family... we are already perfect."
Meanwhile, the pessimistic side of my brain says... who cares what the pessimistic side of my brain says.
This blog post is part of a series, produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with Chevrolet Malibu, entitled 'The Moment I Stopped Being Perfect.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here.
Follow Brian Finkelstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bsfinkelstein