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Failure: A Love Story

Posted: 06/11/07 06:50 PM ET

Every great love story starts with a secret, so here's mine:

I love Failure.

I know this sounds strange, even ridiculous -- most people don't even admit to knowing Failure or bumping into Failure by accident, let alone professing love for Failure! -- but I really always have been a little bit different (just ask my family). As weird as it might seem and as embarrassing as it is to admit, I have to say that Failure and I make a really good couple. So good, in fact, that I now think my relationship with Failure is not only one of the longest relationships I've had over the course of my life, but also one of the most successful and fulfilling.

Why Failure?

I've always had a soft spot for the unpopular, the disliked, the perverse: for outsiders and misfits, depressives and pessimists, has-beens and non-succeeders. I can relate. Failure is never an invited guest, never a welcome sight, never the life of a party. Failure is never told to sit down and stay awhile, to take a load off, to make itself at home. Quite the opposite. The minute most people think there's even a possibility that Failure might show up -- put in an appearance, spend some quality time -- they cannot get away fast enough. Such is the case with pariahs.

But to me, Failure is not a pariah. To me, it is loyal and true, complex and complicated, deeply unknowable. Failure has thoughts and feelings and beliefs and aspirations; it has goals it has never met, dreams it has never achieved, successes it will never see. Failure knows Failure, too -- do you not see the exquisite irony? -- which is what makes Failure so dark and brooding, so inexplicably attractive. Failure is a loner by nature and an outcast by design; it doesn't play well with others and it never will. Which is why accepting failure -- embracing Failure, loving Failure -- seems so counter-intuitive.

Call us what you will -- best friends, soul-mates, significant others, domestic partners -- Failure and I are committed, mutually respectful, secure in our love for each other. Not to mention co-dependent (but in a good way). As much a marriage of convenience as it is a match made in heaven, our relationship has grown over the years and deepened, creating "a new paradigm" for what a positive, open, non-traditional (and thus probably illegal in some states) relationship can look like.

For most of my life I didn't even understand that Failure and I were technically involved in an actual long-term relationship that we both worked hard at maintaining and were both very invested in making successful. Except for the few times when we've broken up for short periods over Success -- who was extremely attractive and flashy and made me promises I knew he wouldn't keep and who I knew would someday toss me away and leave me broken-hearted with only my memories to sustain me -- the two of us have spent a lot of time together. (Who am I kidding? Failure and I have been joined at the hip for as long as I can remember.) And yet we have rarely been seen together in public. In fact, if I hadn't started talking openly about Failure and calling attention to our partnership -- what a colleague calls "exhibitionistic masochism," my confessional-self-deprecating-and- yet-still-completely self-absorbed style of communication -- probably nobody would have ever guessed that we were linked.