The question came at the end of a long e-mail. “Why is it I am always attracted to the damned and the twisted and the needy?”, cried my friend, battling with a difficult separation.

I had to let the whole day pass, chop some tomatoes and steam some clams before feeling grounded enough to answer. Not that I can offer anything else but understanding and a shoulder to cry on but her plea is not uncommon. One would think that at our ripe age of over forty we would have developed an infallible attraction for the good guys, the ones who call when they are running late, those who remember birthdays and anniversaries, who invariably compliment your food and who would never admit to finding you fat. Or whatever you think the perfect attributes are.

At 19 I fell madly in love with a heroin addict. I thought it was love, at least. He was dashing, intriguing, dark and wealthy. After disappearing for days at a time and finally stealing money from my wallet, I decided it wasn’t really love after all and moved on. Fifteen years later I heard he died of AIDS. He wasn’t the last unfortunate man I fell for but, over time, I came to appreciate normalcy, an interesting mind without the pitfalls of addiction/torment/depression and whatever else.

While I do feel that most women are plagued with an inborn need to change men, when it’s us we should concentrate on changing, some of us shed such urge as we grow older. Or do we? It recently occurred to me that my generation is the product of a culture that, maybe more than others, idolized torment/depression/addiction and often equated it with genius.  Well, growing old next to such “genius” is tiring and obliterating.

I have also come to realize that, as there is a darker side to all of us, it can be challenging and fun to discover it in apparently innocuous men – the types who show up when they sas they will, who will trust you with their life, who will indulge your (possibly annoying) quirks. Yes, they do exist. And thank god for them. Now, they haven’t learned yet to do the dishes right after they eat and treat the laundry as an episodic chore, but they will be there tomorrow. And the day after, and the one after that. And on one of those days, they will surprise you with an unexpected thought, or an understanding you didn’t know they were capable of. And, why not, even a ticket to a rock concert to see close up one of those dark idols.


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