A Sweet Victory
By Jennifer Weiner
How far would I go to win?
I was a year and a half into it before I learned that my marriage was based
on a lie.
It happened like this: My husband casually asked if I wanted to be his
teammate in our city's Urban Challenge, a scavenger hunt/footrace that's a
local version of The Amazing Race.
I responded swiftly: Absolutely not. My husband is supercompetitive. So
competitive that I have long refused to team up with him for so much as a game
of Scrabble, lest we lose and he get grumpy. So competitive that he once
finished a lazy day of inner-tubing down a river by paddling frantically to the
shore, raising his tube above his head, and yelling, "I win!"
I knew how racing with him would end: with me cowed and sheepish, like all
those wives on reality-TV competitions, cringing as my red-faced, bulgy-veined
partner shouted at me to run faster, paddle harder, come on, hurry!
But somehow, Adam talked me into it. On the appointed morning, we won the
trivia quiz that determined the starting order and set off at the front of the
"Okay," Adam said. "I think we should..."
I squinted at a pair of smug, spandex-clad marathoners-in-training zipping
past us. Suddenly, the idea of "no pressure, just fun" was out the
window. I wanted — needed — to win.
I turned to my husband. "You're walking," I observed. "Why are
He stared at me. "I thought we decided...."
"People are passing us! Run!"
In seconds, I became the distilled essence of every jerk you've ever seen on
the small screen — or the soccer sidelines. I cajoled. I berated. I called my
husband words I'd never previously said aloud. We eked out a 16th-place finish
out of more than 100 teams, which wasn't bad — but the walk home wasn't
It's not hard to figure out why I'd always wanted to see my husband as the
competitive one. For a guy, the words that describe the desire to be the best —
hard charging, driven, ruthless — sound complimentary. Apply those same
words to a woman, and suddenly she's Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears
Prada. So I preferred to think of success as something that had fallen into
my lap; to say that I'd just been lucky, instead of admitting to the hard work
(and occasional bad behavior) that my personal and professional victories
But the truth is that I have always wanted to win, whether "winning"
meant getting the best grades in school, snagging the plum assignments at my
newspaper, or coming in first in a just-for-fun footrace. For better or worse,
my competitive nature has made me who I am.
Which doesn't mean I want to go through life snarling at my spouse or
beating myself up for failing to be the swiftest, the strongest, the girl with
the most cake. If it took me more than three decades to accept that I am a
competitor, I suspect I'll spend the next few trying to channel my instincts
for good instead of evil — and remembering that I should never race with (or,
God forbid, against) my husband again.
Jennifer Weiner's newest novel, Certain Girls, will be published
this month by Atria.
Originally published on: April 11, 2008
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