By Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan May. 17, 2016
The Good Wife and the great partner came into my life at the same time. One got better with time, one worse.
Alicia Florrick came into my life as a present from my partner, who I had just begun dating at the time. He told me I might like The Good Wife—he had already seen the first two seasons, but didn’t mind watching them again. He had seen them with his previous girlfriend, a fact which was left unsaid. I wondered if he would think of her each time the show’s credit came on, a pixellated close up of actor Julianna Margulies’ face, each speck of her eye revealing nothing. We have a thing with credits of all the shows we love, we sing the theme tune when we can or make gestures with our hands. “The WIFE that is GOOD!” is our Good Wife chant, as soon as the music comes on.
It became a show that bound us together—two years of long distance, with a minimised Skype window at the bottom to watch a series premiere. Or saving them all up to binge watch together in bed when we were together again. We blazed through Breaking Bad the same way, had a weekly Game Of Thrones date, but when it came to The Good Wife, it was a softer, simpler pleasure—not set in a world of violence or rape, not with terrible things happening to people all the time. And as Alicia grew into her role, so did I.
Up until this new relationship, the men in my life had been versions of each other, emotionally unavailable in deep, hidden ways, delighted in playing guessing games where I always felt like everyone else had the script except me. In retrospect, I think I had been trying to emulate the great Kalinda Sharma, bisexual, weapon ready, and who always answered questions about her identity with a simple, “I’m Kalinda.” Kalinda took no prisoners, Kalinda wore a leather motorcycle jacket, and Kalinda had affairs with beautiful FBI agents and Alicia’s husband. I didn’t know Kalinda during my relationship rollercoasters but as I came to know her, I recgonised the signs and decided to put my faith in a role model more worthy of my admiration.
I could live with the flaws and kinks of my lover but not my female lead character. I watched Alicia switch from endless glasses of wine to endless glasses of tequila. I watched her toy with ethical boundaries.
WWAD (What would Alicia do?) became my battle cry. Alicia was always classy, never compromising, and I wanted to be like that. I took mental notes about the way she held herself, her peplum suits, the way she shut down a conversation that didn’t suit her. I admired the fact that Alicia didn’t have to resort to confidence-boosting tricks before meetings, parties or uncomfortable phone calls. I, on the other hand, would take my cue from Cosmo on confidence, and stand in a superhero position, arms akimbo, to give myself a boost before every important move. Even this new relationship involved a lot of finger crossing and wood knocking in its early days. Alicia would never have do this stuff and risk feeling slightly foolish about herself.
As Alicia went from success to success, my confidence grew with her. It took me the better part of one year to completely relax into my relationship and grow in my new role as a happy, attached woman in an adult relationship and soon Kalinda was forgotten. It may have had something to do with the fact that her character was abruptly cut out of the show. Suddenly the two characters – Alicia and Kalinda – who played BFFs suddenly stopped being in any scene with each other. One season later, Kalinda was out. I hoped that she would return for the series finale, one last Kalinda, maybe even lurking in the background in a courtroom scene, but no, Kalinda was out and the reason was Alicia. Or Julianna Margulies to be precise.
Margulies, rumoured to be a difficult person to work with, had a fall out with actor Archie Panjabi, and as a result, Kalinda got a truncated story arc and disappeared. Do we blame Alicia for Margulies’ failings? I did. The Alicia that I was admiring would have never let a “feud” get in the way of her professional life.
As Alicia moved from her husband to her one-time boyfriend and current boss to a string of other men that never managed to hang on to, things grew brighter in my love life. The partner and I wrapped ourselves around each other’s lives and got cats, simulating a family. We worried about their health together. We merged two flats into one. We discovered flaws and kinks and loved each other even more for it.
But with The Good Wife, my relationship soured. I could live with the flaws and kinks of my lover but not my female lead character. I watched Alicia switch from endless glasses of wine to endless glasses of tequila. I watched her toy with ethical boundaries. I saw her burn bridges and kill friendships, but I always thought she had some redeeming goodness inside her, that the naive Alicia of Season 1 and 2 would still in some way be there in the pinch-mouthed, hard-eyed Alicia of the end.
My partner and I no longer sang the theme song, instead rolled our eyes at the case of the week in “the only firm in the entire United States”. We still kept our weekly date, but only because we had been with her for so long. It’s a bit like that friend you have on Facebook, someone you haven’t actually met in years, but whose life pops up on your newsfeed—first they got married, then they had a baby, then another one, and then the children grew up—and you can unfriend them if you choose, but it’s not worth the effort, besides you still have a sneaky interest in their lives, because you’ve been a spectator for so many years.
Like many things you inherit from your partner’s previous relationships, their life before you, it was time to let this one go. I entered my happily ever after with Alicia’s beginning, her hope and confidence charging through me, but now we were done. We grew together, Alicia and I, before we grew apart.
It’s been two weeks now and Julianna Margulies has been replaced by Selina Meyers as a brash and bumbling politician in Veep. The partner and I watch her in bed and she makes us both laugh together. The relationship is in a secure place now; no knocking on wood or crossing of fingers is required. And I may have a woman with no enduring relationships to thank for that.
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of five books, most recently Before, And Then After and Split. She is a full-time writer and novelist.