Category Archives: self

being perfect

I read a blog post yesterday where the author talked about how slightly jealous but mostly sorry she felt for the perfect women who surrounded her at the school pick-up, how much more tyrannical and less joyful their lives must be because they are so polished seeming.

As I read this, I felt a little up in arms. I’m hardly a picture of suburban pressed perfection, but I’m a pretty together person. I wear a bra and shave my legs; I generally try to brush everyone’s hair, including my own. I like to wear clean clothes. My house is super super neat and tidy. But I don’t participate in grooming activities because I feel pressure to appear perfect, I do it because I don’t LIKE the breeze blowing through the tiny hairs above my lip. I shave my legs because cotton sheets feel like silk on smooth legs. I brush my children’s hair because it gets tangly and I’m not sure that tangled hair and food on one’s mouth is the best way to present to the world. And maybe that’s a presentation issue, but you know? At nearly-four and six? They need to learn how to care for themselves, so they can then choose to reject or embrace hair-brushing at 18 or 24 or 40.

My writing group has talked about this too: more in the context of how we present ourselves as authors. Do we get less honest because we are concerned about appearances? Is that manifested in our daily lives through guilt over dusty houses or a concern that people won’t like us if we are not wearing posh shoes?

I’ve taken feminist lit classes and women’s studies courses. I’ve heard all about the cult of domesticity, the pressure on women to do it all. I’ve read mommy blogs, articles about mommy wars, and stories on mothers vs. non-mothers. I understand patriarchal oppression and colonialization.

What I do not understand is the assumption that the appearance of perfection is predicated on artifice. That people who have clean houses and relatively tidy children are somehow less authentically themselves that women whose children are unkempt in the late afternoon or who don’t have razor-cut layers or wear flip-flops.

I’m by no means perfect. I feel like I have zero ability to dress myself, although thanks to friends and magazines and so forth, I am getting to a place where I get dressed and feel happy with how I look in an outfit, comfortable that I am representing my soul and flattering my figure. I don’t think it’s oppression to play up one’s better features, nor is it artificial of me to want to wear things that I feel comfortable in. If you like wearing sweatpants, then so be it. But don’t assume I’m less myself because my shirt & skirt match.

My house is unbearably tidy to some, and ridiculously clean to others. That’s how both Husband and I like it. We like being neat. We feel oppressed by clutter; it makes breathing harder for both of us. I feel like I can’t work surrounded by stacks. I need to organize, to catalog, to create checkboxes and lists. I like it that way. The children are expected to clear away their toys, most days, because I think that, again, learning to care for your belongings is the pathway to rejecting that. Or deciding that you are okay with stacks.

But in my house? We tidy. We brush our hair. We brush our teeth. We get dressed sometimes, and other times we don’t. We remain ourselves: boisterous, argumentative, chatty, catty, lushy, crafty, writerly, and orderly.


so this is the new year….

and I am full of thoughts & plans & resolutions.

I know that for many people, the first of the year represents nothing more than another day, but I work very well with arbitrary deadlines & dates for doing new things. Also, for me, the first of 2011 represented the end of one job and the beginning of a new job: one that permits me a significant, almost unbearable, amount of freedom in terms of the whens/wheres/hows of doing the work (which is, like the former job, fundraising and grantwriting).  With the freedom comes responsibility, isn’t that what is said?  For me, the responsibilities lie in:

1. accomplishing the actual work

2. taking advantage of freedom to write more: for myself, in my journal, and here.

3. exercising consistently & to the greatest ability of my body

4. investing time and energy in activities that the children will enjoy: story time, library trips, play dates, art projects, etc.

We have already been to the library story time at the Downtown Public Library (where we wanted to be married, but they, alas, don’t do weddings); Eliot got a bit fidgety after a while, and then he enjoyed roaming the stacks, playing with the puppets, etc.  I’m glad we get some time together, just like Bird & I did back when she was small.  Soon, we’ll register both for swim lessons, a nice prep for the summer I know is coming, even as we shiver through these winter days.

For me, also, the new year gives me a nice start to an activity that also helps prepare me for the year to come: the New Year Grand Plan Cleaning Challenge, wherein I will go room by room, pretty much exhaustively cleaning each space and, simultaneously, purging extra and unneeded items.  Every time I feel overwhelmed by drawer clutter or what feels like heaps of toys, I remind myself that in just a few weeks that annoyance will have been cleared away and remedied.  My best friend comes to visit in February & we’ll sit down and purge the purged things!  I can’t wait to have someone help me separate myself from the toys to which I am emotionally attached even when the children could not care less!

So, here we are, 9 days in to the new year, and I have been diligent, thus far, at my new intentions, while the new job so far seems like a good fit.  To record them for posterity, my 2011 starts with the phrase Be Kind, Be Patient, Be Creative.

It also includes striving to do the following:

  1. observe daily devotionals
  2. write daily, whether creative, blogging, journal, or letter writing
  3. perform monthly breast self-exams.  Early detection saves lives & as the daughter & granddaughter of cancer survivors, I should be more diligent
  4. plan and prepare three meals a week: these will probably be one chicken/turkey, one vegetarian, and one vegan.
  5. do one weekly activity with the children that involves their interests: art project or a trip to the library or an excursion somewhere fun
  6. maintain exercise routines in the fall.  I do fine in winter, spring, and summer, but fall.  Oh, fall.

So, that’s our new year.  What’s yours?