Recently, a friend of mine was over the day before my family was heading out of town. As she walked in, she noticed our suitcases sitting in the foyer and said, “Oh…look at your suitcases…” I thought she was simply noticing them as something I still needed to get to—because they were all absolutely empty and waiting to be brought upstairs.
Later in her visit she asked me about my evening and what I might be doing with it, seeing as my suitcases were all ready to go.
“Ready?! They haven’t even made it upstairs!!”
Here she thought I was so on top of things that the afternoon before our departure the next day…my bags were packed and I was ready to go.
The truth? I was SO far from it.
I told her that I was very glad that she made the comment that led me to telling her how little “together” I was. She seemed relieved, too. Had she not asked about my evening, she may have left thinking my act was so much more together than hers, wondering why she couldn’t do the same when her family was going on a trip.
I wouldn’t want her to feel like that if my suitcases were ready, and I sure as hell don’t want her feeling like that when it’s absolutely not true!
We laughed about it, but the mistaken assumption stayed with me. How often do we look at others and think that they are firing on all cylinders when we aren’t? It’s bad enough to judge ourselves harshly—especially when we are almost certainly doing our best—but adding the illusion of others’ perfection to the mix makes it so much worse.
In “the suitcase scenario,” I wasn’t intending for my friend to think that I was as organized and prepared as she thought I was, but…
I know that there are times when I want to appear more together than I really am.
In the past, that was true of me pretty much every day, but as I age (like a fine wine, I’d like to think…) I am learning that that kind of façade…well…sucks.
1. It’s not true,
2. if people think you are a wonderful human being because of it, you know it is a lie—which makes it even worse,
3. it can result in other people feeling bad about themselves because they think they are failing compared to the “false you”…and
4. did I mention it’s a lie?
I think more and more of us are realizing that attempting to have a façade of “perfection” (as if that was even possible) is not only exhausting, but it is a hollow existence.
Enjoying the camaraderie of chaos is so much better than striving to appear more than we are.
So why do we do this to ourselves?
If you are like me, at least part of it is because that’s the way you were raised. “Presenting the perfect” was the norm for my mom. I mean, the woman even had “company shoes.” What the hell are company shoes, you ask? They were a pair of red patent leather heeled sandals that my mom wore only in the house—and only when company came over. People typically took their shoes off when they visited, so why my mom had to have those damn shoes on, I don’t know. Just like June Cleaver wore pearls when she vacuumed, my mother had company shoes on when she entertained. And, of course, the house had to be in perfect order and the food ready and delicious.
And I don’t ever recall overhearing my mom talk to a girlfriend about what a mess she was. Though it is possible she may have had these conversations out of my earshot, knowing her all these years at the level I do…I truly believe that she never uttered such things.
Presenting the perfect was the way my mom’s generation lived, and my heart goes out to all those who knew only this way of life.
It’s a tough mentality to break away from, but the tide is turning.
I don’t have company shoes.
I’d rather get together with friends and order pizza than miss getting together because I don’t have time to make a delicious spread with my own two weary hands.
I admit that my ToDo list is massive, and most days I feel like one ToDo done = two more added to the list.
And…my suitcase isn’t packed until the last minute.
This is my truth.
I think that many of us are embracing the imperfect in ourselves. There’s a reason that “hot mess” was added to the Oxford Dictionary. More and more of us are getting comfortable—and real—with sharing our chaotic, topsy-turvy lives with one another.
Of course, I still strive to and value having my house in order and cooking up delicious things to eat…but many, many, MANY times the place is a mess and we are eating Ramen and peanut butter sandwiches.
Aka: my suitcase is empty and hasn’t even made it up the stairs.
According to Barbara Billingsley, who portrayed June Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, the reason that she wore pearls was to “cover a hollow” in her neck that cast a shadow. Listening to her, I don’t think she fully sees the impact that seeing a woman cleaning house in pearls and high heels had on the women of the day—and subsequently on future generations—but the fact that it is still a reference nearly 60 years later speaks volumes.
And perhaps this generation’s pearls and company shoes can be found on Facebook, where we get glimpses of our curated selves…and we can put whatever spin we want to on our lives. I think it’s human nature to want to post the good stuff, but we simply need to remember that that is indeed what it is—not the whole enchilada. We may not be posting our empty suitcases, but…we have them!
So let’s flaunt our pearl-free necks and know that the camaraderie of the chaos is a truth that many of us can connect with…which makes it all the better.