Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mr & Mrs Perfect

I am a perfectionist at heart.  It is buried so deep into my soul I've tried (and failed) for many years to eradicate it.  I use the Buddhist idea of everything is perfect as it is and there is always room to strive for perfection.  I think the wisdom comes in knowing when to back off.

I remember years ago going to visit Mr & Mrs Perfect.  They were old family friends of my husband.  They were rich and had a big fancy house.  I come from a blue collar background so this was one of my first social visits to someone from a higher class than me.  I had come with a hostess gift of a plant out of my garden that I had grown myself.  She said she loved it and then asked my why plants just suddenly die for no reason that she could fathom.  I looked at my plant and knew that my gift was doomed.

We went to sit out by the pool which apparently was more for show than use since it was a bit dirty.  Not that I care.  While I'm a perfectionist myself I do understand that things take time and keeping a pool spotless isn't on the top of most people's list of things to do.  So we sat in the poolside chairs with our drinks and expected Mrs Perfect to sit down and join us for a chat.  Instead she must have noticed that things weren't perfect out here.  She jumped up and turned the pool cleaner on.  Then grabbed some rubber gloves from out of nowhere and the garden hose and stretched it across the pool and commenced scrubbing the poolside bar which we weren't using.  The dirt must have embarrassed her.  She got so engrossed in her cleaning tirade that she didn't notice that the hose had stretched across our laps and the two of us were forced to defend ourselves against its onslaught.  She must have felt the hose bouncing around since she just as abruptly stopped cleaning and apologized profusely. 

We then went up to the deck for the BBQ dinner.  Now my family doesn't eat cows or hotdogs and here we had beef hotdogs with peppers and onions.  So as polite guests we each ate one and vowed to stop in at a diner on the way home.  My son who loved hotdogs ate several which I knew was a bad idea since he was used to eating pork ones not beef.  But it is difficult to explain this under your breath to a six year old.

After we finished dinner she took us on a tour of the house which was lovely.  She made great presentation of the antique and art items in the house.  She was very proud of them and they were very neat.  I felt so out of place there.  Everything was perfect.  Everything was clean and in its place.  They even had a gorgeous very expensive piano that no one knew how to play.  I started to wonder how much of this stuff was to show how perfect they were.  Did they do anything?  Did they themselves paint?  Or just purchase art?  Did they garden?  Or just hire someone?  Why do they have a top of the line piano if no one in the house plays?  The more time I spent there the more it seemed to me that they had purchased their perfect life.   We had nothing in common with them.  We had no places where our lives intersected that allowed us to carry on a conversation.  It was such an odd experience I'm still baffled by it and morbidly fascinated with it. 

And of course the crowning glory of the day was when my son threw up all over the Italian leather couch from eating all those beef hotdogs.  Mr Perfect nearly jumped out of his skin.  He had no idea what to do.  He had no idea how to handle things.  He looked at my son like he had grown three heads.  I dare say he never took care of his own kids when they were ill.  Needless to say we left shortly after that incident and we've never visited with them again. 

On the ride home both my husband and I were saying that we would never become like that.  But to this day I wonder what it was that I disliked so much?  What made me so uncomfortable there?  The house was lovely.  They were nice people but something was off.  Lack of connection to this planet?  Everything being purchased for show?  The requirement that everything be perfect?  That little kids don't throw up?  That you have to understand plants to take care of them? 

While I have a perfectionist streak running through me down to the bone, I don't want to be that perfect.  I don't want my house to look like something out of Architectural Digest.  I want it to look lived in.  Slightly messy.  I want to not care when someone is ill in my house.  I want them to know that it is okay and I care more about them than our furniture. 

Of course being chronically ill I have had to take imperfectionism one step further.  I have to not care that the dishes aren't done when someone comes over to visit.  I have to not care that I'm still in my pjs and not showered when hubby comes in the door with a friend he wants me to meet.  I am ill.  Take me as I am.  While I might be a perfectionist, I'm not perfect.


  1. Excellent post!

    I particularly like the way you've moved from your original idea of being a perfectionist to your experience with other people and your conclusions about the direction you need to go.

    We have to redefine so much when we become chronically ill - but the redefinitions are not necessarily a bad thing I find, though sometimes very painful.

    I look forward to reading more of your writing.


  2. Thank you for your kind words.