In a conversation this weekend, someone told me: “You always look like you have it all together!”
After I stopped choking on my wine, I sat dumbfounded, blinking at her as I pondered and discarded a thousand different ways I could disprove her very misguided notion. I ended up babbling: “Me? I look like I have it all together?” The girl with two left feet and a list of insecurities as long as my arm? The woman who undresses at the foot of her bed every night and leaves her clothes in a pile on the floor? The mother who hasn’t washed her baby’s crib sheets in longer than I dare to admit? If I look like I have it all together, I must put on a pretty good show… Because most of the time, I feel like I’m hanging on by a very thin thread. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wild ride and I’m loving every minute of it, but if you think I have it all together, I’m afraid you’ve been sadly misinformed.
I think one of the most hurtful things we can do to one another is cultivate the myth of perfection. When we see someone else who seems to manage job/kids/husband/home/friendships/etc. with grace, we start to believe the lie that “if I could just get it together, I too could live a charmed life.” Sweetie, no one lives a life as charming as we might think it is. Everyone, and I mean everyone feels from time to time like their storybook life is one plot turn away from becoming a tragedy.
And yet, we like people to think the best of us, don’t we? It’s why I spit scrub my kids’ faces even though I swore I wasn’t going to be that kind of mom, and why I keep a tube of lipstick in the console of my loser cruiser — because you never know who you might run into at Wal-Mart. Seriously. Wal-Mart. Who am I trying to fool?
Okay, in an effort to debunk the myth of perfection (and to let the sweet lady who thought I had it all together know that I’m a little frayed at the edges), I’m going to admit the three stupidest things I’ve done in my writing career. Yes, even glamorous authors (ha!) make really stupid mistakes. Or, at least, this one does. When I’m finished, if you’re feeling brave, the confessional is open…
- After I wrote my debut novel, I printed it off on fancy paper (yes, all 350 pages of it), took it to the local office supply store and shrink-wrapped it (you bet I did), lovingly placed it in a box (with bubble wrap, of course) and proceeded to snail mail it to my publishing house with a handwritten note. A couple of days later I got an email: Thank you for sending the manuscript. Could you please send the file as an email attachment? Uh, duh. It’s not like we live in the age of technology or anything. The stupidest part? It never even crossed my mind to do so. Not once.
- In a recent trip to New York, I had the distinct privilege of meeting one of the biggest editors at one of the biggest publishing houses in the world. I sat in her office with my knees practically knocking together, praying that I would be articulate and charming. I thought I was doing okay, until she asked me about my family. I told her I had a six-month-old, to which she exclaimed: “You don’t look like you just had a baby.” And I said (to my eternal horror): “I don’t try.” Yup. “I don’t try.” Which I’m sure sounded to her like: “Yup, this rockin’ bod is a force of nature. Even babies can’t stop it.” What I meant was: “Please don’t admire me for my hard work and dedication in getting back to my pre-baby weight. The truth is, I eat Cheetos and haven’t worked out in months, but my parents are both skinny as rails so I guess I have some slim genes on my side.” It was horrifying. She probably thinks I’m some arrogant little wench with self perception issues. *groan*
- This summer I edited my first hard copy manuscript (all of my previous edits had been done electronically). It was such a confusing experience for me, but I felt stupid asking for help so I didn’t. After I had gone through several pages, I noticed that in many places the editor had written “stet” in the margin and proceeded to write a correction. I assumed that “stet” was merely a way to draw my attention to the edit that was made in the text. So, as I went through, every time I made a change I wrote “stet” in the margin. When I turned in the completed copy edit, I received an email from the editor saying, “Do you want these changes or not?” Apparently, “stet” means: disregard whatever edit was made on that line. As I edited, I was systematically disregarding all of my edits. Schizophrenia, anyone?
So, there you have it. I don’t have it all together in any area of my life. Far from it. And as I type this, there are dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, and I’m wearing a Vikings t-shirt — proof of both my loyalty and my loser-dom. 😉 How about you? Care to dethrone the Perfect Princess?