Okay. So we sort of dropped the ball where bringing you non-“Bachelor” content is concerned. It’s just that it’s so hard to maintain a
widely read blog in the summer, when there’s also all of this prosecco to drink. But a promise is a promise, so it’s time for me to bare my soul about something other than how I would marry JP or the winemaker so hard (but, you know, I would). Buckle your seat belts, you guys. I’m about to get real weird.
While thawing out this spring, I started thinking about “the future” a lot more, and how I’m measuring up to my own idea of where I would be at this age/after X amount of time in this city. I went about it all wrong. Let me tell you, measuring your level of personal success against that of your neighbors is kind of discouraging when you’re 22 years old and live in Park Slope Adjacent (actually just Windsor Terrace). To the left of my apartment are thousands of dead bodies in the cemetery, so I guess that’s a win for me, and to the right are gorgeous brownstones, dogs that are way more well-behaved than mine, and magical things like apartments with built in bookshelves and coffeemakers that weren’t purchased by the resident’s mother on her first day of undergrad. Not to say the coffeemaker isn’t great, Mom, because it is, and it still works!!!! But it’s gotten me thinking quite a bit about the gap between my personal expectations and reality.
Growing up, especially when I pictured myself living in New York, I dreamt about elaborate meals, actually knowing things about wine, taking cabs everywhere, riding a subway filled with Missed Connections. The SUPER realistic basics.
You could contrast this fantasy version of myself with my actual adolescent self, who was (and grew up to be) a gigantic mess. My parents, if they still read this blog — not everyone likes “The Bachelor,” I GET IT — will probably/hopefully LOL at this, since I’m sure they remember what a den of nightmares my room, school bag and bathroom were. To this day, I can easily conjure up the stomach-clenching nausea that accompanies the realization that I left a paper at home or forgot to do an assignment, because that was my jam about once a week in high school. I envied the students around me who wrote assignments down neatly in their school-issued planners, or put together posters for Spanish class that weren’t marked all over by glue-sticky fingerprints. How did they know how to do all of that? Was there a class I had missed?
Through a series of very fortunate events, I ended up with a really great job when I moved to New York, one whose chief requirement is that I be organized and prepared for anything every day. I have been successful at this so far because the demon in me that demands I be the Best ______ Ever keeps the sloppy child in me in check most of the time. It’s a Jekyll/Hyde level struggle, though (definitely not overstating things at all), and since I have no choice but to excel at work, the primary battleground usually ends up being my apartment. I get home from the office, feeling great because I was able to cross everything off my to-do list, which I believe is scientifically one of the top three best feelings humans are capable of experiencing, and completely lose it.
Apologies for the poor picture quality. I can’t do anything right!
Unrealistic Expectations Sarah is a harsh critic, and is always asking tough questions when I bring her home with me from the office, like “Why can’t you remember to make your bed, you SKANK?” with follow-ups like “And why did you go to work with toothpaste on your shirt, realize it was there and then never bother to wash it off?”
If it was just a matter of training myself to be the organized person I wish I was naturally, I would have this thing beat. I have grown to know the pleasure of the list, for instance, and the size of my apartment makes my usual level of clutter untenable. My habits are changing, albeit very slowly. Nonetheless, as I’ve started to identify much more as an “adult” than I did in college*, I’ve become more preoccupied with my domestic shortcomings. Somewhere deep in my psyche is rooted the notion that in addition to being neat as a pin I ought to be able to cook beautiful things all the time, be dressed immaculately, be able to keep plants alive, and so on. Apparently, there is a part of me that believes I should be ready to be a housewife at a moment’s notice. You know, in case a natural disaster strikes. In the form of a husband. I don’t know, I didn’t ask to have this brain.
And so, when I meet these standards successfully (?) by doing my laundry on time or trying a recipe and having it turn out not disgusting, I give myself a mental pat on the back. And when I completely eff up by leaving towels on the bathroom floor or failing to to make my bed, my dumb inner life coach is like “Hmm, well, you won’t be able to get away with this when you’re married.” As though my messiness means I am insufficiently girly. I know I don’t have to tell you how ridiculous this is, especially since my party line on marriage and children is that I’m not embarking on either adventure until after 30, like Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama and Beyoncé are my feminist role models, just so everyone knows exactly where I’m coming from.
Here’s an example: last weekend I made a spinach quiche. It was really easy and really delicious. Here’s a picture.
That would be an example of a domestic success, one that makes me feel weird and smug for a day or so. Here’s an example of a domestic failure (aka what I feed myself the other 6 days of the week):
There’s also this embarrassment:
This line of thinking is so unfair and makes me feel needlessly inadequate, especially given that I have a full time job, am a full time student, and also have a social life to cultivate and a dog to take care of. Oh, how’s the dog doing, you ask? Really well. See for yourself.
No matter what domestic marvels I’m capable of, this Domestic Superhero Sarah only exists in the abstract, so no matter what I do I’m not going to measure up to her. The disturbing part is not that I wish that I was a more dedicated cook, or that I wish I was more organized and tidy, or that I’d like to have a family someday. Those are all normal things to want. It’s the shame and the feeling bad that I’d like to fix. The not wanting dudes I date to visit my apartment because WHAT IF THEY SEE THE STATE OF MY CLOSET? I’m not a domestic failure, because nowhere is it written that I need to be domesticated. Where does that even come from? (I’ll tell you where it comes from: literally every television show or movie featuring a 20-something girl with a demanding career and a messy life, but an immaculate apartment. Thanks for NOTHING, Hollywood!)
This is easy to write, but not as easy to believe. I’ve been racking my brain (and trying to write this post for about a month) hoping to come up with a solution. I have one now. Whenever I get down on myself for not being the perfect domestic goddess that our robot overlords have programmed my brain to want to be, I can short-circuit the negativity by reminding myself that I am already an excellent stereotypical non-carnal wife to my roommate. Think about it: I rely on Carly like an infant for directions around the city, I often have dinner on the table when she gets home from work, and a few weeks ago I stood ineffectually four feet away from the sink, whimpering and tearing my hair out while she killed a bug with 4,000 legs that had crawled up through the drain. The drain of a sink that was filled with dirty dishes that tormented me with guilt for almost a week (sidebar: never ask me to help you during an emergency if I have already seen or heard the horrible thing that is happening, because I will be useless to you. Carly described the bug vividly enough that I was actually rooted in place with fear). How do I rate as a Stepford wife? C-. How do I rate as a ball of feminine clichés? A++++++++!
Is this dumb? Yes. Does it help remind me how insane I am being when I self-flagellate because there is clean laundry that I have failed to remove from the basket and put away, despite washing it two weeks ago? Also a yes. See, Carly has been my best friend for many years, and we have successfully lived together without hating each other/stealing each other’s boyfriends/getting into a physical fight, and all that is independent of whether or not I’m capable of putting my shoes away when I come home from work. And when I remind myself of this, I can stop feeling anxious about shortcomings that no one but me cares about, and get back to thinking about the important things, like if I was the Bachelorette would I pick JP or the winemaker in the end? Because, like, JP seems like the best one, but FREE WINE FOR LIFE!
*GINORMOUS CAVEAT: Obviously I am still very young, still have quite a bit of growing up to do, and have not yet outgrown whining about everything.