Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The P Word

"That’s quite an impressive record if you can make it through high school with all A’s," I cautioned my 18-year-old daughter as she listed the activities that would occupy another full week for her, none of which included homework.
“Really, what difference does it make anyway; this is the last quarter of my senior year?” she retorted as she flew out the door to the Humane Society. Taking a rescued dog for a hike in the sunshine was more appealing than my promptings to maintain that perfect record of A’s in her high school career.
Of course, I was advocating finishing well…or was it really about finishing perfectly?
This new quandry hit me like a powerful dose of swimming pool chemicals—called ‘shocking the water’. Maybe trying harder is not always the answer. The water was murkier than I realized.
Part of trying harder included preventing others from seeing the imperfections I couldn’t fix. Like the thick concealers I used for teenage acne, I masked what I did not want others to know about me. I wore socks to school through sixth grade to conceal the white speckles of vitiligo on my ankles and feet. I made excuses for not having lunch money. I tried harder after my mom left us, after we pooled our coins to pay for food, after we were evicted from homes, after our home burned down, and after my abortion.
“Shame can be thinly veiled by perfectionism,” the author of The Shack told his audience. The p-word seemed to fit like a tight bikini on a post-menopausal body in a fluorescent-lit dressing room. And I recalled my own maternal voice of bathing suit dressing rooms past where our beautiful, blossoming daughter tried on adorable—but tiny—bikinis, “That one is way too revealing and it’s not flattering for you.”
In keeping with my word for the year–radical–I find myself disclosing my dressing room secrets with you. The reflection in the mirror uncomfortably reveals my perfectionist tendencies. And it’s not flattering for me…nor for those I’ve misled.
So I’ve come out from behind the curtain…no, not in a bikini. The lighting is less harsh out here where honesty and authenticity are much more flattering. Splotches and mistakes are still detectable, thank goodness. They merely remind me that I am acceptably imperfect.