Women tend to wear many hats, but often only on face: the calm, cool, collected ‘I’ve got this, no I don’t need help’ face. Seldom do we let our guard down outside of the private outourings of our souls for only our closest confidants to hear. Perhaps this is the reason we find Leigh McGowan’s writing so compelling. Leigh has the courage to write the truth, to pen the thoughts that many of us may be thinking, but are too guarded to share. And so, we’d like to share Leigh’s piece on the concept of perfection with you in the hope that we all will embrace outr limits and recognize that our daily efforts are exactly enough. –Ashley
The irony of writing about the overwhelming predilection of visual perfection of the online community for a website that focuses on style, fashion and people, is not lost on me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for pretty pictures. I’ve decided on many a vacation based on glossy shots of immaculate views and infinity pools. I endlessly rip pages out of magazines in an attempt to recreate a room or look at home. I find it impossible to be inspired to cook anything from a cookbook without pictures, and recently I’ve even become borderline obsessive, scanning the endlessly fascinating images on Pinterest.
The problem I’m having is the internet’s increasing foray into all things perfect. It used to be the internet was the bastion of “real” with it’s mommy blogs and up-to-date news, but these days it’s jumped full force into the world of packaging and ideals. We already have the gossip rags with celebrities who lose their baby weight in four days, the fashion magazines with their endless parade of six foot beauties and the season’s “must haves” that cost more than my last three years of shopping combined. We have men’s magazines which, even thought they don’t cater to women, still have the ability to make me feel like I should learn the cat daddy this summer, thanks to their obsession with all things Kate Upton. Even magazines that cater to the “real woman,” like Lucky and Redbook, often highlight a casual jean, tank top, and accessories ensemble that, when added up, could easily cost ten thousand dollars to recreate.
I have many a friend – and would include myself in said group if I had room in my house for one more magazine – who worship at the altar of Architectural Digest, Elle Decor and other “home porn” mags which, though inspiring, mostly seem to illustrate how great your house could be if you had an extra hundred thousand dollars lying around to spend on furniture and art. And let’s not forget the zillion-dollar wedding industry that has somehow managed to convince the modern bride of the necessity of two wedding dresses, as if the wear-it-once-four-thousand-dollar-number wasn’t enough. There’s a lot of pressure to “keep up” and it’s only building now that it’s all online. I don’t have to shell out a single cent or hang around a Barnes and Noble to see it laid out in front of me.
The need for perfection and comparison isn’t new, it’s just been super-sized by the fact that all those images of betterment can now be garnered in one sitting at your computer. I get spam emails everyday from every company I’ve ever ordered from, or even glanced at for fun. I don’t even have to be looking, because these images of perfection are already in my inbox every morning. For every mommy blog that tells it like it is, there are five, staffed lifestyle blogs like Goop, that tell you how it could be.
I remember when Martha Stewart was the pinnacle of all things perfect. My mom had her hardcover Entertaining book in the 1980s and we’d flip through it and “oohh” and “ahh”. I was watching Martha’s Christmas special on TV once and she was explaining how to make a gingerbread house from scratch complete with stained glass crystalized sugar windows and a fully shingled wafer roof. Miss Piggy, who was her co-host for the segment, said out loud what I was thinking: “Who’s really going to do this?”and she was dead on. I mean, honestly, who has the time?
Today’s online lifestyle industry is like being bombarded with a million different Martha Stewarts at once. While I’m all for Martha and Gwyneth and even those of us here at Move, it can feel overwhelming to even hope to keep up. I have friends that troll over fifty sites a day hoping to glean some As women we’re trained to be insecure about our bodies, but now we can also be insecure about our homes, our children, our future weddingsinspiration to make their clothes more fashionable, their homes more beautiful, their lives more functional. I have a stylist friend who won’t even disclose all her favorite style blogs, lest too many people steal her inspiration.
As women we’re trained to be insecure about our bodies, but now we can also be insecure about our homes, our children, our future weddings – or in my case, the one that was seven years ago. I’ve literally lost hours coveting the homes, (and the photo shoots), of the gorgeous and glamorous women on theglow.com. That same stylist friend of mine feels the same way about the amount of fashion savvy and know-how on intothegloss.com.
There are so many ideas out there. So many images and inspirations that doing something less than perfect can leave you feeling slightly lazy. No one just has a birthday party for their child any more inviting a couple friends and playing ‘pin the tail on the donkey’. No one just has a birthday party for their child any more inviting a couple friends and playing ‘pin the tail on the donkey’Nowadays it seems like everything is a themed extravaganza, and if you don’t personally make everything yourself, you can purchase anything your heart desires from favors to decor on Etsy or some other online boutique that ensures everything is just so. And, if making your guest’s jaws drop at the clever immaculate-ness of your event isn’t enough, you can post pictures during the party on Instagram to show everyone who couldn’t make it how much harder they could be working.
Don’t get me wrong, I was recently mesmerized by a friend’s 1st Birthday party for her son. It was hands down the cutest thing. From the baby picture clothesline to the themed favors and activities. It was simply perfection. I did, however, find myself wondering if I couldn’t have done better on my own son’s first birthday party, which, in itself, was an extravagant affair. When you find yourself envious of a child’s birthday party, it leaves me wondering, where you draw the line? Are we at the point where we can’t help but compare? A place where we can’t stop ourselves from attempting to match what we see?
It used to be that we were keeping up with the Jones, the theoretical people down the street. Now, with the advances of the internet and the new phenomenon of the blogesphere, it’s not just the Jones we’re keeping up with, it’s the Paltrow/Martins, the Stefani/Rosdales, the super model mom/celebuspan/housewives of anywhere. It’s a lot to live up to.
At the end of the day, there’s always someone you can find to emulate on the internet. From the life and times of the former French Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Carine Roitfeld (and her stunning children) at iwanttobearoitfeld.com, to the incredibly strong and resilient (and effortlessly funny and stylish) real mom at reagansblob. There’s always someone out there to look up to or dream of resembling. I only hope we can be aware of the fine line between inspiration and disappointment; to make sure our muse motivates rather than discourages. My fear is that instead of incentive, our endless access to “perfect” people and things might ultimately make us feel worse. I assume that’s the opposite of what we’re all searching for.
This post originally published on October 16, 2013 on Move LifeStyle.