Pinterest Porn and the Pursuit of Perfect

I’ve always enjoyed my life porn.  Sunset.  Real Simple.  Pottery Barn’s catalog.  I cancel plans on the day that Ikea’s annual idea book arrives.  At points in my life, even the Dixieline Lumber circular or that one catalog full of drapey clothes and Buddha-themed wall plaques has scratched my itch.  And now there’s Pinterest, a life-porn superstore to deliver endless amounts of whatever kink gets you off: flower arrangements, up-cycled dresses, deck designs, pickles.

This life porn, over the years, has taught me many important things.  For example, a recent issue of Sunset informed me that any good camping trip should have its own signature cocktail, preferably one involving craft bourbon only available via mail-order from a small town in Oregon.  I had been bumbling through life, thinking that a six-pack of beer cooled in the river was a legitimate camping beverage, but now I know better.

Once, and I’m not proud of this, I met friends for a picnic at the beach and I brought a random grab bag of items already in my fridge.  You know, half a carton of cherry tomatoes, tortilla chips and partially-gone hummus.  But a few issues of life porn later, I realized that — at the very least — pressed vegan bahn mi was in order, if I didn’t want to bring my portable smoker and re-create a west-coast-inspired clambake on picnic tables made of reclaimed barn siding and lit by customized luminaria.  Silly me; I simply brought an old beach towel to sit on.

And it’s not just about food.  “Well-dressed,” for most of my life, simply meant that none of my unmentionables were visible to the general public, and my shoes matched each other. No more, my friends.  Now I understand that the round-toe nude-colored ballet flats in my closet shorten my legs and thus must immediately be replaced them with pointy-toed nude-colored ballet flats.  Thank you, (ironically-named) Real Simple.  The illusion of 0.5 extra centimeters of leg-length has measurable changed my life.

Of course, there are my freckles, which after 40, suffer a painful re-branding as “age spots.”  Luckily, by following a strict regimen of only five steps involving a chemistry lab of ingredients, I can reduce and possibly eliminate their appearance.  No one will recognize me without my “age spots” but nonetheless, I must to get right on it.

photo 1

What feeding my son “should” look like

And without life-porn, I would have no idea that each electronic device in our house is a typhoid-Mary-in-waiting.  At first, I worried about the poor grad student whose job it was to calculate the number of “fecal matter” molecules flung into the air by a toilet flush, but then I realized: how frighteningly germ-ridden are we!  Now I can spend two hours per week cleaning my devices, instead of, like, reading a novel or walking on the beach or any of that lazy leisure stuff.  

photo 4

What feeding my son actually looks like

The problem is that the pictures in these magazines and catalogs are so pretty and shiny.  I desperately want my life to be like that, all throw-pillows-arranged-perfectly-on-my-couch, flattering-shade-on-my-lips, have-you-tried-the-new-ramen-truck-yet.  In my weaker, less rational moments (read: during a second glass of wine), it feels like making these meals  (homemade pea and fresh mint ravioli which requires 13 ingredients yet somehow only takes 30 minutes!), or wearing outfits like that (the skirt is a bargain at $200!), or painting my living room that precise shade of greige (so relaxing!) will somehow make my life what it’s supposed to be.  This is particularly true when my son is trying to convince me that he doesn’t need to shower even though I can smell him over the bean burritos (for the third time this week), served on a table covered in 742 back-to-school forms that will take all evening to fill out, in a dining room that inexplicably has Cheerios on the floor, although I cannot remember the last time I bought Cheerios.

Of course I want to transport myself into that photo of a carefully-multiracial group eating smoked duck and drinking something involving grapefruit and rosemary in a meadow back-lit by a perfect sunset.

photo 1

What my dining room “should” look like

But it’s an illusion, right?  A Disney-princess-story for grown-ups.  Sure, I could make my life look like that, if I quit my job, gave up all other hobbies and kicked out the three mess-making humans with whom I live.  But my job has its rewards, I like my hobbies and I’m somewhat attached to those three humans.  And it is utterly exhausting to make a half-assed attempt at re-creating the perfection I see on Pinterest in the spare moments left over from what actually matters in my life.

So in addition to letting go of my obsession with efficiency, I’m trying to break up with relentless life-improvement.  Like any good 12-stepper or Buddhist, I’m starting at the beginning, with acknowledging the problem: life porn keeps me on this weirdly compelling hamster wheel of doing and wanting and buying in pursuit of an unreachable perfection, and it doesn’t make me happy.  

Now I just have to figure out the next steps, which I’ll think about as soon as finish the fire-roasted poblano sauce for the enchiladas that I saw on this food blog that looked perfect for tonight’s dinner guests…

photo 2

What my dining room actually looks like

Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

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