My expectations in life are unrealistically high. Yes, yes, I know that a girl has a right to demand the best of everything, but I am not talking about material things. I am talking about the mushy stuff, the romantic stuff, the friendship stuff and the personal stuff.
If ever there was a critic of my writing, I assure you, I am the harshest one. If ever there was a critic of my appearance, I assure you, I can make Naomi Campbell seem like a kitten. If ever there was a person who looked at my life/marriage/child rearing techniques and found it wanting, it would be me. But why this ridiculously self-depreciating standard? I blame television, and romantic comedies, and music.
I mean. In Jerry Maguire, Jerry says to Dorothy, “You complete me.” This has got to be the biggest load of crap out. Yet we, as a female species spend all our lives looking for a man to come along and say that to us. Because we feel so incomplete! But what about the fact that if we are incomplete, say a 60%er, and we find a man who comes along and wants to complete us, he needs to be 140% whole! How is that even possible? I think my exhausted, stretched-too-thin husband would even agree with that sentiment. In order for a relationship to work as a functional one, both parties need to be functioning at 100%. Maybe not perfect, but working towards getting there. And maybe not completely whole, but looking at filling up from within and not from without.
Then today, I am singing along to a song and realise what I am saying, (I still love the song,) “Girl, let me love you, until you learn to love yourself.” Let me love you - Glee cast version Well, when would that be? And what happens if he leaves her? And what if she loves herself a little too much and becomes a self-centred bitch? And how has anyone loving anyone ever achieved the goal of teaching them to love themselves anyhow? If it were that easy, psychologists would be broke and dating networks a standard therapy. (Having said that, I still literally wept watching Jake sing this version of the song.)
I wish I could unsee what I had seen in every movie, unread what I have read in every romantic novel, unheard what I have heard in every song. The media sets the bar so damn high, how can any rational person even begin to aim for those standards? In a romantic movie, the person who would be secretly selling my book to help me achieve best-seller status would be my husband. In real life, he hasn’t read it and I had to give him a copy myself because he doesn’t know how to work Amazon.
In a love song, he would come home every night to his wife and kids with flowers in his arms and smelling of sweet cologne, not travelling to some god-forsaken countries trying to sell his products and coming home depleted and smelling of too-long-in-airports. In the love song, I would be cooking his favourite meal and the kids would be about to go to sleep and we would be collapsing into bed in a fit of passion. Well, collapsing into bed we do. The rest is just fiction.
I remember a sermon once, long ago, where our pastor spoke about the television show, Friends. What could possibly be wrong with Friends, you ask? Well, no one ever got an STD, for starters. When one of the characters hearts was broken, they would be over it in a week (with the possible exception of Ross and Rachel’s relationship). Not to mention how little they disagreed or got grumpy with one another. It idealised a risk-free, easy-come-easy-go lifestyle, my pastor said. And I was horrified. Dare I even say it, but I thought he was almost being blasphemous. I loved Friends, still do. But he has a point. One of my current favourite shows is Glee. If you read my earlier post about Cory, you will know that these gleeks are like my friends. I even named one of my daughters after a character from the show. But even here, we see how one week they are practising a song based on a Michael Jackson theme and the following week they are singing in a competition with an all-new repertoire. So budding singer/songwriter/performers everywhere watch the show and think, ‘Well, that looks simple enough.’ How does anyone buy that as a reality? I know television is meant to be a form of escapism, but seriously, do we need to escape to another dimension?
When youths protested in London a few years ago, the mayor said something along the lines of, “How can we not expect them to? They see a young lad play a round of footy and get paid millions of pounds, but they trot off to university, get a degree and end up unemployed.” I blame mass media.
There aren’t any songs hitting the charts at number one that tell about how hard it is working your way to the top in a difficult industry. There aren’t many novels that reveal how lonesome and tiresome motherhood can be, because no one would buy that. There aren’t many television shows that show us how difficult it is to make a marriage/raising children successfully work, (unless it’s a comedy, which is a statement within itself.) The media wants happy endings and high drama, but not the mundane in-between stuff; the stuff that actually makes the days tick by for the rest of us.
I have decided to have a pep talk with myself, every time I feel a little short changed in any area of my life, to ask myself where the standard I'm expecting actually comes from. When something hurts for a little longer than a week, should I blame my favourite sit-com for making getting over things seem so easy? Yes, I should. And when I feel begrudging towards yet another business trip, taking my husband off to some weird country in a different time zone and returning him zombie-like from sheer exhaustion, should I blame John Legend, Michael Buble or Taylor Swift for singing about romance in such a way that real life doesn’t seem to interfere? Yes, I should. And when, at the end of a long day, I feel I have somehow dropped the ball as a mother, wife, sex-kitten or whatever-else-I-felt-I-needed-to-be, I should blame EL James, Marian Keyes or someone like that. Because escapism only works as an escape when it’s like a special destination. Imagine the whole world looked like a tropical beach paradise, who would ever need to visit the Maldives?
Our whole world is quickly becoming a deluded version of what it really is. And the sad part is, our reality isn’t that bad. We get fake happiness and unrealistic standards shoved in our faces at every turn and then wonder why there are so many unhappy people in the world. It’s an impossible standard. And I am talking to myself here too.
We all need to just turn off the television. Turn the radio on mute. Close the books. Not for always. And not if you’re reading my novel, please. But just for enough time to realise that the here and now are actually pretty cool.