I remember the summer after my freshman year of college, I was working at a golf course driving a beer cart and reading a lot of Rolling Stone magazine. (College Alison was significantly cooler than Present Alison, but I digress…) I remember that summer, basking in the beautiful sun, inhaling the aroma of fresh cut grass, making mad money in beer tips, and not at all realizing that I was in the beginning stages of an eating disorder, that I came across a RS article that has since stuck with me for many, many years. (Damn, I wish I could remember the title or at the very least the author to give due credit. Whoever you were, lady writer, BRAVO.) It was an article focusing on the Duke lacrosse rape scandal, and investigating the kind of culture Duke had created that resulted in such a horrible series of events.
I thought it was going to be a cliché story about young men with too much testosterone and young women with too much booze and a college campus with too much misogyny from sports, but instead the story angled on profiling the typical female Duke student. And in doing so, I found that the author was, in fact, profiling me.
According to the article, to be a typical Duke girl, it was not enough just to be smart and focused. There was also an expectation to be beautiful. And fun. And easy-going. And complicated. And rebellious. And spunky. And on top of your shit. And, well, perfect.
The idea that women are constantly trying to achieve becoming some sort of archetypal perfect female, (even when we logically know that no such woman actually exists and despite the fact that we are constantly reminded through shitty love songs and cheap, heartfelt chick flicks that being imperfect is what actually makes us “super duper special”) is nothing new. It’s been our Sysiphus Rock since the days of old. We are always trying to be all the things.
But to me what was worst revelation about the article, what really cut deep, was that somehow a Duke girl, and thus all girls, had to achieve this perfection effortlessly.
There’s the rub.
The theory of effortless perfection has stayed in the crevices of my brain since that fateful golf course day, and it’s what I want to write about today.
Now, I’ve heard from my guy friends that their laundry list of “must-bes” are no walks in the park. So, just to put it out there, I completely understand that trying to be perfect is not a “woman only” thing. I know men are also expected to be walking contradictions of vulnerable yet strong, handsome yet cute, smart yet playful, successful yet chill. It sucks, dudes. I fist bump you in solidarity.
I am simply unsure if the overall pressure is the same for both sexes, particularly in the “effortless” department. Because for women, if trying to be all things is not ridiculous enough, we have to toss the completely insane notion that perfection should come easy to us. And if we had the audacity to admit that this impossible woman standard that we are stupidly scrambling to uphold is, gasp, difficult (cue the horror movie screams!!!!!) then, it’s like, well fuck… we’re fucked.
We’ve set ourself up for failure before even coming out of the gate.
Why, in fucking God’s name, did we tack effortless on to our perfection agenda? Who do we need to blame? I don’t know why but for some reason I want to point my finger toward Marilyn Monroe. But she… she killed herself, you guys. I mean, she probably did, anyway. Which weirdly proves a lot of my points I am making. So, nevermind. I take away my finger point. Rest in Peace you incredible genius who happened to be pretty.
Maybe I can blame the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Fuck that man-made, two dimensional creation, am I right? Of course, ManPixDre (as I like to call her) might actually be a result of our chronic effortless perfection attempt. She is indeed part of a more of a chicken/egg scenario.
Fuck. I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to go back to blaming myself. Or the general, vague, all encompassing “society.”
Fuck you, society.
I’ll admit, I’m terrible at both those things. Being perfect and being totally cool about it, I mean. On the contrary, I’m totally not okay with my imperfections and I am stellar at talking about them all the time. I grab my belly and make fart noises, I wince at group photos where my hair looks DUMB, I analyze everyday interactions to such a degree you would think I was a professional body language sleuth. (Body Language Sleuth. I call band name!)
And then I feel bad for talking about all these insecurities out loud because I am programmed to think it is not good for others to know my actual, internal struggles.
And then I have no choice but to conclude that none of this self-torture would be a problem if I could just be perfect to begin with. I mean, it’s just perfection, Ali. I should just be perfection, no problem.
I never really liked Bridget Jones anyway.
It’s funny how I keep thinking of this non-existent “someday” where I’ve reached all my goals and no one hates me for it and everyone congratulates me about how humble and chill and hot and likable and smart I am about it all.
It’s amazing how half your brain knows logic and the other half is addicted to the stupid someday fantasy.
I should blame JLaw.
Nah… I like her too much.
I still remember all those years ago, while I was reading this article about Duke women, that even then I thought, “Those girls are just like me. Expect not. Because I could never get into Duke. I’m not good enough. I’m too stupid. WHOA IS ME. WAHHHHHHHH.” (Cue me dramatically throwing away the magazine and lighting the entire trash can on fire as I hold up my middle finger and watch the flames slowly meltthe Duke girl article away. i.e. I tossed the magazine when I was done with it.)
BTW – Do kids still look at these things today? Magazines? Mags? Periodicals? Or would I be more relatable to the younger crowd if I said “I read a link?”
I often think of that old Friends episode, (“The One Where No One Is Ready”) where Monica tries to leaves a voicemail for Richard, her ex and claims that it was a great, casual voicemail where she sounds totally breezy. The gang then listens to this voicemail, and find that Monica, in fact, ended her message by saying, “I’m breezy!” Joey, (suddenly smart because it was more convenient for him to be in this particular episode,) says, “Hey, you can’t say breezy. That totally negates the breezy.” So, by calling it out, Monica actually failed at being breezy.
I’m basically a walking “I’m breezy” billboard.
(Sidenote: I’ve been searching for an I’m Breezy t-shirt FOR YEARS. Come on etsy, get on this!)
I think the reason Effortless Perfection has come to my mind this particular day is because coming into the this year, I found myself completely submerged in all the self-improvement things that come with a New Years Resolution mixed with a television job hiatus. In essence, I have had the time and the resources to really reflect on who I am and who I really want to be. My main focus of 2016 has been to try to find the joy in the things I do. “Focus on the joy” has become my mantra. And now that it’s February, I am back at work, wondering if all these techniques will hold now that my “normal” life is back on track.
I have also seen my beloved comedy community come under fire with awful sexual harassment allegations and the typically unspoken “wait, wait, wait… sexism exists in comedy? WHAAAAAAAA—” problems finally coming to the forefront. It’s hard to reconcile performing at places that claim to be “safe spaces” where you are “allowed to fail” only to come to find out that, well, sometimes they’re not and you do. I mean, in the end, these places are businesses. They, too, cannot be all things.
I also have been keeping tabs on how millennials, women, and minorities have been shunned/supported/misunderstood/used/treated during these election campaigns/Oscar campaigns. (And yes, both hold the same weight to me at this point.)
Overall, I am getting frustrated with a lot of things that used to bring me a lot of happiness. I guess I am getting jaded, which is something I’ve never wanted to be.
Because you cannot be effortlessly jaded.
I took a class in January with a teacher who really pushed my “be all things as a woman” button. I was told to stop being a good student, stop trying to get an A, maybe come at the class at a 70% and have fun. YOU KNOW, BE COOL. I was also told that as a woman I should jump up first, command a presence, be confident and avoid being polite. YOU KNOW, BE BALLER. By the end, I was told I was good, but that these classes are hard work, so if I really wanted to succeed going forward I needed to dive head first into these classes and make them my life, but at the same time I also had to be careful with being too diligent and confident because that could lead to me to coming across as rude, which is dangerous, so, you know, congrats you passed the class but no one likes you.
Jesus fucking Christ.
I’ve failed before even coming out of the gate.
I’m exhausted. I’m burnt out. I’m angry. I’m guilt-ridden. Most of all, I’m sad.
Which is the opposite of joy.
The truth is, I don’t mind having goals and attempting the constant trial-and-error of self-improvement. I feel proud that I’ve been working out a shit ton, killing it with writing assignments, improving my relationships, having fun with my boyfriend (we got a cat!) and working on my funny bone. But trying to “do it all” is hard. And it’s time I understood that I will never be able to achieve it… with ease.
Effortless Perfection is bullshit, you guys.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to post this blog and worry that it comes up across too self-absorbed and and dumb pathetic and not at all cool and likable and smart.
– One L
“I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother…” – Meredith Brooks