Striving for Perfection
“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a phrase more recently replaced by Keeping up with the Kardashians, but has a very different social connotation.
Although I’ve never seen the reality show about the Kardashians, and have no intention of ever doing so I believe it’s appeal is a ‘fly on the wall’ approach to watching a family eat, dress, work out and put on make-up (yawn) although I imagine it’s highly edited and is generally aimed at those who might be interested in the lives of the wealthy and (in)famous. Each to their own and all that. Personally I can think of nothing worse, and generally avoid so called reality TV, unless it’s Masterchef or Great British Bake Off.
The former phrase relating to the Joneses was coined by Arthur R. “Pop” Momand in a daily American comic strip that ran from 1913 -1938 and centred around a fictitious family striving to keep up with their neighbours, the aforementioned Joneses. This phrase perhaps has less meaning these days but was very prevalent when I was first setting up home more than 30 years ago.
At the time we were living in South East England, originally London where L was born and latterly NE Essex where T was born. The pressure to conform/be better/ have more/ strive for perfection came to us via TV or radio advertising and billboards. We could pick and choose, have time to consider our options, think, plan, purchase, reflect and enjoy. For the most part, back then, we would plan and save, make informed choices by looking, touching and feeling, putting in the required leg work and eventually settling on the required item and then would be content with our purchase, enjoying the product of our endeavours. But then we’d visit a friend who had just moved into a converted barn/architect designed house/cute village cottage/Victorian townhouse that was adorned with more swags and tails than one could shake a steam cleaner at; the all singing all dancing stove with outstanding ability to dry, iron and put away the week’s school clothes, make coffee, bake bread and be the social gathering point and we would be right back to square in – yearning and pining for that which the ‘Joneses’ had.
Don’t get me started on fitted and kitted out garages, gardens within gardens, Little Tykes play equipment, OshKosh B’Gosh, Mamas and Papas, Kappa, Subaru… the list goes on and on and on. The point is there was always something or someone who – seemingly – had it better than we did. So we would work harder, rack up the credit card bill, hang our heads in shame that as soon as the swags and tails had been paid for everyone was switching to roman blinds and then roller blinds and then no blinds at all.
It’s hard to turn a blind eye, to be unique, brave, individual, not give a damn but the fact is we live in consumerist society and as technology improves, develops and advances into every core of our beings, we can’t help but want nay yearn for the next best thing.
However, thirty years ago we weren’t bombarded through social media and the unrelenting exposure to adverts cleverly created through algorithms and designed to enter the conscious and sub conscious such that we are so worn down we believe we have the right to purchase the items presented to us.
As L prepares for her wedding to M in July I take pleasure in allowing myself a few moments to consider their relationship as it has been as it is and how it will be as the years go by. Before me I see a young couple, very much in love, who have travelled and studied together and apart, whose friends mean almost as much to them as their family do and with whom many more years of memories will be created which will constitute an essential element of shared future time.
I have no doubt that M + L have very differing viewpoints at times – I know my girl can be very stubborn and wilful, but she is also blessed with incredible emotional intelligence and a serenity such that life’s turbulent agendas rarely seem to get under her skin. I know M sees and appreciates this and in fact absorbs and offers sanctuary when there is a chink in that determined armour and soothes and counsels accordingly.
M+L have been here this weekend and I have revelled in each precious moment we have shared, being involved in their plans, looking at Pinterest pages, Instagram groups, (oh the irony and this time the joys of social media) listening to their shared dream and itinerary for what will be a perfect day. The wedding will take place in Perthshire where it rains. It’s in July when it rains. Its up a hill where it rains. But L+M really don’t care, because they have their feet firmly planted on solid ground such that the most devastating thing that could happen would be the absence of a good friend even for legitimate reasons. However we will all hope that the sun shines brightly on the day because the love M+L have for each other is sustainable, enquiring, honest and fiercely loyal. Rarely, if ever, have I witnessed a couple who support each other emotionally, socially and all the while unconditionally. They deserve the very best.
Prepare to plan or plan to fail often resonates in classes prior to exams, on the pitch before a match and across the country for dinners, parties, weddings and holidays. Today I took Jilly for a walk on Ravensheugh beach near Tynninghame, prompted by M+L who were meeting their wedding photographer. I regularly walk there with S+B but it is the first time I have been able to explore by myself for a while. The beach was stunning as the wind whipped up the sand sending it scudding towards the waves which were in turn blown back on themselves creating dancing white horses. Two fishermen wrapped appropriately in thick warm clothes were confidently awaiting the morning catch while runners, walkers and visitors enjoyed the relative shelter of the sun dappled woods thinking and planning for their day ahead.
We three concluded our time together with a delicious late lunch in Herringbone, a far cry from the unexpected start to their trip when I fell hard onto my right elbow on Friday morning while walking Jilly and the pain was so intense I feared I had broken it. Fortunately an X-ray at A+E showed that I had got away with no more than a 5cm laceration and a pondering as to whether this was due to increased bone density through Pilates, daily Vitamin D supplement, core strength or just bloody good luck that sent me home with little more than a cut, a bruised hip and pride just about intact. I do know that the consequences could have been so much worse, and so I will take it as a well timed reminder to slow down when my head is busy, to plan not for perfection but for wellbeing on every level and to watch my blinking step in the morning twilight!