Many years ago when I lived in New York, I had the world’s most fabulous cleaner. There was only one hitch. She believed that President Eisenhower was transmitting commands to her through her teeth. Although long dead, somehow "Ike" was able to convey secret messages from the CIA to her incisors by a method too complicated and disturbing for me to probe. Could one day she take up a kitchen knife? Back then we all were striving to not just to be great at our jobs but to be gourmet chefs, so I had a few really sharp ones.
I consulted my uncle who was an eminent psychoanalyst. He pondered, as they do, then told me it was imperative that I tell her she was delusional.
I was horrified. “But she does windows!”
He shook his head. “No. It is your duty.”
“But you don’t understand, we live on the second floor. And she does windows!”
I didn’t even mention that she used to scrub our wooden table with benzene which as we now know is carcinogenic. But boy, it made our table look amazing!
I kept her, of course. Only later did I consider, what if the ghost of the late president really did order my annihilation through her teeth? It was my first step to realizing that nothing’s perfect.
Back then we thought 'perfect' was a thing. We still believed we could have it all. Anything was possible. Just follow your dreams. Visualize it and it will come true. Someday your prince will come. Or as Norman Vincent Peale wrote: “The great secret of getting what you want from life is to know what you want and believe you can have it.”
Back then we single women would whine that all the good men were either married or gay, and those few who weren’t, somehow just seemed to fall short in one way or another. On the other hand my sister only went for good-looking men. The way she saw it, “A guy doesn’t need to be smart or funny. I’m smart and funny.”
There was wisdom in this.
The next step in my learning experience was hearing the one about the Jewish woman in the butcher shop. She storms in, picks up a chicken, pinches its breast, lifts its wings, spreads its leg, smells its cavity, and throws it back on the counter in disgust. “Feh! This chicken stinks.”
The butcher shrugged. “Lady, could you pass the same test?”
Looking for perfection? Does it sound cynical to say the world just doesn’t work that way. Even in a beautiful summer day there are flies. After every great meal, the bill comes. Just as you get rid of acne, wrinkles turn up. I’ll bet even Prince Charming snores.
I guess you can’t photoshop life.
And maybe that’s a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, this is not in praise of mediocrity. Rather, there’s a lot to say for imperfection. Take for example, the Venus de Milo. Or Robert Redford’s mole. Anyway there can be advantages to not seeking perfection. How many jobs did I turn down because they…just…weren’t…quite…right? How much time has been wasted by demanding the impossible.
I don’t want to sound like I’ve become pessimistic. I still dream the impossible. Practice the Oscar speech. Hope for the best…It’s just as the old saying goes: “Trust in Allah, But tie up your camel.”
Because in the end nothing’s really perfect. You can’t have it all. Though, as that sage Mick says: “If you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
And in a world like ours, a cleaner who does windows is precious hard to find.
TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing
a book by Shelley Katz