When the Crumpet Hits the Fan

What to do, what to do? Oh, how shall I ever master the art of propriety in prim company? How could I possibly survive tea with the Queen unscathed? A party with the pope?

photo

What a to-do!

I am gravely impaired when it comes to knowing the correct fork to use for each course, and even worse at knowing what to say among polite folk when moments of acute stress arise. Sadly, the first phrases that come to mind tend to be blurted out with a certain Anglo-Saxon bluntness at best, and I’ve not yet met any such bell that could be un-rung. I sigh.

photo

Is it possible to evade the blades?

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to Be Myself without descending into silliness and horrendously incorrect Be-havior when I think the stakes are high. Need to impress the boss, make points with a priest, or conquer the king? I’m a lost little sheep. Yes, sheepish I can do. But I do crave approval enough that sometimes I’d really love to be able to gloss over that talent of mine for being a goofball and the unintentional class clown and show a bit more couth and culture, now, wouldn’t I.

photo

Looking foolish, yes, I can do that quite well, but maybe it's just not my cup of tea!

Etiquette coaching? Charm school? Ah, yes, that could all be useful. A kick in the trousers, oh, certainly. A severe talking-to by the headmistress, a careful and thorough study of the Encyclopedia of How to be Apropos, and perhaps a stint in niceness boot camp? Surely all fine and superb ideas and likely to make some improvements in my movements, so to speak. That’s all well and good, but it’s still not going to cure my natural awkwardness and inclination to curl up in a little pill-bug defense pose when faced with imperfection at the exact moment when I wanted to pose as little-miss-perfect. What!!

digitally doctored photo

I believe it's time to get the spinning to stop.

As it happens, I suspect the solution is pretty simple, after all. First step: how about getting over the idea that I can or should be perfect? Hmmm, I think maybe I could do that. I don’t doubt it’d be a healthy approach. Then there’s the useful thought of getting over the whole idea that I can or should convince others that I’m perfect. Aha. A very useful thing to do. What are they going to do, disown me? Refuse to be in the same room? Ha! Crotchety critics and conditional friends? Those are people I don’t want or need in my life! Good for me, if they don’t want to be in it in the first place.

Funny, but when I get thinking straight on the whole topic, it’s not I but rather the focal point that shifts. I realize that what worries me is not whether I can be perfect, not how to be perfect, certainly not how to convince anyone else I’m perfect–especially when I’ve already responded to my frequent-flyer-faux-pas by blurting out the perfectly outlandish verbal proof that reality is so otherwise. It’s more important to me, after all, to let go of all those improbable if not impossible perfectionist worries and know that being my ordinary, fallible, perfectly acceptable plain old self is a better prophylactic against embarrassment and rejection than any other, because it will help insure that I’m in the best company–for me. And I thank you all! [ . . . she cried out with a deep curtsey, tripping on the hem of her gown and cartwheeling down the grand staircase with that massive arrangement of stargazer lilies that she’d knocked over shooting out right over the top of her, and she, all the while, swearing in the most violent purple terms before finally coming to rest in a mangled and guffawing heap, upright and cross-legged, on the marble floor of the foyer, a chipped Limoges teacup improbably perched on top of her once-coiffed head . . . .]